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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Battle of $9.99: How Apple, Amazon, and the Big Six Publishers Changed the E-Book Business Overnight (Kindle Single) by Andrew Richard Albanese | LibraryThing

The Battle of $9.99: How Apple, Amazon, and the Big Six Publishers Changed the E-Book Business Overnight (Kindle Single) by Andrew Richard Albanese | LibraryThing:

I suppose everyone who follows the book business now has made some kind of judgment about the tug-of-wat between Apple, Amazon, and the legacy publishers.  (Full disclosure:  I got $145 in the ebook settlement, which was used immediately to get more ebooks through Amazon.)   Some people seem to adore Apple who can do no wrong, others (while reading and typing on their computers) refuse to ever read off a screen, and still others (me included) love ebooks and Amazon, which started the ebook revolution.

Admittedly, I’m an early adopter and read off my Palm and later even purchased a Rocket Book ereader (it still works but has been superseded.)  I remain puzzled by what may be a uniquely American trait that is to begin to denigrate and fear success:  big business,  Walmart, B&N and Borders (until they tanked), agribusiness, big farms (be they family or otherwise) , MIcrosoft, K-Mart,  Sears and Montgomery Ward (until they tanked); the list goes on. Personally, I love Amazon. They are successful because they do things well. When they cease to perform, or someone does it better,  I’ll abandon them.

Just before the iPad was released, a high-ranking Apple executive was charged with the task of creating an ebook bookstore. Despite Steve Jobs’ earlier predictions that no one would ever read an ebook, Amazon had released the Kindle and it had become wildly successful. Others had had similar opportunities, but only Jeff Bezos had the foresight to link the Kindle to an online store with wireless (and free) access to a huge selection of books. And, he priced bestsellers at $9.99, a brilliant strategy similar to what other retailers have always done, a form of loss-leader. Jobs wanted to copy that success with the iPad as the device of choice. But he wanted to collect more money.  In a move that brought down the wrath of anti-trust regulators, the Apple folks corralled all the major publishers (except Random House) and persuaded them to adopt the “agency” model even though the publishers would get less money. (Under the Amazon model, Amazon purchased the ebooks from the publishers at whatever discount the publisher offered, as with print books, and then sold the ebooks for whatever price they wanted, also as with print books, as all bookstores did.

 Apple was very smart in recognizing what the legacy publishers feared - rightly or not - that pricing the books at $9.99 might devalue their profitable hardcover distribution system, so they invented the agency mechanism. Under this system, Apple (and they argued Amazon) would have to sell the ebooks at the price determined by the publisher and act as distributor only rather than reseller.

 <i>Walsh’s message underscored the degree to which the publishing community at large had grown to fear Amazon’s pricing. Under the agency model, most authors stood to lose money, as their royalties would now be paid as a percentage of the publishers’ smaller agency cut. In records cited by the government, Macmillan concluded that “the royalty payment for each sale of an e-book with the corresponding hardcover list price of $26.99 fell from $4.04 under wholesale to $2.28 under agency,” for example. And for a $14.99 trade paperback, “the decline was from $2.25 to $1.75.” The math looked like this for the agency model: For a hardcover priced at $30, publishers would set the consumer price at the top tier, $14.99. Minus Apple’s 30% commission, publishers would net about $10.50. Under the wholesale model with Amazon, with a 50% discount, they netted $15.</i>

<i>“Jobs [had] insisted that Apple e-books be priced lower than physical books and “competitively with other e-book retailers.” Unlike Amazon, Apple would not tolerate losing money on any e-book sale, a philosophy consistent with its existing digital content business. Each e-book sale would have to generate a “single-digit net profit” for Apple.” </i>  Ironically, Walmart and some other box stores were selling the Steve Jobs hardcover biography  for less than the Amazon ebook price.

 It’s no spoiler to reveal that this joint move by Apple and the legacy publishers that forced Amazon to adopt the agency model was ruled illegal and a violation of antitrust through monopolistic price manipulation result in substantial settlements to consumers.  Apple didn’t settle preferring to go it alone in court, but they have lost all the court decisions to date.  Their ebook store has never had close to the success of Amazon’s despite their refusal to permit in-app purchases for all of the ebook apps (including Kobo, Nook, and Kindle)  used on Apple devices.  Apple’s case was not helped by several comments he made in public and in emails regarding the pricing battle, comments the general counsel for Simon & Schuster called, “incredibly stupid.”

