Monday, April 29, 2019

Nault's adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale an instant classic

Women writers, comic books and women in comic books are the loosely connected themes to the bulk my recent reading.

Let’s start with a superb graphic novel — Renée Nault’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Nault’s rendition is exactly what Will Eisner had in mind as he envisioned the comic book developing into the graphic novel.  Eisner’s concept of the graphic novel was one of art and text in sequence, telling a complex story about important issues.; essentially, a comic book for adults.  

Nault, a Canadian, (as is Atwood), deftly handles the source material, remaining true to the spirit of Atwood’s fine and frightening novel of a near future in which America is caught up in a civil war. The hand maids are young women, held captive against their will, and compelled to serve as brood hens for a conservative arm of Christianity. 

Set against the horror of the story, Nault’s water colors leap from the page.   And it is exactly here — in the juxtaposition of beauty and horror — that the power of the graphic novel lies.  Nault has set a high bar for future graphic novels, whether an original work or adaptation.

The Handmaid’s Tale joins March, Maus and Persepolis as a superb and lasting example of how the comic book has morphed into a powerful vehicle  for telling meaningful stories for adult readers.

Two books by Robert Crumb, The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb and Odds & Ends, are best reserved for the Crumb aficionado.  Illustrations range from designs for business cards to concert posters to portraits.   

Also for aficionados is Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud, which is a follow-up to his pioneering treatise on comics, Understanding Comics. McCloud wrote Reinventing Comics 20 years ago and changes in technology and the comic industry reveal how badly the book has aged. 

Caroline Fraser won the Pulitzer Prize last year for her biography, Prairie Fires, The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Half-way through this engaging book I was amused to realize that I’ve never read Wilder’s classic children’s series.   Now, I believe, I need to pay a visit to that little house on the prairie.  

Fraser’s writing is highly readable and her research impeccable.  Prairie Fires is especially engrossing when Fraser explores how Wilder often crossed the line between fiction and fact in her books.  

My first thought on seeing The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen in my local bookstore was “OK, enough is enough.” The book is published by Quirk Books, which also published The Legion of Regrettable Superheroes, The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains, and The Legion of Regrettable Sidekicks by Jon Morris.

In its design,  The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen appears to be following ground already plowed by Morris. I liked Morris’s three books. I truly did, but I failed to see how a fourth book — even one written by another author — was necessary.

I was wrong.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Hope Nicholson. It is a valuable addition to comic history.

Nicholson’s a good writer, lively and engaging. And she doesn’t limit this history of women in comics to superheroes, but touches on the full scope of women’s roles in comics from the 1930s to today.

Additionally, she furnishes information on how to read  the actual exploits of the female characters she features here. In some cases, Nicholson must send us to the back-issue bins at our local comic shop, but in a surprising number instances the stories are available on-line or have been assembled into hard-cover collections.

Strong recommendations for The Handmaid’s Tale, Prairie Fires, and The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen.

Books read -- January
1.   Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2.   Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3.   Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Kubert
4.   Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman
5.   A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
6.   Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous by Christopher Bonanos
7.   Neptune's Brood, Charles Stross
8.   Perish Twice, Robert B. Parker
9.   The League of Regrettable Sidekicks, Jon Morris
10. Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
11. Mrs. Palfrey At The Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor

Books read -- February
12. The Golden Tresses of the Dead, Alan Bradley
13. The Problem of Susan and Other Stories, Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
14. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross
15. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
16. Shrink Rap, Robert B. Parker
17. Wish You Were Here, Graham Swift
18. The Big Fella, Babe Ruth and the World He Created, Jane Leavy
19. School Days, Robert B. Parker
20. The Boats of the Glen Carrig, William Hope Hodgson
21. The Professional, Robert B. Parker
22. Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson
23. Flannery O'Connor, The Cartoons, ed. Kelly Gerald
24. Comics & Sequential Art, Will Eisner
25. Sharpe's Escape, Bernard Cornwell
26. Thirteen Ways Of Looking, Colum McCann
27. Late In The Day, Tessa Hadley

