Tag Archives: Books

The Old Man by Thomas Perry

Thomas Perry - The Old Man - Book Cover

I just read “The Old Man” by Thomas Perry. Perry is one of my brain candy authors, full of manly men doing manly stuff and all very competent,  always prepared, and always know just what to do in any situation especially those where swift, violent action is required. Unlike some of us who are lost and befuddled and hope everything turns out.

Meet Dan Chase, about my age, a retired old fart in Vermont. He has a house, a car, two dogs, and a past. A long time ago in Libya he was a US intelligence agent who got involved in a cash payoff that went badly and he got framed of taking a money, but he was really innocent. So he had to go undercover with a false identity and hide. So he a bugout kit with cash, several sets of identity papers, guns, ammo, and knives. Thirty five years go by and nothing happens and then some people from his past show up and he goes on the run.

So it is a wild ride with some twists and turns and unexpected as he dodges and weaves trying to stay alive.

Another rock solid escapist thriller read from Thomas Perry.

It’s brand new and I got my copy free from the Tulsa Public Library. Saved some bucks I tell ya. I’m a big library fan.

Best Short Stories of 2016

Book Cover - Best Short Stories of 2016

The Best Short Stories of 2016 is the latest release of an anthology of short stories that comes out every year and I have been buying and reading faithfully since the mid 1980’s. I love short stories. The author has to get to the heart of the matter quickly and not waste precious words, everything has to count. I love the variety of stories plus each author has the opportunity to put in a blurb about the story, their inspiration perhaps or what they were trying to do with the story.

The stories are selected by a assigned editor who sets the tone. In my very gauche way of thinking there are types of editors and it reflects in the stories they select. The first group of editors emphasize stories where the main action is in the mind of the characters and here the story is full of conversation between the characters and most of the action is in the thoughts of the characters and is reflected in very subtle clues in the action. Awkward silences and such.  The second type of editor picks stories where things actually happen and the dialog and narrative is in direct consequence to the action that is taking place.

This book emphasizes the first which is not my preference generally but it works here. The editor, Junot Diaz,  also seemed to pick stories by authors outside the mainstream and the stories reflect that. They are very interesting for the most part and reflect viewpoints that are not my own which is one of the main benefits of reading in my view, seeing the world through another’s eyes. This book has several stories which are very lively and interesting reading.

Willie Nelson’s “Roll Me Up and Smoke When I Die – Musings From the Road

Willie Nelson - Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die

I just finished this slim volume and boy is it a gem of a book. Willie Nelson wrote this book about his life and his family and his philosophy of life. I first took notice of him when he came out in the 70’s with his Red Headed Stranger album (remember albums?) which I played over and over. Well that was over 40 years ago and you know Nelson is still making records and at 83 years of age has a very rigorous performance schedule.

Willie writing about himself is one thing but he includes little snippets from his friends, family, and fellow musicians writing about him. I thought that was great especially the vignette’s from his children from several different mothers. The other thing I really liked is the lyrics. He started out writing poetry when he was six years old and did that until he learned to play the guitar. His lyrics read like poems. One of the last songs he quotes is “Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth”

…We believe everything they tell us

They are going to kill us so we gotta kill them first

But I remember the commandment thou shalt not kill

How much is that soldier’s life worth

And what happened to peace on earth


So I am not sure that I would like to hold up Willie Nelson’s life as one everybody should emulate but he has some things to say that are worth reading.

My Life in the Service by Matthew Maloney

My Life in the Service

My Life in the Service is the story of my Uncle Matt, a pharmacist from Idaho who served his country in the Army during World War II. He kept a diary during that time and the book is a transcription of his diary. I did some of it, my Dad did the rest and the husband of my cousin in California made it into a book (and I think that he did a great job). I think I first started transcribing the book in middle 1980’s and the book just came out in print just recentlly.

Matthew Maloney at Chateau d'lf

Most of the entries were very brief and reflected a life in the Army of hurry up and wait, endless inspections, the waxing an waning of military discipline. He was a pharmacist, not an infantryman so he dispensed medicine and was always in the rear echelon. Still he sailed on a troop ship (the USS Susan B. Anthony which sunk by a mine in the English Channel during the invasion of Normany – no lives were lost) from New York to Algiers in 1943 and then while on land experienced air raids. (Nowhere in the book does he describe his life being in danger).

