The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

July 27, 2010


BULLITT by Robert L. Pike.

Okay, so the book doesn't have "the chase." It's still easy to see why Hollywood picked up on this book for film purposes. BULLITT, originally titled MUTE WITNESS, is a hard-boiled police procedural and mystery whose main character (named Clancy; Bullitt was a Hollywood invention designed to hit the viewer over the head with the idea of how tough the character is) is a dogged risk-taker who gets the job done in the face of professional resistance, personal exhaustion, and the most incompetent subordinates in the history of the police procedural. Hollywood's first choice to play the lead was Spencer Tracy, and in reading the book it's easy to see why. As long as you can separate the book from the film, you should find both enjoyable but for varying reasons. I'll be on the lookout for other titles by the late author whose real name was Robert L. Fish. Hm, he used the name Pike as a pseudonym. Now why do I find that more than just a little interesting?


So you liked Dennis Lehane's GONE BABY GONE, and you're also a fan of George Pelecanos, but you say you've never heard of Craig Holden? Then you are missing out on a terrific novel by Holden, FOUR CORNERS OF NIGHT. If you think Lehane addressed a tough question in how far one will go to protect a child, you ain't read nothing yet. When most thriller blurbs ask that question: How far would you go to protect your child?, they really mean would you kill to protect your child, and the answer is yes, most of us would readily kill for and die for our child. But what if it meant cutting that child out of your life completely, so that you could protect your child this one time but never again, because you would never see that child again? What if it meant betraying and abandoning everything and everyone else you've ever loved to save this one child? Could you do that? Walk away from child, family, friends, job, lover, husband, home - never to be seen again? Think about it, long and hard. Read this book. Ask yourself what you would do differently. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

July 22, 2010


Jack Taylor has always been ridden by demons: Addiction, bitterness, narcissism, despair, self-loathing. So what's a guy like Jack to do when confronted by the devil. No, excuse me, The Devil. Satan. Yeah, that one. Evil Incarnate. Well, let's see. Have you ever known Jack to back down? Thought not.

What begins with Jack's search for a missing college student ends with a metaphysical tour de force, and in between are packed all of Bruen's hallmarks: Biting wit, dark laughter, heart-wringing sorrow, and enough generosity toward other writers and musicians to earn Ken Bruen his place in heaven, had he not already earned it. At this point though, it's all just polish for the halo.

In Sanctuary, the previous installment in the Jack Taylor series, some measure of redemption for Jack was hinted at by the author. Readers, we should have known better. This is Ken Bruen's work here, this is his Jack Taylor, not ours. And the author quickly disabuses any notion (a thing in and of itself to be despised, according to him) that Jack may have at last found his center of mass (hey, you read this book and see if you can refrain from religious puns!). Right up front, in the prologue, a mysterious figure known as Kurt says to Jack, "... evil hones in on those closest to redemption."

How's that for a harbinger? You can pretty well guess that there's some black misery in store for Jack. Here's a word of advice: Set aside the time to read this one twice. First, just read it. It's quite a story. Then read it again and take notes. When you've done that, let's get together and talk about what you think that ending means. Because Bruen's Devil isn't William Peter Blatty's evil that can be dispensed with ritual and faith; it isn't John Connolly's evil that is simply the vacuum left by the absence of empathy. It isn't even the devil that Garth Brooks sang about (in Tony Arata's song, Face to Face), the one that hides deep inside everyone. Bruen's Devil is of the walking-around, in-your-face, what-are-you-gonna-do-kill-me unstoppable evil. Not just a force but a knowing presence.

Sure, Bruen may well be using the devil as metaphor for what has replaced the Celtic Tiger, but he's got more to say here than that these are miserable times. And it's worth reading. Oh, hell, yeah.

Here are a couple of pithy excerpts:
"Evil is only a concept to those who've never experienced it. To those who've met it, the term 'concept' dropped from their vocabulary."
"Every day, like jig time, Sawyer played nine holes.
And he cheated.
O.J. Simpson did, too, and there's a moral there.
Not of any uplift."