dxmachina: (Archie Goodwin)
A few of a raft of books I've read in the last couple o' months. First, some detectives

Prisoner's Base — Rex Stout

This one could've been called Archie's bad week, as through distracted inaction (he and Wolfe were pouting at one another) he manages to allow two women to be murdered. The book was one of those adapted for the TV show. Kari Matchett played one of the victims. Broke my heart, it did.

The Broken Vase — Rex Stout
Bad for Business — Rex Stout


I picked these up at a used book store when I was home for the holidays thinking they were Wolfe books I hadn't read. Actually they were two of the three Tecumseh Fox novels Stout wrote. Although Fox lives on his hobby farm up in Westchester, both mysteries are set in the same New York City that Wolfe lives in. Dol Bonner shows up in one book, as do some of the same DAs, and he occasionally eats as Rusterman's. He appears to be much more like Stout in personal interests than either Wolfe or Goodwin. He also seems to get along with the police much better than the other two, too.

The oddest thing about the books for someone used to Archie's narration is that they're written in third person, with occasional viewpoints other than Fox's. The Broken Vase, which I read first, out of sequence, is particularly odd in that the language also seems a bit stilted at times. I didn't really know what to make of it, but I thought maybe Stout just wasn't very good at third person, and that's why he gave up on Fox after Vase. If I hadn't already had Bad for Business, I wouldn't have picked it up.

Turns out I was wrong about any difficulties Stout had with point of view. Business is just fine, with none of the weird constructions I noticed in Vase. I'd actually already read a shortened version of the the book because Stout rewrote it as the Wolfe novella Bitter End. The full length version is better. At some point I need to find the third Fox book.

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Devil in a Blue Dress — Walter Mosley

[livejournal.com profile] snurri has been reading and reviewing Mosley's Easy Rawlins books, which got me interested. Rawlins is a black man living in postwar Los Angeles, but while he's treading some of the same ground as Marlowe, he often lacks access to some of the places Marlowe can get to. OTOH, he has access to places Marlowe can't get to. I enjoyed it quite a bit, enough so that I went out and found a copy of the film version, which stars Denzel Washington as Easy. I mean, who doesn't love Denzel?

There was one weird thing about the edition I had, a paperback purchased from Amazon. I'm reading along, enjoying myself, when about forty pages in Easy solves the case, the end. Huh? Turns out it was a short story from a more recent book, used as a teaser. I seen that done at the end of books before, but never at the start. Huh.
dxmachina: (Books 04)
Reading is fun-damental; writing about it is harder...

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When you look into the abyss, it's not supposed to wave back. )

Now to work on the rest of the list...
dxmachina: (Archie Goodwin)
First off, congratulations to David J. Schwartz, aka [livejournal.com profile] snurri, whose first published novel, Superpowers, was nominated for a Nebula award. Whoot! Now I can say I knew him when.

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Meanwhile, I've been ripping though Nero Wolfes.

The Little Matter of Arnold Zeck... )

dxmachina: (Archie and Lily)
Okay, having Kari Matchett play Nathan Ford's ex-wife on tonight's Leverage was a stroke of genius.

OTOH, showing mountains in the background of a series that is supposed to be set in Chicago, not so much.
dxmachina: (Archie Goodwin)
The last books of the year.

The Children of Húrin — J. R. R. Tolkien
A curse is a curse, of course, of course... )

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Juggler of Worlds — Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Another point of view... )

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Trouble in Triplicate — Rex Stout
Out of order... )

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Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency — Douglas Adams
Solving the whole mystery... )

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Odd Girl Out — Timothy Zahn
Meet the Tok'ra )

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Hogfather — Sir Terry Pratchett
HAVE YOU BEEN NAUGHTY, OR HAVE YOU BEEN NICE? )

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas — Dr. Seuss
What's the opposite of abridged? )

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The Stainless Steel Rat — Harry Harrison
It takes a thief to catch a thief... )

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Speaking of It Takes a Thief,
Magnificent Thief )
dxmachina: (Books)
Wow, it's been awhile. Six books read, three of which tread similar ground. I'll get to them later. Here are the three that have nothing at all to do with each other.

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And Be a Villain — Rex Stout

Continuing along the Wolfe canon, we finally meet Arnold Zeck, Wolfe's Moriarty. The mystery here is kind of a mess, relying on some unlikely events, and seems mostly aimed at introducing Zeck. I'm not sure the scheme behind the mystery would ever work as neatly as Wolfe, Cramer, and Zeck all seem to think it does (and events in the book are among the examples that indicate why). You know it's a bad case when Archie doesn't flirt with any of the women involved.

