Thursday, 27 January 2011

Up For Grabs; Lehane's Moonlight Mile

Those nice peeps at Little, Brown  sent me a copy of Dennis Lehane’s new book Moonlight Mile. See me with the fast, happy handclaps.

I first came across The Man after watching Eastwood’s (that would be Clint, in case you are having trouble keeping up) take on Mystic River. I liked the movie so much I read the book. I liked the book so much I read anything by Lehane I could get my hands on.

But don’t take my word for just how good Dennis Lehane is. Here are some quotes from other like-minded peeps...

-The New York Times Book Review

—Stephen King


-People Magazine (Beach Read of the Week)
-Chicago Tribune

-Philadelphia Inquirer

The blurb for “Moodlight Mile” reads thusly...

Sixteen-year-old Amanda McCready has disappeared. Her anxious aunt contacts Patrick Kenzie to investigate. It is not the first time she has gone missing, as Patrick well knows - he was the investigator who worked on her case when she was kidnapped before, as a four-year-old. 

But this is not a simple case of a runaway girl. In fact, nothing in Amanda's life has been simple: brought up by the world's worst mother, neglected throughout her childhood, she has nonetheless blossomed into a formidably intelligent young woman. A young woman so bright that she can seemingly out-think and out-manoeuvre anyone...

For Patrick, the case leads him down Boston's darkest, most dangerous streets and into a world of shocking secrets that will threaten not only Amanda's life, but also his own and that of his partner Angie Gennaro.

So there you go. And why have you not bought one already? Oh, right, you read FREE BOOK into the title and wondered where I was going with it?

Anywho, those nice peeps at Little, Brown forgot they sent me copy#1 and sent me another. So I thought I would offer it up for my bloggy pals here on May Contain Nuts.

To win all you need to do is leave me a message that makes me smile. The one that ranks highest in the smile-o-meter gets the book.

Nice ‘n simples.

So talk to me already...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Do you has good taste?

“Guilty pleasures” is a phrase that has worked its way in to modern parlance and from there it’s only a small skip and a jump to overuse and cliché. In case you are not down with its meaning (I am SO down with the kids) it means something you enjoy buy feel “guilty” for doing so. Any guilt involved is apparently to do with being caught participating in an activity which is thought to be deeply un-cool by your peers.

The more I hear this phrase, the more it annoys me. One the one hand I can understand that at our deepest level we are social creatures and anything that puts us at a remove from our social group is something to be avoided. A l’autre main, we are individuals and if whatever I am doing doesn’t harm anyone else why should I care what you think, fool?

And who gets to decide what is cool or un-cool? Is there some arbitrary notion that hypnotises en masse? Or is it all influenced by a media that browbeats us every minute of every waking day with their choices?
The media is run my people just like us. Why do they get to decide what we should and shouldn’t watch? Someone gives them a job on a newspaper, magazine or TV programme and we should suddenly listen to them like they are the Great Guru of Taste?

Sheep. That’s we are, the fecking lot of us. Fecking sheep. Something is given the glamour of popularity by the chosen few and we rush to show that we are as cool as everyone else.

Baa, baa, baa.

And I can be just as baaad as anyone else. Up to a point. Then I tend to make my mind up for myself.
(Recently I noticed that women were carrying about handbags with a wee dog on them. Radbury? ‘Cos they had a small piece of leather in the outline of a dog they were suddenly desirable. Like most men I don’t get the fascination with bags, but a leather doggy-tag? WTF?)

What instigated this mini rant-ette was my viewing on Youtube the other night. I began watching music videos by John Legend (cool?) and Quincy Jones (mega cool?). Which led to Melinda Doolittle (the best singer never to win American Idol – as far as the cool score goes your guess is as good as mine) Beyonce (cool?) and then on to Barbra Streisand (mmmm? She was more cool when she wasn’t singing all that Lloyd Webber stuff.) and Barry Manilow (deeply uncool?).

An hour or so of “guilty pleasures”? Quite a journey and one that would have had my mates pissing themselves laughing.  But to be frank I couldn’t give a shit. These peeps all produce great music, great vocals and great tunes.

I caught and stopped myself using the GP phrase just recently when I was talking about books. I almost said Wilbur Smith was a  #hangs head in shame#  guilty pleasure. For the briefest of moments – I was talking to someone I wanted to impress –I worried that enjoying Smith’s books might make me look less of whatever I was trying to be. As I said, I caught myself and proudly noted that I was a fan.

