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

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