But Apple’s persuasive powers were incredible. “With that, Apple had pulled off a remarkable feat. [Their] business proposal was simply too extraordinary. Not only did it involve a business model foreign to publishing, it included price protections for Apple and less revenue per e-book sale for the publisher. Although Random House remained unsigned, Apple had successfully negotiated identical retail agreements with five of the six largest U.S. trade publishers in less than two weeks. Strikingly, at the time they signed their deals, none of the publishers had yet to even see an iPad or an Apple e-books app. In fact, Apple developers hadn’t even begun working on the Apple e-bookstore until mid-December. “  The iPad wasn’t released until  January.  No one had even seen it.

The myopia of the Authors Guild and some legacy authors never ceased to amaze me.  Rather than attacking ebooks, as they did early on, they should have been going after the used book market and libraries which bring them zero revenue.  Ebooks can’t be resold and never go out-of-print, and had the potential to bring them much   more revenue assuming they could work out reasonable contract with their publisher (not an easy thing as many have discovered.)  But the need of the legacy publishers to support an existing infrastructure by doing things the way they always had, won over early on. (The substantial revenue they are now getting from ebooks has greatly tempered their fear.)  And to support the publishers in the fight over agency made no sense for the authors it represented since they were guaranteed *less* under the agency model.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

The Bunker by James P. O'Donnell | LibraryThing

The Bunker by James P. O'Donnell | LibraryThing:

I happened to watch Der Untergang (Downfall - Bruno Ganz is incredible and the movie being in German, more authentic) and The Bunker (Anthony Hopkins), two excellent movies about the last days of Hitler in his underground facilities.  So I started poking around for some books.

Written in 1978, this is a fascinating account of the final days in Hitler's incredible labyrinthine war room/living quarters under the streets of Berlin. James O'Donnell interviewed fifty --out of a possible 250 - some were rejected as having an ax to grind, or not being at the scene of events-- of the participants. O'Donnell, a captain in the signals corp who toured the bunker shortly after Berlin fell,  took the journalist's approach.

"<I>In that first year of basic research, which consisted of ringing doorbells, thumbing through provincial telephone books, cross checking references, I had hopes of locating, at most, perhaps forty or fifty sources. At year's end, to my amazement, I needed a second black box. The first contained more than 25o names, all genuine, still-living witnesses who had been present in the bunker at some time during the last battle in Berlin. My surprise was based, of course, on my own memory of the cramped and limited topography of the bunker proper. What I had overlooked was the maze of tunnels leading into the New and Old Reich Chancellery and other nearby government buildings. The bunker was a small stage, a snake pit. But the comings and goings, in the desperate last days of April 1945, had a Grand Central Station, rush-hour atmosphere.

Just how close this composite account comes to historical truth, to the kind of documentation an academic historian insists on, I simply cannot say. Nor is it overly important to my purpose. I am a journalist, not a historian. I ring doorbells; I do not haunt archives. What I was looking for is what I believe most people look for, psychological truth. I am aware that many of the accounts here differ from the accounts - meager, in any case - given in some of the first interrogations back in 1945”/i>  He succeeds, I think, brilliantly.

O’Donnell leans heavily on Speer’s recollections, which, of course, tend toward the self-serving, but that’s OK.  Speer insists that he was instrumental in preventing a societal catastrophe by standing up to Hitler who wanted to level everything and everyone in the path of the Allies, reasoning that because they had lost the war it was the fault of the German people who were not strong enough to survive.  Hitler insisted that Speer, whom he admired for his architectural work, swear the war was not lost or at least “hope” the war was not lost.  Ironically, Speer could have argued that Hitler was the one who had given up hope given his instructions to lay waste to everything, instead choosing to acquiesce and then subvert the implementation of those plans.