Books read -- March
28. Still Life, Louise Penny
29. Golden State, Ben H. Winters
30. Slowhand, The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, Philip Norman
31. The Border, Don Winslow
32. Careless Love, Peter Robinson
33. Dreyer's English, An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer
34. The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg
35. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
36. Red Dragon, Thomas Harris

Books read -- April
37. The Dragon Factory, Jonathan Maberry
38. K, A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner
39. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
40.Wolf Pack, C.J. Box
41. Run Away, Harlan Coben
42. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Flannery O'Connor
43. The Hand Maid’s Tale, art and adaptation by Renée
Nault, based on the novel by Margaret Atwood
44. The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb, Robert Crumb
45. Odds & Ends, Robert Crumb
46. The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen, Hope Nicholson
47. Prairie Fires, The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Caroline Fraser
48. Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud

Currently  Reading --
The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
Letters to a Friend, Diana Athill
The Goat Getters, Eddie Campbell

Friday, April 19, 2019

Box, Coben among April highlights

April reading includes a mystery, a thriller and two literary classics.

The thriller is the Wolf Pack by C.J. Box. It features Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett as well as the usual cast of characters.

Box typically weaves current social and political issues into his narrative. In Wolf Pack, destruction, disturbance and death arrive in the form of a drone used to herd wildlife, a pair of arrogant federal agents and ill-considered policies regarding the federal witness protection program.

It’s a fast-paced read. Box is masterful at kicking a story into high gear on page one and not letting up on the accelerator until the final page. The body count is higher than usual, and there are some major changes in the lives of several of the regular characters — which means Box is also skilled at leaving the reader eagerly awaiting his next book.

I’ve read one novel by Harlan Coben a few years ago, but — candidly — I don’t remember it. That changes for me with Run Away, which begins as a conventional story of a dad in search of drugged-out daughter and deepens into a mystery around DNA websites, a cult and several murders.

The characters are clearly drawn, the pacing measured in a way to draw out tension and the mystery proves genuinely satisfying.   I liked this book a lot.

Flannery O’Connor’s  A Good Man Is Hard To Find and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe are both highly regarded works that do not translate well in light of today’s social standards. Modern readers are likely to be uncomfortable with the attitude toward blacks that pervade  both books.

O’Connor is generally regarded as a master of the short story, but many of the tales in this collection didn’t hold up for me. Her fascination with human oddities leaves behind an unpleasant taste.

I was certain that I read Robinson Crusoe in the distant past.  After reading it recently, I don’t believe that I had ever read it.  Any memory I have seems to be around Robinson Crusoe on Mars, a 1964 moving starring Adam West.

The Guardian considers Robinson Crusoe the second best novel written in English. It’s also worth noting that the book is regarded by many as the first English-language novel.

Certainly, it establishes the framework for a number of literary genres that were to follow — the adventure novel, the Christian confessional, the travelogue, etc.

Even given such consideration, I don’t recommend Robinson Crusoe unless, like me, you’re working through one of those prolific lists on “books you have to read before you die.”

Crusoe is an arrogant sod and the book a plod. 


Books read -- January
1.   Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2.   Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3.   Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Kubert
4.   Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman
5.   A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
6.   Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous by Christopher Bonanos
7.   Neptune's Brood, Charles Stross
8.   Perish Twice, Robert B. Parker
9.   The League of Regrettable Sidekicks, Jon Morris
10. Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
11. Mrs. Palfrey At The Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor

Books read -- February
12. The Golden Tresses of the Dead, Alan Bradley
13. The Problem of Susan and Other Stories, Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
14. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross
15. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
16. Shrink Rap, Robert B. Parker
17. Wish You Were Here, Graham Swift
18. The Big Fella, Babe Ruth and the World He Created, Jane Leavy
19. School Days, Robert B. Parker
20. The Boats of the Glen Carrig, William Hope Hodgson
21. The Professional, Robert B. Parker
22. Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson
23. Flannery O'Connor, The Cartoons, ed. Kelly Gerald
24. Comics & Sequential Art, Will Eisner
25. Sharpe's Escape, Bernard Cornwell
26. Thirteen Ways Of Looking, Colum McCann
27. Late In The Day, Tessa Hadley

