Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Favorite Author: Arturo Perez Reverte

As I look at some of the wonderful blogs about books published on "blogspot", I realize that I made a mess of mine because it is too hard to find anything specific. I am learning but pleases be patient with me.

I would like to make a few comments on this author:

"The Fencing Master" I found this on Claudia’s bookshelf, I read it and wanted more. Reverto is
a Spanish writer who, after the somewhat dark but exciting "Fencing Master," created a new character:
"Captain Alatriste" Set in 17th century Madrid , Alastriste is a kind of mercenary with a doubtful past that you are not sure you like very well at first . He has "lived" a lot and is somewhat cynical and cantankerous but when he gets into a mission (for money) he is a pretty interesting guy.
"Purity of Blood" The second in the series; Alatriste is off to save a damsel in distress. A wicked and powerful priest has taken a girl in a convent and is using her as his personal concubine. He has threatened to reveal that the girl’s father is a Jew and destroy the family name. Alastriste has his work cut out. Do not miss the poems at the end of the book!! "Lascivious Padre, salacious and promiscuous - Would it not serve you better to be religious? "......"Must you skewer every ewe among your flock? That sacred staff of yours, your treasure You must find raw, abraded beyond measure......"

It was after I read those that I got his earlier works, "The Queen of THe South".The Flanders Panel, "The Nautical Chart, and "Club Dumas". He has created some very strong and independent women characters as foils to his heroic male protaganists. I admire his versality.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Neat Way to Share Your Books

If your library shelves are bulging there probably are some books that you will not reread and they are probably yearning to be picked up and read and enjoyed. So set them free; go to this nice Website called "Book Crossing" and see how it is done. Who knows where your books may finally end up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Memories on Veteran's Day

When I was in school we called this day Armistice Day and at 11: AM we were in assembly remembering November 11th, 1918 and " the war to end all wars". The day became Remembrance Day and Poppy day and now Veteran's Day - how many more wars to Armageddon?

I was stationed in Germany at a Weather Station when I received orders to report to an Air Force base in Dakar, Senegal French West Africa. On the way down, I met Bernie who soon became my very best friend. Together, we reported to the small AF Base with no more than 20 enlisted men and seven officers, There were a number of civilian government employees doing various jobs. We met the three Senegalese natives that assisted in the weather station; Makam, Gay and Franscois. There was another character that hung around the weather station, a giant of a man who helped wherever there were heavy chores. He wore only trousers and many charms hanging around his neck and on his arms. He called them "giddigiddis"; each one had a specific purpose: for good health, for boucoup pickannies, to protect against knife cuts..... his name will come to me. We were a team and we conducted the affairs of the station making weather observations, sending up balloons to track the winds aloft and other data and creating and posting weather maps and sending our weather data over teletype. We made our own hydrogen gas and took turns wearing the telephone head set as we watched the progress of the balloon and reporting the azimuths to the one who would graph the movements. Once, we tied a rope to a monkey and sent him up with the balloon; only for a short distance then we brought him down. The flight officer was Captain Murphy who called us Wigee Birds alluding to forecasting weather with a wigee board Bernie was big Wigee and I was Little Wigee. We had a B17 that we sometimes would ride in to take observations. From time to time we would fly down to Roberts Field in Monrovia. There was a Firestone plantation there and we would get bananas and exchange our script (that's what we were paid; just paper) for real dollars. We bought a little Chimpanzee down there and named him "Jimmy". "Jimmy" was a friendly little fellow and every one liked him; we took him everywhere even to the movies and the beach. Yoff Beach was where we played; once, a group of us took a big truck out to the beach and we met another group who wanted to go into town for some reason. We went along with them and left the truck. That night, after the movie, some one remembered "the truck!!!." We went to the beach, the tide was in and only the top of the truck was above water. I volunteered to take the winch cable out to the truck, the old man who knew the beach and the water ( he called me "the white picaninnie" because I was so dark from the sun) went out with me. Just before we went into the water a huge jelly fish, it had the be two and a half feet in diameter, washed up. That's all I could think of as we dragged that cable through the water. As soon as it was attached, we jumped in the cab and the wrecker pulled us in.

Dakar was the capital city of Senagal; a sea port town; very active. Lucky Strike cigarettes and Parker 51 fountain pens always fetched the best price ( we bought cigarettes for 5 cents a pack at the base PX). The Rue Raffenale was one of the more interesting areas in town, that's where all the bawdy houses were; The Parisian Bar was a favorite for some of the officers and several times I was called upon to go into town and pick up some one who couldn't manage to get home the night before. Some times I would take "Jimmy", the ladies really liked him . No, I was only nineteen and probably looked fifteen and the ladies called me a "baby", so I did not partake.

