Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rawlins' return the highlight of recent reading

A few thrillers, a graphic novel and a couple of fantasies are among my recent reading.

Book 87: Little Green by Walter Mosley

Easy Rawlins is back from the dead.

His resurrection is a welcome one.  Not only to readers, but to Mosley, too. The author writes with verve in Little Green, with a vibrant muscularity that's been missing from his books since Easy's car plunged off that cliff at the end of Blonde Faith.

Easy -- largely recovered from his injuries and awakened from a months-long "semi-coma" -- grows stronger and more vital with each passing page.

He locates a missing man, quickly quashes a case of corporate blackmail and makes the scene with L.A. hippies. Impossible activities for most men with one foot in the grave, but not the indomitable Easy Rawlins.

Welcome back Mr. Rawlins. Mr. Mosley, too.

(And, in the event you were wondering, the novel has nothing to do with that marvelous song from Joni Mitchell's Blue album.)

Book 88: Donnybrook by Frank Bill

Reading Frank Bill's first novel leads me to think of Miranda Lambert's song, Time To Get A Gun.

Or perhaps a freakin' tank. That's what I've been thinking.

The characters in this fast-paced and violent yarn -- men and women, alike -- are as deadly as a cottonmouth and just as quick to strike.

As with his debut collection of short stories, Crimes in Southern Indiana, Donnybrook is set in southern Indiana, a patch of country along the Ohio River that I've sworn to avoid.

Book 81: Free Fire by C.J. Box

C.J. Box, a former newspaper writer and editor, excells at turning today's headlines into captivating myseries.

That's exactly what he's done with Free Fire, the 2007 entry in his stellar series featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett.

Joe, fired in the previous book, is back on the Wyoming payroll. The state's bombastic governor has dispatched Joe to Yellowstone's "Zone of Death" where a shifty Wyoming attorney has escaped prosecution for the murder of four people due to a loophole in the law.

While probing into the motive behind the murders, Joe uncovers a scheme between park personnel and a shady corporation to steal Wyoming's natural resources. A scheme that could make billions and may lead to directly to the governor's office.

Book 77: Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman

On the strength of her superb debut thriller, Rage Against the Dying, author Becky Masterman is guaranteed a publishing contract for more novels featuring her protagonist Brigid Quinn.

A retired FBI agent, Quinn is a novelty in the genre -- she's an older woman.  And as much a gritty, determined rule breaker as any of her male counterparts.

Masterman's debut is masterly and Quinn is a welcome, and refreshing, addition to the ranks of fiction's hard-boiled heroes.

Book 78: King Rat by China Mieville

King Rat is China Mieville's debut novel. It's a spookhy, noirish mashup, equal parts fantasy and fable.

Every book that's emerged from Mieville's pen since King Rat is lurking in these pages in the shadowy recesses of London's sewers and slums.

Book 85: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft and adapted by I.N.J. Culbard.

The graphic artist I.N.J. Culbard has a genuine knack for capturing the eerie atmospherics of H.P. Lovecraft's stories.  This is another fine adaptation.

Book 84: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Let me just put this out there: I don't like Rowling's series. I don't like its characters or the premise itself.

My biggest beef is with Harry Potter himself. He's a prat (look that definiton up, please). Spoiled. Pouty. Quick to take offense. Short tempered. And, frankly, a bit dense.

The stories are a simplistic high school confidential with the thinnest veneer of fantasy and magic.

What disturbs me the most is that Rowling talks down to her young readers. The best YA (young adult) books -- those written by John Green, for example -- are edgy and honest and reflect a genuine respect for young readers.

What saddens me the most is the thought of the many fantasy novels and series vastly superior to Rowling's books that have gone unread in favor of books featuring this half-Muggle prat.

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