By this time, Hitler was just a shell of his former presence, sick and suffering what might have been Parkinson’s given the tremor in his left hand which he hid; or it could have been damage from the several assassination attempts or even the foul air in the bunker complex which had walls sixteen feet thick and was buried under thirty feet of earth.  (Speer claims he attempted to assassinate Hitler himself by spreading poison gas into the ventilation ducts, but was foiled by his inability to get the right material.) <i> “Hardbitten front-line veterans like Generals Heinrici, Krukenberg, Weidling, and Reimann, summoned to the bunker, regarded it as a madhouse being run by the inmates. On one occasion, General Helmuth Weidling arrived in trepidation. It was April 25, and he had been told that Hitler had just ordered that he be taken out and shot.”</i>

I can’t resist recounting the story of General Fegelein.  Married to Eva Braun’s sister, Gretl, (if only his name had been Hansel, it would have been perfect) who, by this time, was close to delivering their child, he was a womanizer and wasn’t stupid enough to hang around the bunker for the Red Army. (He wasn’t  *that* bright as we’ll soon see.)  He dabbled with escaping and at one point even made it to Himmler’s bunker some ninety miles north of Berlin where Himmler, much to Hitler’s anger, was attempting to negotiate a peace with the allies through the Swedes.

For some unfathomable reason, Fegelein decided to return to Berlin, but rather than report right away to the Bunker (which might have saved his life) he holed up in an apartment on Bleibtreustra├če  (what delicious irony in that name) with a ravishing woman, Irish wife of a Hungarian diplomat (the author suspects) who might also very well have been a spy.  There’s a lot of speculation involved here and O’Donnell tried to track her down, assuming she survived the war.  When Hitler and Bormann finally noticed Fegelein hadn’t shown up, they sent several soldiers to bring him back. Finally on the third try (the early units couldn’t force him, drunk as he was) to come as they were mere majors and lieutenants, a Colonel was sent who persuaded Fegelein to return. 

The woman, who was in the apartment packing a valise, walked into the kitchen ostensibly to get some water and disappeared out the window never to be seen again. (She obviously was the only one with any sense.)  The Colonel grabbed the suitcase but didn’t open it until they reached the bunker where they discovered quite of bit of cash, some in Swiss francs (the  best currency for fugitives) and two passports, one of them British (it could have been gotten through Irish connections -- Ireland was neutral but citizens could apply for British passports,) and some evidence of Himmler’s treachery. Fegelein was thus pegged not only as a deserter but a traitor as well and was shot in spite (or perhaps because?) of being Hitler’s prospective brother-in-law. (Hitler was shortly to marry Eva Braun, just before their suicide.) O’Donnell marshals some evidence to indicate the woman was feeding information to the British, including intelligence that Hitler was moving troops (including Fegelein’s division) to the Ardennes in preparation for the famous “Battle of the Bulge” offensive in late 1944. Her information was ignored. She has disappeared from history. 

Hitler’s “scorched earth” orders were not carried out, but Berlin was beyond devastated. “This Berlin rubble was gigantic, obscene. Some was old and molding, sprouting rare spring wildflowers; some was still fresh and smoldering, like angry lava. Lilliputian locomotives on toylike narrow-gauge tracks, brought to Berlin from the Ruhr mining valleys, chugged and puffed along what once had been broad streets and now were canyons, piling up no million square meters of debris - brick, concrete, mortar, shards of glass, limestone, sandstone, headless caryatides from pompous old Berlin Jugendstil portals and balconies. The Reichsbahn, the national railway, estimated that there was enough rubble to fill four million freight cars. Or, if piled all in one place, to make an artificial mountain higher than the tallest peak in the Harz Mountains (the Brocken, 3747 feet above sea level).”

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Death Benefits (Rachel Gold Mystery) by Michael A. Kahn | LibraryThing

Death Benefits (Rachel Gold Mystery) by Michael A. Kahn | LibraryThing:

Excellent story. I am becoming a big fan of Michael Kahn and Rachel Gold. In this second of the series, Rachel is again hired by her old firm to represent one of their clients since they have a potential conflict of interest. The firm's St. Louis managing partner, Stoddard Anderson,  committed suicide, his body having been found in a hotel near the airport following a four day period when he was completely missing.

There is a quirk in Missouri law that prevents an insurance company from not paying out a life insurance claim in case of suicide, but the insurance company need not pay an accidental death rider if the deceased was sane at the time of his death.  If he was ruled insane, or not in his right mind,  then the death could be ruled accidental so Rachel has the difficult task of deciding for the widow, her client, if Anderson was insane at the time when he slit his wrists.  His firm certainly does not want the possibility that their managing partner was insane raised in the press.  That might not go well with clients.  The insurance policy had a triple indemnity rider in case of accidental death. “If he was insane at the time he committed suicide, then his death would be deemed an accident under Missouri law, and the carrier would have to pay an additional one-point-four million dollars in death benefits.”   The case gets even more bizarre when Rachel discovers that Stoddard might have been instrumental in smuggling  an ancient Mexican artifact worth millions.