We had horses on the base and we rode along the beach; this was really fun and easy duty. We found an old shack on the base that had chemicals and a printer so we developed film and printed our pictures. I lost most of my pictures when I was transferred to Austria and was hit by a truck and went back to the States in a body cast - but that's another story.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Books 11/12/07

"Mary Mary" James Patterson
This is a 2005 Alex Cross mystery. The time is after Alex was involved in "London Bridges. He is on vacation at Disney Land in California with his family when The head of the FBI calls him and apologetically asks Alex to "just spend a few hours to look at a high profile murder as a big favor" A famous movie star and her chauffeur were found shot to death; the woman’s face was mutilated with a knife. Cross finds himself deep into what becomes a search for a vicious serial killer. An editor for the L.A. Times begins to get e-mails from the killer signed "Mary Smith". Forensic evidence seems to support the theory that the killer is a woman.
As usual, Alex’s personal life takes another bad turn; while his grandmother Nana and his children understand he has an important job they do not like to have him away so much and the memory of the death of Alex’s first wife being killed by a man Alex was pursuing and the kidnapping of his second wife Christine (now estranged) are very much in their mind and Christine is, again, taking action to get permanent custody of their son Alex Jr. These conflicts are always part of the "Cross" stories.
There are more killings but no one can find a pattern and the L.A. Police and Alex seem helpless as prominent Hollywood and L.A. people are brutally murdered. Alex is not totally convinced that the killer is a woman but he has nothing to back up his feeling. E-mails continue until the Times editor, himself becomes a victim.
We, also, follow the thoughts and actions of the killer throughout the story; it is a man with a very clever plan. It is not until the police find a woman suspect that they eventually arrest and using DNA match the forensic evidence to her that the action takes a quick turn and Alex, after interviewing the woman pursues another exciting line of investigation. A good "Cross" novel; it is fun to go back a few years with a developing character to see what was happening "back when", particularly, if you missed the novel when it originally came out.

"The Pest House" Jim Crace
A cataclysmic event, not explained has turned the United States into a sparsely populated wasteland. Land is contaminated people are sick and dying and there is severe weather and earth quakes. Those that have survived are trying to get to the East coast and Europe.
Two brothers, Franklin and Jackson started the trek with only a minimum of supplies and are suffering for it. The stronger brother leaves Franklin to go ahead to find food and get help for Franklin who has hurt his knee. Franklin, miserable from pain and weather, comes upon a stone house where he meets a woman, Margaret, who was sent to this "pesthouse" in isolation because of a sickness. The town people have been frightened by what they call "the flux"; they don’t know what is is or how to treat it except to remove all bodily hair from the victim, burn it and everything the person has touched and isolate the person until he or she either dies or gets well. This is a story of misery; author Jim Crace uses powerful imagery that carries the reader through the novel. Sadness and hope prevail, be prepared for vivid descriptions of people at their worst and at their best.

"Book of The Dead" Patrica Cornwell Published 2007

From America's # 1 bestselling crime writer comes the extraordinary new Dr. Kay Scarpetta novel. The "book of the dead" is the morgue log, a ledger in which all cases are entered by hand. For Kay Scarpetta, however, it is about to take on a new meaning. Fresh from her bruising battle with a psychopath in Florida, Scarpetta decides it's time for a change of pace, not only personally and professionally but geographically. Moving to the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, she opens a unique private forensic pathology practice, one in which she and her colleagues-including Pete Marino and her niece, Lucy-offer expert crime-scene investigation and autopsy services to communities lacking local access to modern, competent death investigation technology.
It seems like an ideal situation, until the new battles start-with local politicians, with entrenched interests, with someone whose covert attempts at sabotage are clearly meant to run Scarpetta out of town. And that's before the murders and other violent deaths even begin. br/> A young man from a well-known family jumps off a water tower. A woman is found ritualistically murdered in her multimillion-dollar beach home. The body of an abused young boy is discovered dumped in a desolate marsh. Meanwhile, in distant New England, problems with a prominent patient at a Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital begin to hint at interconnections that are as hard to imagine as they are horrible. Kay Scarpetta has dealt with many brutal and unusual crimes before, but never a string of them as baffling, or as terrifying, as the ones confronting her now. Before she is through, that book of the dead will contain many names-and the pen may be poised to write in her own. The first name in forensics. The last name in suspense. Once again, Patricia Cornwell proves her exceptional ability to entertain and enthrall.

Alan's comments: This is the the exact language from the book cover of this very confusing novel, what do you think the story is about? The opening chapter describes, very graphically, a man, subjecting a young girl to torture and is terrorizing her before he kills her. It is inferred that the man might be a veteran from Iraq who was involved in the violent interrogation of prisoners and may have been traumatized by what went on. We kind of loose track of him as the story develops. Kay Scarpetta's companions continue to act like a dysfunctional family and the story spends too much time on their problems instead of focusing on the history and the motivation of the very disturbed killer. Many pages of dialog are filled with Ms Cornwall's rather impressive knowledge of forensics but they do not keep the story going. I was very disappointed in the novel. I went to my library and reread an earlier "Scarpetta" novel "Cruel and Unusual" and enjoyed it very much.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

