Monday, November 19, 2012

Get Real

By Donald E. Westlake
John Dortmunder is the head of a criminal team. There's  Stan Murch, the driver, Andy Kelp, the locks and safe man, Tiny, the muscle, and the Kid, Judson, who is fairly new to the group and adds the youth perspective.
Murch's Mom, who drives a cab for a living, has made a connection with a reality TV show producer, Doug Fairkeep, who wants to do a reality show about a gang of criminals committing a crime. Stan's mom thinks the guys should sit down with the guy and see what he has to say.
Naturally, being career criminals, the last thing they want is to be filmed while committing crime. But the producer talks them into it, under certain conditions and restrictions. And the money he is promising is very,  good. Fairkeep takes the guys on a tour of his firm's building and they are quick to spot lots of opportunities for a little side work. Seems like something suspicious is going on and Dortmunder and friends think they can work it to their benefit, with the TV show money as a nice bonus. Of course, this being a Dortmunder story, nothing works out quite like envisioned.

Westlake takes a whack a reality TV and produces another fun and engrossing Dortmunder caper novel. This is the last Dortmunder novel, alas, as Donald Westlake died in 2008.  Unlike many successful writers as they get old, Westlake maintained the quality and verve of his earlier works. I have been reading Dortmunder stories for years now and I will greatly miss reading about the shenanigans of Dortmunder, Andy, Murch, Murch's Mom, Tiny,  new guy the Kid and Dortmunder's common law wife, May.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bill, the Galactic Hero: The Final Incoherent Adventure!

By Harry Harrison and David Harris

Bill, who specialty is fuse tending, finds himself chosen to be a gunner in a war against the planet Eyerack. His job is pretty simple,  reduced to a sort of video game with a joy stick and a screen. All he has to do is point and shoot at the little targets on the screen, and the military has kindly supplied him with all the tokens he will need to keep the game running. Things are going really good and Bill is racking up a great score. What could go wrong? According to the Captain, Captain Kadaffi, God is on their side. Or is He? It's hard to tell who is right and who is wrong and Bill, after crashing on the surface of Eyerack, is changing sides more frequently than his underwear.

I guess this is supposed to be some sort of commentary on the Iraq war, with characters like Captain Kadaffi and a planet named Eyerack. Bill bounces from side to side, in his search for safety and security. The whole story seems kind of pointless and it just kind of dribbles away to a very unsatisfying ending. Not recommended.

Con Ed

By Matthew Klein
Kip Largo is trying to keep out of trouble. After doing hard time for fraud, the one-time con man just wants to go straight.  But some cons are just to hard to resist and when doing the con means saving your son's life, well a man's got to do what a man's got to do.
So Kip proceeds with his con, in the hopes of preserving his son from the revenge of the Russian mob, and if things don't go exactly as planned, at least he and his son are getting to know each other a lot better.

I can't say I really enjoyed this book all that much. Like most of the books about cons that I have read, the mechanics of the con were hard to grasp. Although I did enjoy the brief explanations of various cons that the author gives at the beginning of the chapters.  Also, like other con man stories, I sort of lost track of who was conning who. And finally, I didn't care for the ending. I guess I would rate it a fair read. Might be more interesting for those who can keep track of the various twists and turns of the story.

Bill the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Zombie Vampires

By Harry Harrison and Jack C. Haldeman II
Volume 4 of the series has Bill, starship trooper, off on an adventure that bears a striking resemblance to the 1979 movie, Alien.
Assigned to the Bounty, captained by Captain Blight, Bill is the lone MP on board, in charge of a group of angry, disgruntled criminals. Bill soon becomes angry and disgruntled too because he and the criminals are restricted to a diet of okra while the captain and the officers eat like kings. Then the captain limits their drinking water and the criminals revolt. The captain and officers are captured and forced to live on the despised okra while Bill and the criminals stuff themselves on the choice goodies denied them for so long.
Their plan is to abandon the officers on a desolate planet. Upon their arrival, they discover the planet's only installation, a communications station, is deserted. They set about exploring, and Bill finds a cavern under the station filled with strange pods and things go downhill very quickly after that.

This was a pretty good and funny read, especially if the reader is familiar the the movie the book lampoons. Overall, it is a silly story, just for fun mainly, but I enjoyed it.

The Chick and the Dead

By Casey Daniels
In the first book, Don of the Dead, Pepper Martin hit her head on a headstone and developed the power to see dead people. After she solved the mystery of the Don's murder, Pepper assumed (and hoped) that was the end of seeing ghosts. But it wasn't.
Now she is being visited by the ghost of Didi Bowman, who, it turns out, wrote the great American novel, So Far the Dawn (a Civil War epic similar to Gone with the Wind) only to have it published after Didi died under her sister's name. Now Didi wants justice, not only for herself, but for her granddaughter, who is living in foster care and struggling. Didi finally has a chance because her sister is coming to town to celebrate the opening of the family home as a museum dedicated to the famous novel. And it is up to Pepper to expose the fraud and gain for Didi and her granddaughter all the rights and benefits so long denied them.

This was a pretty good story, typical murder mystery, with the added fillip of a private detective who sees ghosts. This gives the main character, Pepper Martin, amateur and rather unwilling sleuth, the inside track. But it doesn't do her as much good as one would think, since her ghostly clients are not completely honest about their pasts and deaths.

X-Rated Blood Suckers

By Mario Acevedo

When Felix Gomez was in the war in Iraq, he encountered a vampire who turned him into a vampire too. New to the vampire community, Felix had to find his way in this new situation. So he became a private detective.
His latest case takes him to California to investigate the death of a porno actress. He is also there to look into what may be the case of a vampire who may be about to reveal to the public the existence of vampires, something that the vampire leaders are dead set against. Felix's job is to track down this wayward vampire and take him or her out.
So Felix has two simultaneous investigations to conduct and it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected. It also becomes clear that the dead woman had a lot of enemies who may have wanted her dead. This investigation is not going to be easy, not counting the vampire traitor who is trying to get Felix before Felix can get him.

This was a pretty good read. Even though the main character is a vampire, it is still pretty much a standard detective story but the vampire aspects add to the story. Like the first book, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, it is an interesting and fun combination of vampire fiction and detective novel.