Books read -- March
28. Still Life, Louise Penny
29. Golden State, Ben H. Winters
30. Slowhand, The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, Philip Norman
31. The Border, Don Winslow
32. Careless Love, Peter Robinson
33. Dreyer's English, An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer
34. The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg
35. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
36. Red Dragon, Thomas Harris

Books read -- April
37. The Dragon Factory, Jonathan Maberry
38. K, A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner
39. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
40.Wolf Pack, C.J. Box
41. Run Away, Harlan Coben
42. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Flannery O'Connor

Currently  Reading --
Prairie Fires, Caroline Fraser
The Spectacular  Sisterhood of  Superwomen, Hope Nicholson
The Hand Maid's Tale, graphic novel adaptation by Renée Nault

Monday, April 08, 2019

Kepner's K in best tradition of books on baseball

In the acknowledgements to K A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner writes that he has been a fan of baseball since he was seven years old. 

Structured around the idea of various pitches — from the splitter to the knuckleball to the spitball — it’s little wonder then that K reads like fan mail.  Really, really excellent fan mail.

Kepner, national baseball writer for The New York Times, pays due diligence to the 10 pitches featured in K, tracing the history of each pitch and spotlighting its most skilled practitioners.  But where the book rises to excellence — like a Bumgarner fastball defying the laws of physics — is in the stories that enliven each chapter.

Stories of pitchers mastering a particular pitch thus salvaging a career that was on the rocks. Stories of pitchers who nonchalantly skirt the rules. Stories of batters baffled by the ball’s behavior. Stories of hijinks, on the field and off.

Some of the stories unfold over several pages, others are told in only a few sentences.

Anyone who shares Kepner’s love of the game will find passages to linger over. A number of players from my hometown team, the Kansas City Royals, are here, including George Brett, Dan Quisenberry, Kelvin Herrera and manager Ned Yost.

But my favorite story comes early in the book, in the chapter on fastballs.  Kepner recounts the pivotal moment from the 2014 World Series when Madison Bumgarner was in position for a Golden Pitch.   It’s a term used by the Society for Baseball Research for a pitch that could win or lose the championship for either team. 

“By definition, this spot arises only in Game 7 of the World Series, in the bottom of the ninth innning or later, with the visitors leading and at least one runner on base.”

In 2014, the Royals trailed the Giants in Game 7 by one run in the bottom of the ninth. There were two outs. Bumgarner was on the mound. Royals’ lelftielder Alex Gordon was on a third after a sinking line drive was misplayed into a triple. Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez was at the plate.   

My wife and I were in the stands that night.   I never expected to attend a World Series (I ultimately made it to two), let alone be in the seats for an elusive seventh game. We watched as Bumgarner enticed Perez into a pop up, and secured the Series for the Giants.  

Kepner’s account is a fine accompaniment to my memories of that night.  Thanks to his reporting I know more about what went on behind the scenes, as Bumgarner and Giants’ catcher Buster Posey decided how to pitch to Perez.  It was going to be a fastball. Anyone familiar with Bumgarner knew that, but location, well, location was a whole different ball game. 

K is a delightful book, solidly in the tradition of the best baseball books. (I’m thinking of the two Rogers here, Angell and Kahn.) In its pages, Kepner demonstrates once again the truth of the adage — Baseball Writes.  

It reads too.   

A quick summary of my other three recent reads:

The pace of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells is slow for the modern reader, but it is worth a perusal simply to understand its significance to current science fiction books and film.  All those alien invasions of Earth started here.   (Incidentally, my favorite book in this sci fi sub-genre is Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  My favorite film would be The Day The Earth Stood Still.)