He spent time not only in north Africa but Italy and France. He seemed like he had a lot of free time. He and his buddies were always catching rides to go visit cities and see the sites. He tried to climb up Pompei but it was erupting and raining down hot stones on him and he retreated. He visited Naples, Rome, and various cities in France. He ate great dinners, drank a lot of beer, went to dances and the opera.

He took a lot of pictures, many of which are in the book. He took pictures of his buddies, German and Italian prisoners, the Eiffel Tower, cathedrals, mountains, meadows, and anything else that piqued his interest. Film was hard to get in wartime so he used a lot of paper film and developed it himself. His curiosity about the world and his desire to sample as much of it as he could comes through in the book. His diary started when he went in the Army and ended when he got out, a period of July 7, 1942 to September 8,1945.

I remember Matt as one of the world’s great guys. He was a lifelong bachelor and was a partner in a pharmacy in Jackson, Wyoming from the 1940’s to his death in mid 1970’s. If you were a visitor to Jackson during this period you probably went to his store. It was Jackson Drug Company, right on the square in downtown. He lived in an apartment upstairs, right down the hall from the local draft board. Our family visited him quite a bit back then, back before the Jackson became a home for the beautiful people.

The local paper, the Tulsa World, has been featuring once a week or so survivors of the war and telling their stories. It has been a favorite part of the paper for me, reading the stories of these young men and women who entered the war with an attitude that they had a job to do. Uncle Matt’s experience reads similarly. A reflection of a different time in our country when attitudes were different.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

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The purple tag is from the Tulsa library.

I read a lot, we are one of the few families in America who get a newspaper delivered every day plus I read the online New York Times, and I get several magazines. Most of the time I have two books going, one nonfiction and one fiction. Every once in a while though I start reading a book where I shut down all my other reading and other activities until I finish it and Anne Tyler‘s “A Spool of Blue Thread” is such a book. I quit all my other reading and a lot of other activities just to read this saga of the Whitshank family.

I think that this may be one of those books where everybody gets something different out of the book. What I got was a family where everybody is a little different but there is a common thread between them. It is also a book about people and how they can change but basically stay the same. It is a book about families and the myths they have about themselves and how they think those myths make them exceptional. I loved this book. It may be one of the best books I have ever read. So I recommend it highly!

I got this copy from the Tulsa Library, for free!! I work that free angle hard because I am kind of cheap I guess. Plus I like to support our libraries.

Make Me by Lee Child – Jack Reacher Again

Make Me Cover

I just got through reading the Kindle version of Lee Child‘s Make Me. Lee Child writes the Jack Reacher series of books. I think there are about twenty now. Jack Reacher is one tough hombre. 6’5″ tall former Army Military Police officer who doesn’t take crap from anybody. Something happened in the Army a long time ago and Reacher quits and now travels on foot or train with nothing but the clothes on his back an ATM card and his toothbrush.

This book opens up with him getting off the train in Mothers Rest somewhere in the Great Plains about five hours north of Oklahoma City and is surrounded by wheat. He runs into a former FBI agent now PI there who is looking for her partner who has gone missing. They team up naturally and they find out that something is not quite right in Mothers Rest. Something evil is going on. To figure it all out they end up traveling to Oklahoma City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Phoenix and then finally back to Mothers Rest.

Reacher in his search for justice ends up murdering several people, one of them twice (nice trick huh) don’t worry though because they were all bad people who were circumventing our justice system and needed killing.

Anyways, this is my brain candy so don’t criticize me.

I got the Kindle download free my the Tulsa City County Library. You can’t beat free.

A great review of the book from the New Yorker They like it! Hmmm, they usually like boring literary fiction featuring depressed people and no action.

Extreme Justice by Vincent Green

Photo 2 - 2016-03-25

I just finished reading Extreme Justice by Vincent Green. It is a fictionalized account of an interesting historical event. The murder during World War II of a German soldier by Johannes Kunze by his fellow prisoners at a prisoner of war camp in Tonkawa, Oklahoma,after they found out that Kunze was acting as an informant to the Americans. It is a fascinating book from many different aspects. The soldiers were some of the 275,000 German soldiers of the famed German Afrika Corps who surrendered to the Americans and British after losing the battle North Africa.

Some interesting things to me were that the German non-commissioned officers strictly forbade the soldiers under them to read anything the Americans provided about the war. They insisted that the Germans were winning the war and that soon America would be a German colony. They also taunted their American guards by saluting them with Heil Hitler salutes and such. The other thing was that the Americans guarded the perimeter of the camp but the Germans had free rein on maintaining order and discipline inside the camp especially at night.