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Rails Under the Mighty Hudson — Brian J. Cuddahy

The Tubes... )

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Pyramids — Terry Pratchett

An early Discworld book that isn't really part of any of the main Discworld storylines. It about, well, pyramids, of course, and some mummies, and the Discworld's greatest mathematician, who happens to be a camel. Much fun, as usual.

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Listen, I don't mean to be a sore loser, but when it's done, if I'm dead, kill him.

R.I.P., Paul Newman, who was a heck of an actor and a heck of a human being.

Fiction

May. 29th, 2008 10:45 pm
dxmachina: (Books)
Too Many Women — Rex Stout

Archie gets the girls... )

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The Little Sister — Raymond Chandler

And Marlowe doesn't... )

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The Third Lynx — Timothy Zahn

I've been working on the Quadrail... )

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Going Postal — Terry Pratchett

They’d cursed and, worse, used logarithms. )

dxmachina: (Archie Goodwin)
More delving into the development of Nero Wolfe's universe.

Black Orchids )

Where There's a Will )

Bitter End )

The red leather chair, and other trivia... )
dxmachina: (Books 02)
I've taken to reading books on my Palm, and I seem to be reading faster and with more comprehension. Take that, Evelyn Wood! I think both can be attributed to the small amount of text visible, which makes it hard to lose one's place on the page after a distraction. The only negative so far is the screen contrast ain't the greatest when I'm reading in the truck at lunch. On the plus side, it's easy to highlight and bookmark text for later review.

The Rubber Band — Rex Stout )
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Over My Dead Body — Rex Stout )
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The Fifth Elephant — Terry Pratchett )
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — J.K. Rowling )
dxmachina: (Books)
I've actually been reading quite a bit, I just haven't been writing it down.

Preludes and Nocturnes -- Neil Gaiman
The Doll's House -- Neil Gaiman
Dream Country -- Neil Gaiman

This is the second time I've tried Gaiman's Sandman series of graphic novels, and although I got further this time, I'm still not as impressed as a lot of folks seem to be. I like Gaiman's novels, but these leave me sort of flat.

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Deadly Quicksilver Lies -- Glen Cook
Petty Pewter Gods -- Glen Cook
Faded Steel Heat -- Glen Cook

Awhile back I bought the entire Garrett series collected in omnibus editions from the SF Bookclub. These three novels are in one of them, and since they are set within a few days of each other, I found it sort of helps to read the three in one go. The context resulted in me even sort of liking Gods this time around, previously my least favorite of all the Garretts. Lies is the best of the three, a very good mystery emphasizing the Garrett and Dotes team. Steel has it's moments, but is a bit contrived. One thing that occurred to me while reading these is that while Cook draws a lot of his inspiration from the Nero Wolfe books, upon reflection, Morley Dotes is a dead ringer for Hawk from the Spencer books. "Spen-sah!"

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Small Gods -- Terry Pratchett

One of my accidental Pratchetts, this one is just flat out charming, about a young man with a special talent, and the very special tortoise that befriends him. I liked it a lot.
dxmachina: (Books)
Romances. It seems like the best and most powerful strike from out of nowhere when one least expects them. Take Some Buried Caesar, the sixth Nero Wolfe novel, and the second in a row where the action never goes near New York City, much less the brownstone. For all Archie Goodwin's protestations that Wolfe never leaves his abode, he is out and about quite a bit in the early books. This time Archie and Wolfe are upstate on their way to the orchid competition at a county fair when an auto accident sidetracks them into a cow pasture where they are rescued from an unpleasant encounter with a champion bull by a pair of women. As he's dusting himself off, Archie gets clobbered by a freight train named Lily.

Come on, Escamillo... )
dxmachina: (Books)
Way behind on my book reports...

I continue my mostly chronological journey though the Nero Wolfe canon with Rex Stout's Too Many Cooks and The Red Box, the fifth and fourth Wolfe books, respectively. (Read out of order because I didn't realize I owned a copy of Box until I was almost finished with Cooks. My hardcovers are on shelves, but the paperbacks are still mostly in boxes in the attic, alas.) The two books are an interesting contrast given that they were written one after the other.

The Red Box... )

Too Many Cooks... )
dxmachina: (Books)
Beryl managed to miss us. There was a little rain shower in the evening, but even less than predicted as far off the potential track as we were. It's lovely out today, although they're predicting T-storms on and off all weekend. Feh.

