Tuesday, 31 January 2017

My Back Pages - January 2017


It's a new month and a new year and having aimed at reading at least 50 books this year January saw me wade through seven books. Just shows you what you can accomplish when you're not spending all your time reading Trump-related posts on Facebook. And I find my blood pressure's dropped, too.

Spies, detectives, musicians, actors and entertainers held my interest last month. I'd started an old Le Carre novel, A Perfect Spy, before I left Panama at the beginning of the month and wrapped it up when I got home.

Then it was into Powerhouse by James Miller - all about the agency business in Hollywood. It was kind if interesting with lots of behind the scenes stuff about the key agency movers and shakers. and how agencies grew from representing actors to getting involved in myriad other activities like banking and sports.

For What It's Worth was a bit of a guilty pleasure all about The Buffalo Springfield, the 60s group with Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay who all went on to bigger and better things.

Mr. Tambourine Man about the Byrds' Gene Clark was interesting but I don't think I really needed to know about how many drugs the guy did. Really - page after page. Unfortunately, while talented he was also tragic figure.

Of course, the trouble I have with music books, and the above two were no different, is then I cruise Amazon.ca for CDs by the artist. Some months can be a little expensive.

The Smothers Brothers Book was hilarious. I always liked them and their mid-60s TV show and it was interesting to see what motivated them to do the comedy they did and to host the musical groups they did.

I closed out the month with the first two Nero Wolf novels by Rex Stout. I remember finding a paperback or two around the house when I was a kid and thought I'd revisit this detective's adventures. Stout wrote just over 30 of these beginning in the mid-1930s. They were both a satisfying read.

A Perfect Spy - John Le Carre ****
Powerhouse: Creative Artists Agency - James Andrew Miller ****
For What It's Worth: The Story of The Buffalo Springfield - John Einarsson ****
Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story
of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour - David Bianculli ****
Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of the Byrds' Gene Clark - John Einarsson ****
Fer-de-Lance (Nero Wolf #1) Rex Stout ****
The League of Frightened Men (Nero Wolf #2) Rex Stout ****

What are you reading? Let me know. I'm always interested in exploring something new. You don't want me going back to Trump tweets do you?

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Head Games



Neil knelt next to Norman. Norman lay still upon the ground, a pool of crimson red spread slowly like a halo around his head. Neil's mind was a blank. He recalled the beers he and Norman had shared earlier that night. But between than and now, as he gazed upon his blood-soaked hands, nothing.

And now Norman was dead. And Neil couldn't figure out what had happened. His head hurt. Not from trying to focus on the events since the two had left the bar but rather from the large goose egg on the back of his skull. He realized he had the large bump when he had raked his fingers through his hair and discovered a soft spot on his, what was the old word for it, pate. It was the only part of his body he could feel at the moment. It hurt so much he felt like he was just one big head. But common sense told him that couldn't be. He knew that he felt that way from the pain that came with part of his skull being bashed in.

He then realized that he hadn't killed Norman, although up until that point he wasn't too sure. But the bump on his head meant someone had attacked both he and Norman and he had escaped the same fate as his friend.

He felt relieved. Yet very sad for his friend. But he was less confused about what had occurred and knew that if charged with Norman's murder a jury would surely vote to acquit him. He gingerly touched his head and thought to himself "this ex skull, pate, will surely prove my innocence".

But the wheels of the justice system turn ever so slowly and by the time he was brought before a judge his wounds had healed completely. His only evidence of his innocence no longer existed. He was found guilty of murdering his friend. Upon hearing the sentence Neil's lawyer turned to hm and said, "We should have acquitted while you were ahead."

The prompt from the folks at Two Word Tuesday this week was exculpate/acquit. I know "ex skull, pate" was a bit of a stretch but, hey, sometimes you have to work hard for a pun.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up


It was about three days into Bob's vacation. He'd travelled to warmer climes to escape the wintry weather back home. From what he'd seen on social media he'd picked the right time. Snow, sleet and freezing raining had all put in an appearance in his absence.

Bob felt lucky. Even though he had some mobility issues and walked with a cane, he managed to make the daily trek past the resort's swimming pools to his bamboo-umbrellaed beach chair near the ocean's edge where he enjoyed the sites and sounds of the beach.

So, in the absence of niveous nervousness Bob relaxed away the hours in the tropical sun. But on this day Bob had stayed all morning at the beach and eventually had to go pee. Instead of walking all the way back to the condo Bob thought he'd just dip quickly in the ocean, subtly relieve himself and then return to his spot among the dancing dune buggies and bikini-clad babes. Particularly the latter and for that he was grateful for his sunglasses.

Anyway, he said to his wife that he'd accompany her into the water and leaning on her and without his cane he shakily walked across the beach into the ocean.

Well, it took only minutes for a wave to knock Bob off his feet not unlike a bowling pin. He struggled to stand but wave after wave crashed against him and he just couldn't get his legs under himself to stand as they turned to rubber. Like a sea turtle Bob grovelled in the surf until a passerby helped his wife lift him to is feet and pretty much dragged him back to the dry sand.

Did his life flash before his eyes? No, all he could think of was that infernal line from that damn commercial "I've fallen and I can't get up". He used to laugh at that. But not today.

Worst of all he still had to go pee.

The prompt from the folks at Two Word Tuesday on the Our Write Side site this week is niveous/wintry. This tale may or may not be true. The names have been changed to protect the incontinent.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

My Back Pages - 2016



Here, as promised is a month-by-month breakdown of the 67 books I delved into this year. I got off to a strong start and then my intake dwindled for a couple of months until picking back up in April. I'll let you in on my favourites at the end of this list.