In normal circumstances I wouldn’t read either Red Dragon or The Dragon  Factory, but these books happened to fill a particular need.  They were free, and they were paperbacks. I was going on vacation and needed a couple of books I could read and discard.  

Both books also met my criteria for the perfect beach read — fast-paced thrillers that didn’t require a lot of concentration.  Red Dragon is about the hunt for a serial killer. It’s the basis for the move Manhunter, which I’d seen years back. I normally don’t like such subject matter, but needs must.  

The Dragon Factory is a thriller bordering on sci fi.  It’s about the hunt for a mad scientist bent on ethnic cleansing.  It’s full of ex-Nazis, secret government agencies, genetic monstrosities  and a hero — Joe Ledger — whose superpower is survival.  This is the second book in a six-book series.

Books read -- January
1.   Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2.   Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3.   Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Kubert
4.   Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman
5.   A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
6.   Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous by Christopher Bonanos
7.   Neptune's Brood, Charles Stross
8.   Perish Twice, Robert B. Parker
9.   The League of Regrettable Sidekicks, Jon Morris
10. Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
11. Mrs. Palfrey At The Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor

Books read -- February
12. The Golden Tresses of the Dead, Alan Bradley
13. The Problem of Susan and Other Stories, Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
14. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross
15. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
16. Shrink Rap, Robert B. Parker
17. Wish You Were Here, Graham Swift
18. The Big Fella, Babe Ruth and the World He Created, Jane Leavy
19. School Days, Robert B. Parker
20. The Boats of the Glen Carrig, William Hope Hodgson
21. The Professional, Robert B. Parker
22. Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson
23. Flannery O'Connor, The Cartoons, ed. Kelly Gerald
24. Comics & Sequential Art, Will Eisner
25. Sharpe's Escape, Bernard Cornwell
26. Thirteen Ways Of Looking, Colum McCann
27. Late In The Day, Tessa Hadley

Books read -- March
28. Still Life, Louise Penny
29. Golden State, Ben H. Winters
30. Slowhand, The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, Philip Norman
31. The Border, Don Winslow
32. Careless Love, Peter Robinson
33. Dreyer's English, An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer
34. The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg
35. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
36. Red Dragon, Thomas Harris

Books read -- April
37. The Dragon Factory, Jonathan Maberry
38. K, A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner

Currently  Reading --
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
Prairie Fires, Caroline Fraser
A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, March 24, 2019

March offers superb mysteries to memoirs

March has proved to be an exceptional month with the addition of four books I highly recommend.

The Border by Don Winslow

The scope of Winslow’s work is breathtaking. Over the course of 20 years, he’s written more than 1800 pages in three books on the DEA and the drug cartels.  Winslow’s epic trilogy began with The Power of the Dog (which I haven’t read), followed by The Cartel (which I have) and concludes this month with The Border.

The Border is sweeping in scope with a broad cast of characters and settings ranging from Guadalajara to Guatemala and Washington to Wall Street.  Winslow takes us inside the drug trade as the cartels engage in a vicious struggle for supremacy.   We witness first-hand the damage drugs — increasingly more powerful — inflict on addicts and how U.S. policy toward asylum seekers dehumanizes individuals and forces many into a life of crime.

But most sobering is Winslow’s account of 1) Wall Street’s willingness to launder millions of dollars in drug money, 2) the misguided U.S. drug laws that impose harsh sentences on minor offenders and 3) the somber reality that the “Mexican drug problem” begins in America.

As with the best thrillers, The Border moves at a break-neck pace. It is a magnificent page-turner.

Careless Love by Peter Robinson

The most recent book in Robinson’s series, which features DCI Banks. Careless Love serves up a nice little mystery as Banks and his team must decide between mishap or murder.   

Robinson’s Banks’ books are comparable to Ian Rankin’s Rebus series. Make room on your reading table for both.