I love Kahn’s cynical view of the law.  Here’s his take on insurance law: “There are trial lawyers out there—thousands—who make their living litigating the meaning of terms in insurance policies. One of the mysteries of the law is the way that basic words—words as hard and precise as cut diamonds—become warm saltwater taffy when inserted at critical points in insurance policies. Because millions of dollars can hinge on a court's explication of one of the Four Horsemen of the Insuring Clause—“sudden,” “unexpected,” “occurrence,” and “loss”—entire law firms have been built on the legal fees paid by insurance companies, to say nothing of the cottage industry of legal publishers and law school professors that have been feasting at the insurance trough for years.”

Benny is a great character who adds a nice scatological and humorous touch, and Rachel has a wonderful no-nonsense view of things.  The way she handles  two guys in a Porsche who hit on her is priceless.

Interestingly, in each of the Rachel Gold books I have read so far, there is a code that Rachel must solve to get to the bottom of the mystery.  My only complaint, and it’s a small one, is that there is more mystery than legal drama, but I quibble.  Good series.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Morning Frost by James Henry | LibraryThing

Morning Frost by James Henry | LibraryThing:

James Henry is doing a marvelous job recreating Wingfield’s Frost character.  This is Henry’s third so far, I believe, and is excellent. All are prequels and in this one Frost has just lost his wife Mary to cancer.  Frost is still a sergeant, but Mullett is under pressure from the ACC to promote Frost to Inspector.  Waters and Frost become friends and we see the origins of the Clark/Frost relationship. Frost is humanized - a bit.  Read very well by Stephen Thorne.

The title is, of course, a pun.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Long Drunk by Eric Coyote | LibraryThing

The Long Drunk by Eric Coyote | LibraryThing:

I decided to review this at the request of the author who sent me a free copy. My first impression was that the cover is awful. [Checking recently, I noticed it had been changed.] The book’s description seems to pander to a particular audience segment, “Set in the gutters, bars, and alleys of Venice, California, this darkly comic crime/detective saga is filled with sex, violence, booze, and plenty of foul street talk,” a segment  that wouldn't necessarily exclude me, but it’s not a description that would make the book leap on to my TBR list either.

OK, now putting aside all that crap.  I  liked this book.  The premise is that Murphy, a homeless drunk (“I’m not stupid, just a drunk,”) former NFL player with a Super Bowl ring suffering from multiple concussions and numerous injuries, is swept up in a police raid to discover if any of the homeless in Venice, CA, might have seen something of use to them in their investigation of a car shooting. Murphy is forced to leave his companion Rottweiler, Betty Bonaparte (because she can take bones apart,) while he’s in jail. After his release  he searches frantically for Betty  Just as he sees her across a highway, the dog runs to him and is hit by a lady in an SUV (talking on a cell phone, of course) who runs the light.  Gathering up Betty into a shopping cart, Murphy runs four miles to the nearest vet hospital he knows of where he learns that Betty might survive but will need hip surgery. She also has lymphoma that will require chemotherapy, all to the tune of $15,000.  (The scene with the compassionate vet and Murphy is very well done.)  Learning that a $25,000 reward has been posted for the killer in the drive-by, Murphy figures he has to solve the crime to earn the reward so he can pay for his dog’s surgery.

Coyote uses Murphy's homelessness to poke not so gentle fun at the foibles of the rich that surround him. Using Raymond Chandler's books as a guide, he detects by asking questions. It was interesting to read some of the negative reviews on Amazon, which focused on the rather sad aspects of Skid Row  and “the depths to which people can sink.”  Ironically, it’s the “bums” and unfortunates that have more character than those in the book who haven’t had to resort to living off society’s detritus. How realistic the portrayal might be I don’t know.

The second volume of a proposed trilogy has yet to appear. Not for the squeamish.

“Interview” with the author at

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Superbia 2 (Book 2 of the Superbia Series) by Bernard Schaffer | LibraryThing

Superbia 2 (Book 2 of the Superbia Series) by Bernard Schaffer | LibraryThing:

This very short sequel to Superbia 1 feels almost like a transition to the longer Superbia 3.  Frank continues his battle with the chief in a rather one-sided, self-righteous view of law enforcement.  The street cops are always right;  the chiefs nothing but “fat-fucks.”  Well, not all of them.  Clayton Cole, who lives in the middle of nowhere is the chief of police in a tiny village who’s saddled with “dumb-shit” cops, so perhaps it all evens out.  (He is a character in the joint effort with Joe Konrath, Cheese Wrestling.)