So what happened was that in November 1943 a German NCO found out that Kunze was informing to the Americans and he scheduled a meeting of the prisoners late at night to discuss the matter. When the other prisoners found out what was happening they rioted and brutally beat and murdered Kunze.


Kunze’s grave at Fort Reno, Oklahoma. Originally he was buried at Tonkawa but after the war the Army moved the remains of all POWs that were buried in Oklahoma to Fort Reno to a special section of the post cemetery where 62 Germans and 8 Italian POW prisoners were buried (some remains have been removed and sent back to Europe by now)

The American guards finally went in and found out what happened and basically arrested the five prisoners that had the most blood on them. The German’s were flabbergasted because they considered it strictly a German affair and none of the American’s business.  They actually thought that after Germany won the war then it wouldn’t matter.The Americans had a different view. They were afraid that if they let these guys off and word got out then they could lose control of all the POW camps. They also knew that there were American prisoners in Germany who for one reason or another had been sentenced to death but had not been executed yet. Nobody wanted to start the executions because they knew the other side would execute their prisoners. So the Americans wanted a very fair, at least in appearance, trial that would withstand international scrutiny. The trial was to observed by a Swiss Embassy diplomat.

The Americans also wanted the prisoners to be found guilty. For the lead prosecutor they picked their top man, Leon Jaworski, who later became famous as being the Special Prosecutor during the Watergate scandal.  The Army could have picked any defense lawyer in the country to defend the Germans and Jaworski made requests that somebody competent be appointed but the Army appointed a civil attorney from Arkansas who had never tried a criminal case of any sort to be the defense attorney.

So from there it was kind of a farce especially with a jury of American military officers. The trial itself was considered secret and when the verdict came it was considered secret also and none of the prisoners were told what the verdict was or what the punishment would be. They were all sentenced to hang. So they were all led back to their cells where they eventually figured out what their fate was to be.

There was some hope because late in the war, the Americans had 14 Germans condemned to die and the Germans had 15 Americans condemned to death and there was negotiation of a prisoner exchange at the German -Swiss border.  One thing led to another and chaos descended on Germany and then Hitler killed himself and the Americans had no idea who in Germany  could make the exchange happen. Then the the allies liberated the prisoner of war camps and retrieved the condemned Americans. That and the discovery of the German concentration camps had disgusted the world with Germany and Germans and nobody was in a mood to be merciful, and all that destroyed the German’s hopes.

One day, soon after the German surrender, the prisoners, who were held at the Army’s Fort Leavenworth prisoner, were marched one by one a quarter mile to a warehouse where they were hung in a gallows rigged up in an elevator shaft. Apparently it took about 20 minutes for them to die after being hung according to the book although they were unconscious. All told fourteen German POW’s were executed for killing informers among them.

The book is very informative and moves at a fast pace. Yes the trial that the German prisoners had was a farce but they were among 200 or so who beat Kunze to death. Only one person, a German chaplain tried to stop the murder but he was told to leave by the other prisoners. So maybe justice was served but there is a lot of mud out there for everybody.

As an aside we still read about farces like this every day here now in America. Criminals who are defended by incompetent attorneys before judges who don’t seem to care.  I’ve heard that the criminal justice system in the US is not concerned about Justice, it is about due process or procedure. I can’t tell you how many times when an official of a law enforcement agency excuses stupid conduct by an officer by saying, “Everything that was done was in full compliance with our procedures.” Like that excuses anything. Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong supporter of law enforcement and hate criminals but an unjust system is corrosive to society.

Anyways, this is my extended review.

The book is out of print. I purchased a used copy on Amazon for 99 cents plus three times that postage and handling. I also see where you can download a pdf version for free here.

The Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O’Keefe by J. Michael Orenduff

pot thief okeefe cover

I just finished “The Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O’Keefe” by J. Michael Orenduff. The seventh book in his “Pot Thief” series. The book, like the rest of the series, is set in New Mexico and features Hubie Schuze, the owner of a native american pot store (the pottery kind of pot, not the Colorado variety) who buys and sells pots but is also known to take his Bronco out to the boonies and dig one up illegally on public land and sell it.