Dreyer’s English, An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

Benjamin Dreyer is the copy chief of Random House.   He’s clearly been taking notes through the years and now assembled those notes into a valuable resource for writers.

Punctuation, grammar, spelling, redundancies and more are all touched on. Just as valuable as the content of this book is its tone.  Dreyer approaches his material seriously, but is not without humor.  

I suggest reading only a few pages of Dreyer’s English a day so as to enjoy it more and to better soak up its lessons.  And then, keep in near to hand, we’re all going to need it.

The Best Cook in the World, Tales From My Momma’s Table by Rick Bragg

Rick Bragg is like one of those athletes who is so smooth, so effortless that we forget the hours of labor that have gone into making him appear naturally gifted. No one writes this god damn well, spins a story with such ease, without working diligently, year in and year out, at his craft.

Bragg is a pleasure to read. He’s a poet and a story teller, who can evoke laughs and tears, sometimes both with a single telling.

The Cook in the World is part cookbook, and all memoir.  With his mother’s guidance he assembles recipes from the family table. Cream sausage gravy, chicken roasted in cider, beef short ribs, sweet potato pie, and ham with redeye gravy are only a few of the dishes served up in this tantalizing book by Rick Bragg.  

To quote Lyle Lovett:

To the lord let praises be
It's time for dinner now let's go eat
We've got some beans and some good cornbread
Now listen to what the preacher said
He said to the lord let praised be
It's time for dinner now let's go eat

Books read -- January
1.   Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2.   Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3.   Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Kubert
4.   Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman
5.   A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
6.   Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous by Christopher Bonanos
7.   Neptune's Brood, Charles Stross
8.   Perish Twice, Robert B. Parker
9.   The League of Regrettable Sidekicks, Jon Morris
10. Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
11. Mrs. Palfrey At The Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor

Books read -- February
12. The Golden Tresses of the Dead, Alan Bradley
13. The Problem of Susan and Other Stories, Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
14. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross
15. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
16. Shrink Rap, Robert B. Parker
17. Wish You Were Here, Graham Swift
18. The Big Fella, Babe Ruth and the World He Created, Jane Leavy
19. School Days, Robert B. Parker
20. The Boats of the Glen Carrig, William Hope Hodgson
21. The Professional, Robert B. Parker
22. Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson
23. Flannery O'Connor, The Cartoons, ed. Kelly Gerald
24. Comics & Sequential Art, Will Eisner
25. Sharpe's Escape, Bernard Cornwell
26. Thirteen Ways Of Looking, Colum McCann
27. Late In The Day, Tessa Hadley

Books read -- March
28. Still Life, Louise Penny
29. Golden State, Ben H. Winters
30. Slowhand, The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, Philip Norman
31. The Border, Don Winslow
32. Careless Love, Peter Robinson
33. Dreyer's English, An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer
34. The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg

Currently  Reading --
The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
K, A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner

Friday, March 08, 2019

Golden State -- a book that could only have been written during the Trump presidency

It’s March, yet I feel like a kid on Christmas morning.

Two terrific books — Golden State by Ben H. Winters and Slowhand, The Life and Music of Eric Clapton by Philip Norman.

Golden State is a book that could have only been written during the Trump Presidency. It is a deeply disturbing book with echoes of Bradbury and Orwell.

The novel is set in the near future.  Golden State was — clearly —once the State of California, but society as we know it no longer exists. In a phrase the reader will encounter on numerous occasions, the past is “unknown and unknowable.”

In this new future, citizens embrace the Objectively So.  Lying is illegal and punishable by imprisonment or exile. Citizens greet each other by reciting objective truths — “A cow is a mammal,” one might say. The response, “So is a dog, but not a bee.” Or, “There are seven days in a week.” To which the response might be, “And twelve months in a year.”

Cameras and recording devices are everywhere, allowing the state to stitch together events into a single, accepted truth.  At the end of each day, citizens complete a record of the events of their day.  The record includes receipts from meals and a list of people met in the course of the day, duly stamped by each individual on the list. 