Frank is very different from the retiring, rather shy new cop he was in the first, yet Vic’s death seems to have been very recent. What caused the change?  How did Frank grow?  I thought the visions of the baton-twirling apparition were ridiculous.

The three books would have been stronger had they been merged together and rewritten to build some transition. Some story lines pop up and disappear with little resolution.  I would not recommend reading these as standalones. I’m moving on to #3.

On the other hand, if you want a  fun, driving, read, however, this series is a good choice.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate by Rose George | LibraryThing

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate by Rose George | LibraryThing:

I love ships.  I remember looking at a silhouette picture of an old man in my ChildCraft set, his hand on the shoulders of a young boy, looking out over the sea at a three-masted schooner. The image still creates a frisson of nostalgia for something I never really experienced but always wanted.  Some of that interest stemmed from four voyages on transatlantic liners to and from Europe in the fifties and sixties when I was younger, and I’m sure that my view was unrealistic and nonrepresentational as I watched movies and enjoyed the sumptuous meals.  (We will NOT discuss the bouts of seasickness that preceded succeeding pleasurable days.)

I have zero interest in taking a cruise since they seem to be simply resorts with no destination and gambling dens. And the idea of dressing for dinner?  And too many people!  Geesh.  I want to GO someplace and watch the business of shipping, to see how things work.. I’ve read accounts of traveling on freighters (a list is below of some related books) and would still like to try it some day (the mal-de-mer does give me pause, however.)  This book is the next best thing.

This book does tend to take the shine off the freighter business.  One thing I did not know was that while shipping is a relatively green form of transportation (well, except for the particulates), it generates considerable *noise* pollution. Supertankers can be heard coming through the sea a day before they arrive at any given location which drives away most sea life.  Oil spills have been greatly reduced, however. Between 1972 and 1981, there were 223 spills. Over the last decade there were 63. An industry publicist reported,  “More oil is poured down the drain by mechanics changing their engine oil than is spilled by the world’s fleet of oil tankers.”

The industry, itself,  is dangerous, poorly paid (by our standards - not theirs) , and virtually unregulated, with ships being flagged under whatever country has the lowest taxes and the fewest inspectors.  Double bookkeeping and non-payment of wages is common and criminal actions are impossible to prosecute. Where does a Croatian sailor attacked by a Filipino mate file a complaint?  Cell phones are useless and there is no private internet so reporting incidents or getting assistance is impossible. The captain is God and Supreme Magistrate all rolled into one.  “Buy your fair-trade coffee beans by all means, but don’t assume fair-trade principles govern the conditions of the men who fetch it to you. You would be mistaken.”

Piracy is not the glorified practice of movies and childhood.  (Harvard Business School chose Somali piracy as the “business model of the year” in 2010.)  The author spent a week on an EU counter-piracy patrol vessel which reduced the number of incidents from 200 in 2009 to only thirteen in 2013, but ships passing through the Gulf of Aden (and more than half do to get to the Suez canal) still must hide out in safe rooms on board if fighting them off with firehoses fails, while awaiting naval rescue. Crews are like prisoners even while not under attack, live basically on two decks.  (Samuel Johnson famously wrote that “being on a ship is like being in jail, with the chance of being drowned.” Yet “When the academic Erol Kahveci surveyed British prison literature while researching conditions at sea, he found that “the provision of leisure, recreation, religious service and communication facilities are better in U.K. prisons than … on many ships our respondents worked aboard.” )  Mostly we ignore, or chose to remain ignorant, of seafarers. “; in 2011, 544 seafarers [were] being held hostage by Somali pirates. I try to translate that into other transport industries; 544 bus drivers, or 544 cabdrivers, or nearly two jumbo jets of passengers, mutilated and tortured for years. When thirty-three Chilean miners were trapped underground for sixty-nine days in 2010, there was a media frenzy. Fifteen hundred journalists went to Chile and, even now, the BBC news website maintains a special page on their drama, long after its conclusion. The twenty-four men on MV Iceberg held captive for a thousand days were given no special page and nothing much more than silence and disregard.”