Are you a literary snob? Do you only read the classics? Are your shelves filled only with the likes of Atwood, Conrad, Austen and the latest Man Booker/ Pulitzer prizewinner? Do you rush to hide the latest Stephen King or James Patterson when you hear a knock at the door? Why is popular fiction derided as somehow being unworthy? Our own P.M. David Cameron tried to excuse his “poor judgement” by writing off his holiday reading as “trashy novels”.

Making me think, what a twat!
(And don’t you love democracy? In some parts of the world that would have earned me a few nights stay in a cell, an episode of water-boarding and a police baton wedged up my arse.)
IMHO there is only good writing and bad writing. If the book grips or entertains me why should I worry if the taste police look down on me?

If you find yourself kow-towing to this needless waste of energy, stand tall and announce your preference with pride and offer a biblical pox on the decision-makers of “good” taste.

What books/ writers are you now going to proudly proclaim as favourites?

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Monday, 17 January 2011

Lazy Blogging 1o1 (Jan 2011)

This came from an email sent to me by a pal. It is too funny not to share...

These are sentences exactly as typed (allegedly) by medical secretaries in NHS Glasgow. 

It fair makes you proud *sniffs*

1. The patient has no previous history of suicide.

2. Patient has left her white blood cells at another hospital.

3. Patient's medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.

4. She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

5. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

6. On the second day the knee was better and on the third day it disappeared.

7. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

8. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.

9. Discharge status:-      Alive, but without my permission.

10. Healthy appearing decrepit 69-year old male, mentally alert, but forgetful.

11. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

12. She is numb from her toes down.

13. While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home.

14. The skin was moist and dry.

15. Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.

16. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

17. Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.

18. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life until she got a divorce.

19. I saw your patient today, who is still under our care for physical therapy.

20. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

21. Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

22. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

23. Skin: somewhat pale, but present.

24. The pelvic exam will be done later on the floor.

25. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.

26. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

27. When she fainted, her eyes rolled around the room.

28. The patient was in his usual state of good health until his airplane ran out of fuel and crashed.

29. Between you and me, we ought to be able to get this lady pregnant.

30. She slipped on the ice and apparently her legs went in separate directions in early December.

31. Patient was seen in consultation by Dr. Smith, who felt we should sit on the abdomen and I agree.

32. The patient was to have a bowel resection.  However, he took a job as a stock broker instead.

33. By the time he was admitted, his rapid heart had stopped, and he was feeling better.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Friday, 14 January 2011

Stuff 'n nonsense

I seem to be running on empty when it comes to blogs these days. What to say? What to say?

I think it was Confucius who said (I may not get this 100% correct. So sue me) that it was better to stay silent and appear the fool than to open your mouth ... and remove all doubt.

Just as well that blogging happens at a remove. I don’t get to see your expression (you and my other two readers) while you read the folly that flows fitfully from my fingertips. (Wonder if I can find another word beginning with F to fit in that sentence?)

So I’m free-writing; going with a whatjimicallit? flow of my thoughts and we’ll see what happens. Free the consciousness – writing the first thing that pops into my head.

Someone described a las vegas bikini wax to me yesterday. Who knew these things went on? Mmmmaybe I shouldn’t go there. Not good for this old man’s heart.

I’m watching Angels and Demons as I type this and wondering who the feck wrote the screenplay. Every time Tom Hanks opens his gob it’s to give a lecture. Clunky, clunky dialogue.

...isn’t the Pantheon a church?

...the oldest Catholic church in Rome.

This is what two Romans say to each other.

Still, the scenery is wonderful. Does the Pantheon really face on to the Trevi Fountain?

Talking about Rome, I got round to watching Zen on the BBC. Based on the Michael Dibden novels it is about a modern-day Italian detective in Rome. Aurelio Zen (as names go, that’s a doozy) has split up with his wife and moved back in with mother. Not the most attractive trait in a man? The cast are mainly English and they get to swan about in Rome dressed in expensive suits. What’s not to love?

Except I found it annoying.

Picture the scene: a man wearing an Italian policeman’s uniform is standing by the River Tiber, Zen (Rufus Sewall) approaches. The policeman goes “Oy, wot you doin’ ‘ere?” in a broad English accent that was well out of place. The cast is mainly English with a smattering of Italians. The English speak English in their own accents and the Italians speak English in an Italian accent and then people in the background roar at each other in a stream of indecipherable Italian and it is really fecking annoying.