A pot on display at the Heard Museum in Phoenix

Hubie is quite the character and you can tell the author has fun with him. In the book Hubie falls in love with a beautiful woman. (Thankfully the author closes the blinds and turns up the music on the intimate scenes like I wish more authors would) Hubie also steals a pot from a top secret military installation and makes a copy of it and then finds out that his pots are changing hands way faster than he can keep track of himself and of course one of the characters ends up dead and Hubie sets to finding out whodunnit. He also gets involved in an obscure O’Keefe painting. 

Mary Cassatt - The Reader

This isn’t a painting by Georgia O’Keefe is by Mary Cassatt and is called the reader. I don’t have any photographs of an O’Keefe painting

He spends a lot of time at his favorite bar drinking margaritas and eating chips with his friends. Orenduff lived and worked in New Mexico and knows it. I was born there and spent my high school and college years in Albuquerque and get homesick from time to time. This book is the latest mystery set in New Mexico. If you love New Mexico and fun mysteries this is for you!!

So I give this five stars out of five.

“Simple Dreams” by Linda Ronstadt

Simple Dreams - Linda Ronstadt - Book Cover

Back in the 1970’s and 80’s Linda Ronstadt ruled the airwaves as the Queen of Rock and Roll. She was the whole package, an incredible voice that could take any song and just fly, and she was incredibly cute. Later on she went off that path and got into Broadway with “The Pirates of Penzance”, then singing the “Great American Songbook” and then later Mexican folk songs. I really respected all these moves because she veered off from the sure thing and followed her heart into what she really wanted to do which by the way, were mostly commercial as well as artistic successes.  She gradually faded from my musical consciousness and when I saw her “Musical Memoir”, Simple Dreams,  I had to read it.

She grew up, the daughter of a Tucson, Arizona Ranch and Hardware store owner, in a musical family. She loved music and became a fixture on the Tucson folk music scene and then left for California for the good of her career. There she bounced around several years trying different things out and ended up getting noticed when she was part of the Stone Poneys. From there it was just a matter of time and some extremely hard work before she made it big. On the way she had an education on ethically challenged record executives, grueling road trips, and vagaries of loyalties in the business.

In her book she gives us a lot of the inside story into her musical career and how she had to fight to convince people to stay with her as she followed her own instincts. Later on she talks about she is retired from the music business now and is raising her daughters in Arizona. I had no idea, and she doesn’t say so anywhere in the book, that she had Parkinson’s Disease and that it has made it impossible for her to sing. She is not moping around feeling sorry for herself. Despite the disease making everything hard, she is staying involved with her extended family and adopted daughters.

This is a great book and I recommend it highly.

Barbarian Days – A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

Book Cover - A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

I am really excited about Barbarian Days. Talk about a great read. It is a memoir by New Yorker staff writer William Finnegan and his life told through surfing. He learned to surf at a very young age in southern California and then later in Hawaii when he was about middle school age. He was born in 1952 so his early years were in the 60’s when life of course was a lot different than it is now.

In Hawaii he talks about getting up every morning before school and paddling his board out to surf before going to school. Nobody went with him, no safety gear no nothing. At that time I was in Price, Utah and Eagar, Arizona and although far from the surf, on weekends, when we were not doing chores, my brother and ranged far and wide on our bicycles and got into and out of scrapes that my parents never heard about. Such parents would make the headline news now days as they managed a perpwalk with handcuffs led by deputies. Back then, kids were on their own much of the time.

Anyways, Finnegan’s account of the social pitfalls of school and staying out of the way of the bullies really resonated with me.

From there the story takes off on his adulthood as a surf bum going around the world, cadging cash and money as he could in search of desolate beautiful waves. I’ve never been surfing and never will go surfing but he sure makes it sound fun and terrifying at the same time. He talks about being pulled down to the bottom of the ocean and held there by powerful waves, sometimes two waves in a row ( a double wave hold down he calls it.)

He writes about the social pecking order out on the “Lineup” waiting for the waves. The big dog locals get first pick, visiting kooks (newbies) get the crumbs.

He gets a little older and finds a calling as a journalist and not a reporter who reports on the latest zoning fight at the board of adjustment. He reports on Apartheid in South Africa and Latin American revolutionary wars. He goes where the action is and sometimes where he can find a wave.

He gets a job at the New Yorker but still finds waves in the Atlantic and he is getting older but he still enjoys them backs off a little bit from the big ones.

This in one of the best books I’ve ever read and recommend it highly. It is still $14.99 for the Kindle version. I got my copy at the library. It took me longer than two weeks to read it and I’ll get it back to them today because I am getting daily emails about all sorts of terrible things are going to happen to me if I don’t return it soon.