The company she sails with is Maersk, a company just slightly smaller than Microsoft yet one that hardly appears on anyones radar even though it accounts for 20% of Denmark’s GDP.  The ship is the Kendall.  She uses that voyage as a springboard to discuss the impact of shipping on the ecology, piracy, anti-piracy and the business of shipping.  Chapters focus on different issues: poor working conditions, a trip on one of the patrol boats, a pirate’s trial leading to a discussion of the different perspectives on Somalian piracy (she is not at all sympathetic,) and the huge amount of tonnage lost at sea and what the effect might be of floating Nikes and sunken computers (not good.)

The economics of shipping are rather mind-boggling. Would you have guessed that it’s cheaper to ship fish to China from Scotland to be filleted and processed than to pay Scottish workers to do it? Shipping  blouse from China to the U.S. coast less than one cent, even while the large container ships burn thousand of dollars of bunker fuel (like tar and about as dirty) per hour.  Containers have made loading and unloading so fast that sailors and officers have no time in port to relax.

Security is a huge issue in her mind. Only a minute portion of containers are ever inspected and they are used to smuggle all sorts of goods and probably weapons. “; One of the crew tells me he can overcome the blankness of the boxes, although that’s not how he phrases it. He can break a container seal and reseal it convincingly, although I suspect his intent would be for monetary, not intellectual, gain. This skill is more common than it should be. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol study that “existing container seals provided inadequate security against physical intrusion.” Criminals who don’t know how to reseal a seal could do an adequate workaround by taking the door off. Much of modern security rests on theater and assumption. That applies to airport lines, questionable laws about liquids, and the supposed safety of twenty million containers containing who knows what. Who does know? Only 1 to 3 percent of containers in Europe are physically inspected."

Really interesting book. BUT, I still want to take a voyage on a freighter.

Recommended reading:

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Hit Me (A John Keller novel) by Lawrence Block | LibraryThing

Hit Me (A John Keller novel) by Lawrence Block | LibraryThing:

The Keller hitman series lends itself well to a short story format and that is what we have here, a collection of episodes or stories connected by a character.  Often this means that the reader suffers through some repetition of background details.  And stamps.  And then more stamps.

Keller now lives in New Orleans and where he has a successful business remodeling and flipping homes after Katrina.  He’s married to Julia and has a child, Jennie, whom he loves and dotes on.  Then Dot, his old “hit” contact, calls and offers him a job,  The business having slacked off a little because of the subprime crisis, and wanting to add some rare and exotic stamps to his collection, Keller, with full knowledge of his wife (who gets “hot” when told of his exploits -- something I found truly abhorrent), heads off to other cities to fulfill the contract (and buy stamps.)  Each case is unique and brings its own challenges.  I liked the one at sea the best.

I like the series and in the past eagerly read all of Block, but Keller’s nonchalance about killing has begun to grate, not to mention Julia’s complicity in its rationalization.  Keller’s greatest moral challenge is now which stamp to buy.  The book does have some of the classic repartee between Dot and Keller that continues to make the book fun and interesting.

Of course, if you don’t like stamp collecting you won’t like Keller.

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Sunday, April 06, 2014

Pattern of Wounds (A Roland March Mystery) by J. Mark Bertrand | LibraryThing

Pattern of Wounds (A Roland March Mystery) by J. Mark Bertrand | LibraryThing:

Roland has a chip on his shoulder.  Still devastated by the death of Jessica, his daughter, in an accident committed by a drunk driver, he has made a legal form of revenge his mission. If someone gets off, or fails to intervene when something bad is happening, March works out a way to discover some dirt or malfeasance for which they could be punished.  His job suffers as a result.  He’s also lost whatever faith he had. “ If the Almighty was gonna sit back and let it all happen, somebody had to step up. There’s no such thing in my book as an innocent bystander.”  Charlotte, his wife, enlists their renters, overtly religious types,  to pull him back into the fold, with little success.  

“Carter, listen to me. You mean well, I realize that. But there’s no magic formula or platitude they taught you in seminary that’s going to turn me into one of you. It’s not gonna happen. You have no idea what I’ve seen and what I’ve done. Trust me, if you did, you’d be like me, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”  “I don’t think I’m deceiving myself.” … “People don’t. That’s the whole point. But they go on believing what they’ve been told, they keep voting and buying and praying, they live good lives surrounded by good people in a good world where everything is good. And they think when it’s not good, that’s the aberration. That’s the exception to the rule. But underneath, Carter, if you could turn this city upside down, you’d see it’s all rot down there, all corruption.”

