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Bleeding Kansas

Bleeding Kansas - Sara Paretsky I found the book realistic and compelling and I loved the characters. Pretty close to where I grew up and where I went to college. There are even a few references to actual local events of the 60s which I witnessed myself. A quiet book about generally quiet people. Very strong.

Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America's Most Powerful and Private Dynasty

Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America's Most Powerful and Private Dynasty - Daniel Schulman "Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple." Football coach Barry Switzer's remark couldn't fit the Koch's any better. If you value clean air, a free society, the planet Earth, and the contents of your wallet, you might want to check this book out. Not only is it important, it's one of the best-written non-fiction books I've read in a long time. Tons of information nicely distilled into a compelling, very readable form. Congrats.

The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book

The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book - Peter Finn, Petra Couvée I got this out of the library based on an LA Times review, I think, and expected a caper thriller about the CIA publishing and distributing Zhivago in the USSR. That's the selling point, but it has very little to do with this book. As a thorough history of the writing and publication of Zhivago, and of the last 20 years of Pasternak's life, and suppression of the arts in the former Soviet Union, it's great, and probably good history, but exciting it's not. I'm swearing off non-fiction again—too dull.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village - Vincent Patrick I love this book. It reminded me of The Friends of Eddie Coyle, another favorite. Lots of low-life but lovable characters, involved in crime but not that good at it. No criminal masterminds, no genius cops, just a sea of gin, disappointment, betrayal and corruption. The tribal NYC scene is always a shock to someone like me, who grew up where people weren't quite so pigeonholed as Irish, Jewish, Polish, Italian, etc., so blatantly right out of the gate. The plot here is pretty basic, and as compelling as it is, it's the characters, including the minor ones, that give the book life. They're not afraid to tell a story, often the story of their lives, at the drop of a hat, and in the most entertaining way possible. Did I mention Elmore Leonard? If you like Elmore Leonard, you'll like this.

Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak, Борис Пастернак One of the great books, I think. I'm not sure how I'd feel about it without having seen the movie, which is not only a wonderful movie but a good mental crutch for reading the book. As with most Russian novels, a notebook to write down characters as they come along is a must—every one has 3 names and a couple of pet names, too, and there's a trainload of them. This isn't a tight book, and it's not Gone With the Wind, either, but true and honest and very moving in equal parts.

The Black Rose (Joe Dylan) (Volume 4)

The Black Rose (Joe Dylan) (Volume 4) - James A. Newman More hard-hitting prose from James Newman, this time dividing the plot between Fun City and the UK, past and present, from several different points-of-view. A wild ride and like the other Joe Dylan books, vastly entertaining if you've got the stomach for serious violence and truly nasty behavior. I'd say you could just as easily start with this book and work your way back, or take them in order, all worthwhile.

The White Flamingo

The White Flamingo - James A. Newman The setting of this shocking mystery is Hell itself, ironically renamed "Fun City," somewhere in Thailand.

Not for the squeamish, it brews up a stew of drugs, prostitution and mutilation, seasoned by a Noir cynicism so thick you might not care for the taste at first. But stick with it and a savory, satisfying meal is there to be had.

I look forward to discovering the other Joe Dylan mysteries. It's a whole different world--thanks to James A. Newman for revealing it to those of us who are stuck elsewhere on the planet.

The Mayor of MacDougal Street

The Mayor of MacDougal Street - Dave Van Ronk, Elijah Wald A couple of things struck me while reading this. One, there needs to be some other media form for this kind of thing--READING about music just doesn't do it--you want to hear the examples. Two, while this is a good rundown of the folk scene in the 50s-60s, it really is unfinished. Even after the Coen brothers' film and this book, there's still room for a great fiction/non-fiction telling of this period, and room for another folk revival, too. Maybe Ken Burns might want to take this on the way he took on jazz.

To me the great value in reading this was a reminder of artists I had forgotten about years ago, and the discovery of names I wasn't ever aware of. And thanks to the internet, I'm discovering the music all over again.

Chasing the Golden Dragon

Chasing the Golden Dragon - Warren Olson Cool adventure/crime novel set in the mean streets of Southeast Asia. Local color galore and tons of detail on how to launder a half million dollars and avoid the local drug gangs at the same time. On your vacation to Thailand pack this one in with your guidebook for the "real deal."

My Christian Penis

My Christian Penis - R. Tyler Imaginative. Something different. Not your usual talking penis story by a long shot. Highly recommend it--cracked me up.