Me no likey. And you can take that in any accent you want.

I eventually removed the Christmas decorations from my living room. I usually hate doing this. It’s a signal the holidays are over and we are in for a long, dull period of hard work and short days. To circumvent these feelings of despondency I waited (the 12 of January) until I was fecking sick of the sight of them. Now I’m not feeling depressed the holidays are over, but delighted that my living space is free of clutter. Result.

Default position. When all else fails blog about books. (I tried phoning QC for a quote, but she’s not answering her phone.)

Just finished...Worth Dying For by Lee Child. I really enjoy a Jack Reacher me, but the ending? The characters did what they needed to do, but they #spoiler alert# took the law into their own hands. Made me feel uncomfortable. And not in a good way.

Just finished...The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. I’ve been meaning to read Mitchell for ages now but I tend to get put off when the critics rave about someone. However, after reading my old (and I mean that in every sense of the word) friend Bill Kirton’s comments about DM I thought I should give him a go. It also helped that Waterstone’s were selling the hardback at half-price.

Delighted that I went with Bill’s recommendation. Loved it. Great story. Strong sense of place and time. Characters to hang your heart on.

Pick a page, any page and you’ll find a phrase, a sentence or an image to savour.

“Wisteria in bloom foams over a crumbling wall.”

“There is a girl in an upper window, there are red lanterns hanging from the eaves, and she idly ticks the hollow of her throat with a goose feather. Her body cannot be ten years old, but her eyes belong to a much older woman’s.”

“Ink, thinks Jacob, you most fecund of liquids...”

How to say so much in so few words? Jealous much?

Enough for now. Hopefully the next time I come to blog I’ll have something interesting to say.



Sunday, 9 January 2011

Fuel Prices and Coat-hangers

It’s been all quiet on the blogging front these days. Not sure why. I’m due a rant surely. But nothing’s been bugging me sufficiently. Except for the price of fuel around these here parts. £1.30 a litre is fucking ridiculous.

Did you know 62% of this price is the tax element (according to the BBC)?

I use my car mainly for work. Any driving I do outside of that is minimal. It takes around £160 a month for me to do what I need to do in the course of my duties. This equates to an extra £99.20 in tax a month.

This is lazy politics and weak government. A budgetary black-hole? Let’s tax those sad fuckers in their cars. They always pretend there is a sub-text of trying to get people to use their cars less and public transport more. My arse. It’s ALL about the income.

Eeeesh, and that was me not having a rant.

And here’s something to counter the pissy mood of my ranting...

The Queen of Chaos (my twin sister) was over for dinner the other day. She makes me smile. Given that it was the New Year we got to talking about the old days in our old neighbourhood and how on New Year’s Eve everybody was in everybody else’s house. Given that Sis and I were teenagers the nearest we got to an alcoholic drink (and here’s where I ruin the hard-drinking label we Scots have) was Advocaat and lemonade. Anybody still drink that? Is there even any alcohol in it? QC is convinced to these days that this is where her egg intolerance comes from.

One particular family came up for discussion. There were five or six brothers and one sister. She was a wee bit of a mentaller. Our theory was that she was in constant competition with her brothers. Anywho, she took QC for a walk. To the local mental hospital. Where they wandered the wards –as you do – until a nurse spotted them and threw them out. Before this they even got as far as having a juice in the canteen among some of the patients. One of whom took a liking to the two young girls at the nearby table and thought he should show his appreciation by masturbating under his robe.

This caused the mentaller to giggle. Sis loves a giggle and can never help but join in. Eventually she had to ask, “What are we laughing at?’

You’ve got to hanker back to those simpler times, no?

That same night, after they got home with their decency still intact they decided they should go to mass. QC put on a blue dress she received in a present. (She hated this dress, but she was made to wear it.)

Half an hour later, while the priest was reading from The Gospel According to John (it might well have been one of the others, give me a little licence here people) QC got to wondering why her dress was so uncomfortable across the back and shoulders. Trying not to draw attention – and of course everyone nearby was watching – she stretched a hand up and over to her shoulders, reached inside her dress, felt something solid ... and pulled out a coat-hanger.

Cue a fresh set of giggles and QC and her mate being thrown out by in irate member of the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Now that’s what you call a wardrobe malfunction.

Do you have any similar stories? Go on, share...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

RIP Gerry Rafferty

The smooth vocals and that rich sax. It can only be Baker Street. Awesome.