Despite some platitudinous religious overtones (ones that were much less evident in the first book of the series,) there’s a good mystery.  A woman has been found floating in a swimming pool, cut up in a rather bizarre pattern and the murder scene has been choreographed to closely resemble the murder scene in a case March had closed and about which a book had been written.  The photographs in the book of the floating body were identical to the ones of the current case.

As I noted in my review of the first Roland March, I was puzzled by the Christian label attached to it. March has a very cynical view of the world and has little time for the religious, but perhaps some form of over-the-top redemption will take place later in the series.  That would tune me out for sure.  In the meantime it’s a good series although this one can tend to be a bit confusing mixing up characters.  And what’s with the overuse of present tense?

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Goodreads | Eric_W Welch (Forreston, IL)'s review of The Vulgar Boatman

Goodreads | Eric_W Welch (Forreston, IL)'s review of The Vulgar Boatman:

I’ve read many of Tapply’s books and regret his passing.  I’ll continue until I’ve read all of them.  This happens to be one of the early ones I had missed.  (They needn’t be read in order.)

Tom Baron has a problem.  He's running for governor when his son's girlfriend is found dead with cocaine in her body and his son has disappeared, obviously a person of interest for the cops.  So he calls his lawyer, Brady Coyne, who very reluctantly agrees to help look for the son. Never one to bend the rules Brady happens on a trail that may very well test his friendship with Tom and throw the gubernatorial race into turmoil.  Reluctant to participate in what’s normally better done by the police, Brady is dragged into researching some things he’d rather not know about.

I only wish there had been more legal shenanigans.

The more exciting moments are leavened by Tapply’s prosaic view of the law: ;“I spent the next hour or so on the phone, doing the things that make the legal profession exciting. I set up two luncheon meetings with attorneys for the next week, I declined an invitation to serve on an ad hoc committee for the Bar Association. I checked back with the Coast Guard, which had not found Frank Paradise’s boat. I reconfirmed my golf date with Charlie McDevitt. I called a travel agent about a junket to the Madison River in Montana. I touched base with a few clients. A thrill a minute. Real Perry Mason stuff. 

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Robert B. Parker's Fool me twice : a Jesse Stone novel by Michael Brandman | LibraryThing

Another excellent Jesse Stone written by Michael Brandman. Paradise is being overrun by a Los Angeles film company and Jesse witnesses an accident caused by a rich teenager who was texting and ran a stop sign. Leading off with the classic, "Do you know who I am?" arrogance, she's the daughter of a wealthy contributor to the DA's election campaign so the charges Jesse files don't stick very well, and he makes it his mission to make her life a bit miserable. (All in the guise of doing what’s best for the poor little troubled girl so misunderstood by her parents -- a theme I found beyond fanciful.)

A concurrent plot involves threats on the life of the film star by her estranged husband.  The plots are hardly novel; it’s the characters and their relationships that make them enjoyable.

I’ve listened to all of these post-Parker Jesse Stone novels and the reader is very good. They’re all pure fantasy, however, not to be confused in any way with real life.  But that’s OK.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Robert Parker's Damned if you Do

I have always preferred the Jesse Stone series over Spenser and was sad that the series never blossomed into many more books. The relationship between Jesse, the town council, and Suitcase and Molly was fun and often led to humorous exchanges between them.

After Parker died the series was taken over by Michael Brandman who had been a writer and producer of the eponymous TV series. (Tom Selleck was really good, and I wish they would make more.)  Brandman’s first venture into recreating Stone was not successful.  This one is.

Jesse investigates the murder of a young prostitute in a local motel while simultaneously looking into conditions at the local assisted living facility, Golden Horizons where his friend and former accountant is living.

Increasingly, Baby Boomers are reaching the age where they need geriatric services such as alzheimer support and assisted living facilities. For those who have the traditional family with children and a spouse, there is usually someone to care, or, at least, look out for them. Unfortunately, those who opted to stay single or who have no relatives, often find themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous nursing home operators who have no problem bilking their savings and insurance while providing the bare minimum of services and no one is around to protest.  Brandman has done a service by raising the issue in the context of a good mystery.

The main plot turns on a war between two major crime groups for control of the prostitution business and the dead girl got caught in the crossfire enabling Jesse to unravel the scheme.

Nicely read by James Naughton.

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