Everything, everything, is put into the record. 

There’s much more that could be said about society in this strange new world, but such discoveries are best left to the reader.  

Golden State revolves around Laszlo Ratesic, a veteran of the Speculative Service. Ratesic can detect lies, and is rigorous in his pursuit of threats to the Objectively So.  After being summoned by police to what appears to be the accidental death of a roofer, he stumbles upon a plot to undermine the state.

We live in a time when the appeal of a shared truth, a shared reality, has its appeal. Truth today is an elusive commodity 

In January it was reported that since taking office, President Trump has made 7,645 false or misleading claims.  “Since taking office, the president has lied about everything from immigration figures to the number of burgers he served to the Clemson football team at the White House last week,” reports The Guardian.  

Of course, the President is unlikely to agree with that news article by The Guardian and is more than likely to label it fake news. A charge he has brought against such exemplars of journalism as The New York Times and Washington Post. 

It’s intriguing to ponder what Trump would make of a Golden State.  Would he embrace a society without television or radio? Where there is no Internet? No newspapers, except that operated by the state? What would he make of a world where citizens share a belief in objective truth and challenges to the Objectively So are met with imprisonment and exile?

I believe he’d embrace such a world with undue haste.  Or to couch my argument in terms Winters and his readers would understand: Stipulated.

& & & & &

Philip Norman has been a prolific chronicler of the mop tops from Liverpool. He’s written eponymous biographies of Paul McCartney and John Lennon as well as a  biography of the Beatles, Shout!

He’s also written biographies of Elton John, Buddy Holly, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.

Which is to suggest that Norman is supremely equipped for his newest endeavor, Slowhand, in which he turns his attention to rock giant Eric Clapton.  

Norman explores Clapton’s rocky relationship with his mother.  For years, Clapton believed his grandmother was his mother and his mother was his sister.   (Take your time. Read that once more, I’ll wait.)

Norman duly charts Clapton’s the rise of Clapton’s music career, his battle with the demons of heroin and alcohol and his incessant philandering.  Clapton’s relationship with women seems to parallel his relationship with the bands he joined.  An ardent pursuer of women, he quickly lost interest in them once they yielded to his importuning.

As for bands, there were many — the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Blind Faith, Cream,  Derek and the Dominoes, and, finally, a solo career of stunning scope and virtuosity.  

The man’s has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times and, in 1992, took home Grammy awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal,(“Tears In Heaven”); Album of the Year and Best Male Rock Vocal, (Unplugged); and Best Rock Song, (“Layla” from Unplugged.)

Slowhand is an even-handed and entertaining look into the stormy life of a gifted musician. 

Books read -- January
1.   Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2.   Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3.   Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Kubert
4.   Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman
5.   A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
6.   Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous by Christopher Bonanos
7.   Neptune's Brood, Charles Stross
8.   Perish Twice, Robert B. Parker
9.   The League of Regrettable Sidekicks, Jon Morris
10. Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
11. Mrs. Palfrey At The Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor

Books read -- February
12. The Golden Tresses of the Dead, Alan Bradley
13. The Problem of Susan and Other Stories, Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
14. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross
15. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
16. Shrink Rap, Robert B. Parker
17. Wish You Were Here, Graham Swift
18. The Big Fella, Babe Ruth and the World He Created, Jane Leavy
19. School Days, Robert B. Parker
20. The Boats of the Glen Carrig, William Hope Hodgson
21. The Professional, Robert B. Parker
22. Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson
23. Flannery O'Connor, The Cartoons, ed. Kelly Gerald
24. Comics & Sequential Art, Will Eisner
25. Sharpe's Escape, Bernard Cornwell
26. Thirteen Ways Of Looking, Colum McCann
27. Late In The Day, Tessa Hadley

Books read -- March
28. Still Life, Louise Penny
29. Golden State, Ben H. Winters
30. Slowhand, The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, Philip Norman

Currently  Reading --
Dreyer's English, An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer
The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg
The Border, Don Winslow