Saturday, November 27, 2010

Really Good Books

Of course Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald. Anything by them, almost. Not so much the very early books of Macdonald, and with Chandler there's weakness in the last few, but still worth reading, if only for the gloaming. I reread Chandler every five years or so. All of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books. Just good storytelling and prose exactly what it needs to be. Nothing necessarily scintillating, but masterful. I gave the whole box full of them to my former wife as a birthday present. She loved them, but I wish I still had them. Worth rereading.

The Parker books by "Richard Stark" -- Westlake. They make Micky Spillane look like, well, the untalented hack that he was. The three "hard" books by Dan Simmons, worth reading, and in a pinch maybe a reread.

Any of Alan Furst's night soldier books. He is superb, absolutely unmatched. Every page has something good on it. A rare thing. From The Polish Officer: "...his hands were trembling. He was ashamed of that, so had wedged them in his pockets as though he were a street-corner tough who whistled at girls." This, of a very minor character. Furst is brilliant. I'm into the third, and I will read them all. That's how I am.

I seem to have found a few more good authors, but haven't read them yet. It's really hard to come up with anything truly worth while. I finished off three or so books in the past few days. Irritating isn't the half of it. You'd think a historical mystery featuring Leonardo da Vinci would be great. "The Queen's Gambit." It's so bad I am tempted to write a review on Amazon. Written for junior high, only not. Told from the perspective of a young apprentice ... who's really a girl!!! "The Master is so smart and talented and handsome, and strong and a vegetarian too, but not gay. And he called me to help him solve the mystery of the murder that the Duke wanted solved, and I was a chess bishop in a big game, and trapped in a crypt, and the Master invented a giant metal robot if I knew that word, operated by a box, maybe radio, I don't know, but somehow with strings, and anyway the brass automaton fell over onto one of the murderers who was so sexy and bad." I actually skimmed it. Authoress doesn't know when to use whom, and a little shaky on how commas, work.

Another historical series -- I do like series -- about a detective in Victorian England, told from the perspective of his young apprentice, a real boy, manboy, and isn't it good that Barker is so interesting and stuff, because nothing that happens in either of the two and only books I've read is interesting at all. Barker the mysterious master hero detective throws sharpened coins and can stick-fight really well, and he wears mysterious dark glasses all the time, and other things happen too. That's interesting right? Or not? Well, whatever. It's instructive, at least, to read about how people wash and stuff.

And then something by Joe Gores, who isn't bad, just not worth reading again. Has a very good reputation, so that was disappointing.

Really good books come from really good authors. Apparently it's not enough to want to be a writer so much that you actually write books. One should also be talented. But who am I to speak? So very talented, brilliant even, wry, insightful, succinct ... no, pithy, just amazing. Yet search the shelves though you may, no surviving fiction may be found from Jack H. What an artist the world loses in me.

Still, someone has to criticize. If not me, whom? If not now, when?


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