I don't know if its a Scottish/ UK thing, but there is a tendency around these here parts to think that if he/ she is one of ours he/ she cannae be that good.

This song came out in the seventies and when I found out he was one of ours, it blew me away. We COULD be that good. It opened up a world of possibilities.

For that and the music - thanks, Gerry.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Looking forward...

I know I’m getting ahead of myself but I thought it would be fun to have a look at the releases I’m looking forward to in the coming months.

The Dead Women of Juarez – Sam Hawken (p. Jan 2011)

Sticking my neck out here – and it is only January - but if there’s a better debut novel in 2011 then I’m going to eat my hair. (Someone will have to shave my back first).

Set in the Mexican border country, this novel is told against the background of the disturbing fact that in the last twenty years 3000 women have disappeared from Ciudad Juarez.

Kelly Courter is a washed up boxer from Texas happy to earn a crust as a punchbag for some up and coming Mexican fighters. He gets sucked into the underworld of organised crime and is soon over his head.

Rafael Sevilla is a detective coming to the end of his career, who takes an interest in Kelly and is drawn into another world, but one that is every bit as corrupt.

As a reviewer I have strange reading habits. It is not unusual that a pile of books arrive at the same time and I dip in and out of each of them until one pushes itself from the To Be Read pile onto the Must Read Now section. The Dead Women of Juarez circumvented this process by grabbing my attention from the very first line. This is a remarkable debut novel that heralds an exciting new talent to hit the crime writing scene. For just over 300 pages of gripping storytelling it barely puts a foot wrong.

Satori – Don Winslow

A marriage made in thriller fiction heaven. The acclaimed Don Winslow takes on the character of Nicholai Hel from the equally acclaimed Trevanian. If this name means nothing to you (you young pup) Trevanian was the pen name for one of the most successful thriller writers of the 1970’s. Nicholai Hel made his one and only appearance in Shibumi and lit up in my mind like a Catherine wheel. Hel is part Russian, part Japanese. He is a linguist, scholar and an assassin who makes James Bond seem like a heavy-handed buffoon.

My review will appear over at in due course. A wee hint: I loved it.

Bad Signs – RJ Ellory (p. June 2012)

This blurb is straight from the horse’s mouth –  thanks, Roger.

Orphaned by an act of senseless violence that took their mother from them, half-brothers Clarence Luckman and Elliott Danziger start life with two strikes against them.  Raised in state institutions, unaware of any world beyond the confines of rules and regulation, their lives take a sudden turn when they are seized as hostages by a convicted killer en route to his execution. 

Earl Sheridan, psychopathic murderer, could be their salvation or their downfall.

A road trip ensues – Sheridan and the two brothers on the run from the law through California and Texas, but as the journey continues the two brothers must come to terms with the ever-growing tide of violence that follows in their wake, a tide of violence that forces them to make a choice about their lives, and their relationship to one another.

Will the brothers manage to elude the dark star that has hung over them since their mother’s death, or will they succumb to the pull of Earl Sheridan’s terrifying, but exhilarating vision of the world?

Set in the mid 1960s, reminiscent of the atmosphere so evocatively conjured in the international bestseller, A Quiet Belief In Angels, this latest work by multi award-winning author, R J Ellory, is a tale of the darkness within Man, the inherent hope for redemption, and the ultimate consequences of evil.   

Ooooooo. Sounds good, Roger. Be sure to see that them nice people at Orion get me an advance copy.

A few other honourable mentions:

Truth Lies Bleeding – Tony Black  Feb 2011
The Opposite of Amber – Gillian Philip, April 2011
The End of the Wasp Season – Denise Mina, May 2011
Proof of Life – Karen Campbell, June 2011

Jings, and they’re all Scottish. How good are we?

The book that’s going to have me skipping most with excitement (like a wee girl, quite frankly) is The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.

His Name of the Wind which I read in 2007 was one of the outstanding fantasy books of that or any year. And to think this was his debut. Awesome. It had EVERYTHING you could ask of a book.

This is me rubbing my hand in anticipation and screaming, hurry up already.

An honourable mention also for Peter V. Brett and the third in his demon series, The Daylight War.  Cracking stuff. Amazon have the release date as March. I’ll keep you posted, me hearties.

Oh, and then I’m hoping Gillian Philip will have out the follow up to Firebrand.

Oh, and then...

Calm down, Mikey. We have a whole year of books.