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I finally managed to finish off Fer-de-Lance and The League of Frightened Men, the first two Nero Wolfe books. It was interesting to read these two not long after finishing the two final Wolfe books, just to see how things changed over some forty years.

Actually, not that much. The Wolfeverse is already almost entirely established in the very first chapter of Fer-de-Lance. Archie has already been living in the brownstone for seven years, and Wolfe has been hiring Saul, Fred, and Orrie to help out for quite awhile. In fact, the only major characters not there from the start are Inspector Cramer (who shows up in League) and Lon Cohen. There are some minor differences in the basic setup. Purlie Stebbens shows up off-camera in Fer-de-Lance, but rather than being an antagonist, he's flashing his badge around to help Archie talk to some suspects. Cramer is similarly non-antagonistic in League. Fritz acts more in the capacity of butler and valet, as well as being the cook. And the chairs in Wolfe's office are just identified as chairs, without distinguishing colors or levels of importance.

The biggest differences are in the characters of Archie and, especially, Wolfe. Archie is not nearly as likable as he is later in the series. At this point Archie is a typical man of the thirties, with all the prejudices that implies. Slurs come easily to his lips. Fortunately, Wolfe does scold him about this. Wolfe himself is much less a caricature than he is in later books. Most of the conventions are there, but they aren't nearly as rigid as they will become later. His basic daily routine is already established, but it's portrayed as more eccentric than obsessive. For example, he seems perfectly fine with having someone other than Archie drive him somewhere. One thing that is totally different is that he's far more comfortable around women in these books than he is later in the series. There is no hint of his later distaste for dealing with women. Now I'm wondering how that came about.

As far as the books themselves, I suspect that if Fer-de-Lance had been my first encounter with Wolfe, I might not have come back. The initial mystery is fine, but turns out to be a gigantic red herring about two thirds of the way through, and it becomes obvious to everyone who the killer is. The rest of the book is a rather unsatisfying procedural which ends with Wolfe abetting a murder (because some truly warped sense of justice), and the killer committing suicide. The whole thing is just distasteful.

The League of Frightened Men, OTOH, is excellent, and probably a much better introduction to the series. In a sense, it's the opposite of Fer-de-Lance in that it starts as a procedural, and becomes a mystery later on. The villain of the piece is very much Wolfe's match, and there are plenty of twists and turns. Highly recommended.

Books

Apr. 28th, 2006 09:04 am
dxmachina: (Books 02)
It's been awhile since I've talked about what I've been reading.

Thud! )

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Night Watch )

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Murder in E Minor )

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Starburst )

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The Naked Sun )
 

Books

Feb. 27th, 2006 04:51 pm
dxmachina: (Books)
A Family Affair is the last book Rex Stout wrote, and one of those rare Wolfe books where a permanent change occurs in the old brownstone. Whodunnit... )

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I mentioned that I snagged a copy of Barry Longyear's The City of Baraboo at Boskone. The route book... )

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The Hall of Fame announced the election of a group of players and owners from the Negro Leagues to the Hall. Unfortunately, neither of the two nominees still alive to enjoy the honor, Buck O'Neil and Minnie Minoso, got picked, which saddens me.
dxmachina: (Hobbes)
The weather outside is frightful, alternating rain, snow, and/or sleet, which prevented the ISO assessor from getting here. That means much of my work day is suddenly open, which is fine by me.

The weekend was nice. Saturday was warm and sunny most of the day, so I went up to Boston and spent the afternoon looking at Picassos at the MFA (they certainly have a lot of them) with [livejournal.com profile] vwbug. I'd never been to the MFA before, and I discovered that I have a heck of a time getting my bearings within the building, something that is unusual for me. I'm wondering if the architect is the same guy who designed Harvard Square.

Yesterday I cleaned out a couple of trash bags worth of stuff from up in the attic, and did some straightening down in the basement. Not really a lot, but all the going up and down stairs was probably good for me.

I finished another Wolfe book, one I hadn't read before, Please Pass the Guilt. It's the next to last Wolfe novel Stout wrote, and it's pretty good, although it's sort of odd because Stout is writing to the times. It's set in 1969, and the Mets are prominently featured in the background. There are some digs at women's libbers, which is annoying. Also, there is nothing quite so disconcerting as Archie discussing the etymology of "prick" and "pecker," among other words, with one of the female characters. It was a truly read from the hall moment. It also appears that Stout was starting to think a bit about continuity, because there are some little things that seem to be setting up the next (and final) Wolfe novel, A Family Affair.

27 days until pitchers and catchers report.

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