11/06/07 Books

"The Fourth Order" Stephen Frey
A frightening story about an ultra secret government agency that was activated after 9/11 as an anti terrorist tool. This is the fourth time that "The Order of Immunity" formed after the assignation of president Lincoln has been made operational for the first time. The group, funded through a maze of corporations so no one can know where the money originates, headed by very high level government officials and soldiered by people with no moral scruples, are charged to route out terrorists without regard to due process. They can grab anyone they think might have information, they can detain, imprison, torture and kill anyone with complete immunity. They use their powers vigorously even though more than two thirds of the people they grab are innocent.
A Chief Financial officer of a multi billion dollar corporation is embarking on a hostile take over of a very technical computer service company. Hidden in this company is the operational apparatus of the Fourth Order and it’s sophisticated, world wide, computer spy system that can monitor all electronic and verbal communications giving the order nationwide and national surveillance ability. The powers in the Fourth Order do everything they can to try to stop this take over. The CFO and his family are placed in great jeopardy. The plot twists and turns; ruthless and evil people move in and out of the action. This is fiction but who really knows what kind of monsters we might really have doing hateful things in the guise of "protecting the people"? In this story they went much too far and it deteriorated to personal vendettas.

"The Flanders Panel" Arturo Perez-Reverte
Get your chess board out and set up your pieces to match the chess game in the painting called "The Game of Chess" by Pieter Van Huys in 1471. Julia, a painting restorer is working on this painting getting it ready for an auction when she discovers a message painted by the artist and hidden beneath a layer of paint. The message is rather cryptic; "Who Killed the Knight" in Latin. Julia is intrigued; the hidden message could increase the value of the painting considerably but more than that Julia is determined to find the meaning of the message. Research on the people who were portrayed in the painting showed that the two men playing chess and a woman who is watching the game had very interesting histories and one of the chess players was, actually, a knight. A master chess player is hired to analyze the game as it is set up in the painting to see if the chess game will yield clues to why the painter wrote the message. Was there, really, a murder? Who was murdered and by whom? Clues are unraveled as past and later moves are worked out by the chess master, move by move that can be followed on your own chess board.
Reverte has surrounded his mystery with interesting, self serving and colorful characters each of whom have an interest in the painting itself as it is made ready for an important art auction. Greed, murder,tense action and a couple of real surprises. Good read!!

"The Club Dumas" Arturo Perez-Reverte
An amazing, intelligently written, mystery and occult puzzle novel written by a favorite Spanish author. Books, writers, collectors and dealers in old and rare books are introduced into this story about a certain book dealer, Lucas Corso,an intense,cynical, chain smoking individual, who makes his living researching and finding and buying and selling books for a selected clientele. Lucas is hired to authenticate part of an original manuscript, some handwritten pages of "The Three Musketeers", written by Alexander Dumas ; Dumas was known to collaborate with others when he wrote his novels, hence the need for verification. As he goes about this task, he is engaged by a very wealthy collector, Varo Borja, to research a demonic book called "The Book of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows" supposedly authored by Lucifer himself. The book is supposed to enable the owner, if he can figure out the puzzles, to meet the Devil and become all powerful. There are only three such volumes in existence and Corso is charged to examine each one in order to assure Borja that the one he has is genuine; he suspects it might be a forgery. (Perhaps, Borja tried to meet the Devil and the ritual did not work) Corso finds himself involved in a very complicated plot where he meets people that seem, to him, to resemble the main characters from the "Three Musketeers", a sensuous woman, the wife of the previous owner of the manuscript, that he identifies as Milady De Winter and a man who is a companion of the woman he thinks of as Rocheforte.
At the same time, as he begins to compare the second of the Book of the Nine Gates, he discovers that while the binding, the paper and the print are identical, there are slight differences in the nine prints. He also discovers that some of the prints were originated by the publisher and others were originated by another person "LCF" (Lucifer?). Corso is followed and threatened by the person he thinks of as Rocheforte but each time he is in danger, he is rescued by a strange young girl who is following him. As the story progresses, death and destruction of their libraries come to the two other owners of the Book of Nine Gates; the books are destroyed in fire but the prints were removed prior to burning the books. Corso finds himself in the middle of a twisting plot that involves devil worship, occult practices and a secret organization of Alexander Dumas' fanatical admirers.
This was a fascinating novel; the plot was complex and the climax was interesting and throughout the book there were lively discussions between Corso and book dealers and book collectors where literally hundreds of novels and author’s works were discussed or quoted from and great care was taken in the story to show the sources that Corso and others used as they researched both the manuscript and the occult book. The book discussions and the quotations scattered throughout the story were extremely well done.
This novel was adapted into a film by Roman Polanski. Johnny Depp played Corso in this dark and exciting movie called "The Ninth Gate". Get the DVD; Johnny Depp's portrayal of Corso was exact and excellent.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

On Line Audiobook Download

For readers in the state of Tennessee, your library card will get you this.