January

Here, There and Everywhere:
My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles - Geoff Emerick - ****
H is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald - ***
Close To The Edge - The Story of Yes - Chris Welch - ***
Sweet Caress - William Boyd - ****


February

Purity by Jonathan Franzen 
Still Alice by Lisa Genova.


March

Natchez Burning - Greg Iles
The Promise (Elvis Cole #20) - Robert Crais

April

The Snowman (Harry Hole)- Joe Nesbo ****
Phantom (Harry Hole) - Joe Nesbo ****
The Leopard (Harry Hole) - Jo Nesbo ****


May

George Harrison Reconsidered ***
The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Atwood ****
Dropping The Needle - The Vinyl Dialogues Volume II ***
The Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead, (Dave Robicheaux #6) - James Lee Burke****


June/.July

 Lust and Wonder - Augusten Burrow ****
The Black House ****
The Lewis Man ****
The Chess Men ****
End of Warch - Stephen King ****
Cometh the Hour (Clifton Chronicles #6) Jeffrey Archer *****
The High Mountains of Portugal - Yann Martell ****
Taken - Robert Crais (Elvis Cole) ****
Dixie City Jam - James Lee Burke (Dave Robichaux) ****
The Corrections -  Jonathan Franzen *****


August

The Sentry - Robert Crais ****
The Heist - Janet Evanovich ****
The Chase - Janet Evanovish ****
The Job - Janet Evanovich ****
Our Kind of Traitor - John le Carre ****
The View From the Cheap Seats - Neil Gaiman *****
The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury *****
Shoe Dog - Phil Knight ****
The Illegal - Lawrence Hill *****
It's A Long Story: My Life - Willie Nelson ***
The Two Minute Rule - Robert Crais ****
Lud-In-The-Mist - Hope Mirrlees ***


September

Hyperion Cantos (#1) - Dan Simmons ****
The Fall of Hyperion (#2) Dan Simmons ****
Endymion (#3) Dan Simmons ****
The Rise of Endymion (#4) Dan Simmons ****
Nutshell - Ian McEwan *****
One Way Out - The Inside Story of the Allman Brothers Band - Alan Paul ****
The Wonder - Emma Donoghue *****
The 13 Clocks - James Thurber ****
The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells *****


October

Pigs Might Fly - Mark Blake ****
Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen *****
The Emerald Lie (Jack Taylor #12) - Ken Bruen *****
Apathy For The Devil - Nick Kent ***
The Crossing (Harry Bosch #20) - Michael Connelly ****
Police (Harry Hole #10) Jo Nesbo *****
Burning Angel (Dave Robicheaux #8) - James Lee Burke ****
The Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson * (DNF)
Never Say No To A Rock Star - Glenn Berger ***
St Lucia's Day and Other Stories - Michael Whitman-Jones ****


November

The Nix - Nathan Hill ****
I Am Brian Wilson - Brian Wilson ***
Rather Be The Devil - Ian Rankin *****
The Trespasser - Tana French ****
The Sun and The Moon and The Rolling Stones - Rich Cohen ****


December

This Was a Man (Clifton Chronicles #7) - Jeffrey Archer *****
Testimony: A Memoir - Robbie Robertson *****
The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill *****
Not Dead Yet: The Memoir - Phil Collins ****
Moonglow - Michael Chabon ****
Lilly and the Octopus - Steven Rowley *****

I read a lot of good books last year. Hell, I read a lot of books, period. So it was hard to choose just 10 of my favourite reads. But here's what I came up with...

2016 Top Ten Favourites:

The Corrections -  Jonathan Franzen
Cometh the Hour (Clifton Chronicles #6) Jeffrey Archer 
This Was a Man (Clifton Chronicles #7) - Jeffrey Archer 
The Illegal - Lawrence Hill
The View From the Cheap Seats - Neil Gaiman
Nutshell - Ian McEwan
Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen 
Testimony: A Memoir - Robbie Robertson 
The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill
Lilly and the Octopus - Steven Rowley 

If you're interested in a review of any of these books, click on the "Books" button at the top of this page and then scroll down to the month and the book you're interested in. What did you enjoy reading last year? Let me know. And happy reading.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

My Back Pages - December


Well, are you set for the big finish? You'll recall at the beginning of the year I'd set for myself the target of reading 50 books this year. Well, I went a little over, zipping through 6 books last month and ending out the year with a total of 67. It was an interesting month, as electric as ever, and I gave four books five/five stars.

First there was This Was a Man by Jeffrey Archer, one of my favourite authors, the 7th and final book in the so-called Clifton Chronicles, a sprawling family history of business and politics.

Then there was the excellent Testimony: A Memoir, the long-anticipated autobiography of The Band's Robbie Robertson.

Then I read a book recommended by my wife, The Book of Negroes by Canadian author Lawrence Hill. Very well written. Great story.

Don't know why, but I picked up Phil Collins' autobiography, Not Dead Yet: The Memoir. Meh. It was so-so. But it had a lot of interesting trivia about Genesis and Collins' solo career.

And then I read two excellent novels. The first was Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon's Moonglow. The second was Steven Rowley's first book, Lily and the Octopus, a quirky tale about a man and his dachshund.

So here's how I rated each book:

This Was a Man - Jeffrey Archer *****
Testimony: A Memoir - Robbie Robertson *****
The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill *****
Not Dead Yet: The Memoir - Phil Collins ****
Moonglow - Michael Chabon ****
Lilly and the Octopus - Steven Rowley *****

Later this week I'll re-cap my reads for 2016 and let you in on my favourites of the year.
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