Monday, April 01, 2013

Benjamin Whitmer, Talmage Powell, E. Howard Hunt

1) Pike.  I'm no more than a third of the way through this 2010 novel by Benjamin Whitmer, but it has my heart beating faster already. The book is like Daniel Woodrell, but with a tougher edge, maybe with a shot of Jim Thompson mixed in.

2) Talmage Powell's 1962 novel Start Screaming Murder offers, among other things, a compassionate, if somewhat melodramatic, view of "little people" in Tampa, Fla. There are references to midgets and dwarves having flocked to Tampa in the heyday of carnivals and then to some being left flat with nothing to do when the carny era ended.

“Ed, what’s going on amongst the little people in this town, the midget and dwarf citizens who colonized here in the days of the carnies?” one character asks, and I can't help thinking that that relegation of the physical condition to adjective from substantive (dwarf citizens rather than dwarves) is an early example of the verbal sensitivity — political correctness, some would say — under which people with retardation, say, has replaced retarded people in everyday writing.

And I could not suppress a smile when narrator/protagonist Ed Rivers tells the reader that "The midget population of Tampa is sizable."

3) E. Howard Hunt's House Dick (1961) is the best crime novel I've read by anyone who went to become a Watergate burglar. It offers good, tough-guy observations such as:
"It was standard hotel coffee shop food with the usual decorative sprigs of defrosted parsley, but he hadn’t much appetite."
I might not have noted the following had I not known which president Hunt went to work for a decade later:
"Judges are fine; some folks think they’re even necessary. For me they’re guys you tell the story to after all the action’s over. And even then most of the bastards couldn’t tell a crook from a Congressman.” (highlighting is mine)
not to mention:
"Too early in the year for open-air concerts at Watergate."
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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15 Comments:

Blogger jedidiah ayres said...

PIKE!!!! Pike is THE shit, Peter. THE shit, not shit. Not A shit - like me. He's got a great story in Noir at the Bar Vol. 2 too

April 01, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's a wow for me so far, the best thing I've read recently. And here’s some info on Noir at the Bar, Volume 2 in handy, one-click form.

April 01, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Not to mention the first volume of Noir at the Bar stories, which I heartily endorse despite the shockingly profane language of its compilers.

April 01, 2013  
Blogger Kevin McCarthy said...

I've had Pike on my to-buy list for ages, having read raves about it somewhere. And I love Woodrell...and Jim Thompson. Ok, I'll buy it already!

April 02, 2013  
Blogger verymessi said...

Pike was my favorite book that I read in the last year by far. I loved it is so much I actually wrote a 5 star review on amazon which I never do. The book simply blew me away.

April 02, 2013  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

I liked Pike quite a bit, but--man--it was brutal. There's this brass-knuckle execution near the end that really got to me.

April 02, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kevin, I'd say you might like Pike, then. As Loren warns, though, it's no gentle tale.

April 02, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

VM, I finished reading it last night. It's my favorite book of this year so far.

Oh, and I should mention that you came to mind when I read a news story after the papal election that quoted an Argentine woman who said: "Now we have Lionel Messi and the pope."

April 02, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, Pike contains brutal scenes, all right, but they generally seem to emerge logically from the action. You won't get, say, a chapter that opens with a loving description of gruesome injuries.

April 02, 2013  
Blogger verymessi said...

Ha!

Barca is going to need the Pope to pray for them if they are going to advance in the Champions League. D10S was hurt yesterday and I cant see Barca beating Madrid or Bayern if they get past PSG without Messi.

April 03, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Is Messi also called D10S, as Maradona was? He could tell the pope he's the son of D10S.

I found Ediardo Galeano's book on soccer recently. That sport -- or FIFA, at least -- has a shocking history, drug use in sports as early as 1954, for example.

April 03, 2013  
Blogger verymessi said...

Yes. That's one of Messi's nicknames.

When Maradona was coaching Argentina he called Messi his Maradona!

I read "Football in Sun and Shadow" years ago. Galeano is a terrific writer on politics as well. You should try the "Open Veins of Latin America" if you are into political books. Its sort of the Latin American version of Zinn's "A Peoples History of the United States."

April 03, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"(Soccer) in Sun and Shadow" is shot through with politics in and out of sports. Galeano's remarks on what FIFA did to Hungarian and Basque soccer players after 1956 and under Francoist Spain are especially interesting.

Did I ever mention the time I was in a taxi in Barcelona, and the driver had a soccer game on the radio? Even if I had known more than my few words of Spanish, I cannot imagine being able to understand anyone who was talking that fast.

And it's old hat in the U.S. to complain about what commercialism has done to sports. But Galeano goes one step further and argues that commercialization and its consequent caution and lack of imagination have affected the style of play on the field.

April 03, 2013  
Blogger verymessi said...

I think that commercialization has certainly hurt professional sports in a lot of ways. I also don't see a way around it in this day and age.

I have not been to Barcelona and hope to make it one day. I've seen Barca when they came to the USA a few years ago and have seen Messi play for Argentina in Giant Stadium-oh, I mean Met Life Stadium!-twice. The second was against Brazil when he scored a hat trick, the third being his usual wonder goal that he seems to score once a week.

Galeano on Messi:

"No one plays with as much joy as Messi does," "He plays like a child enjoying the pasture, playing for the pleasure of playing, not the duty of winning."

April 03, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That remark about Messi neatly sums up Galeano's feeling about soccer and about the joy he says is so lacking in today's game.

I've mentioned that I saw FC Barcelona play Manchester United on an exhibition tour of the U.S., which meant Diego Forlán, Ronaldinho, and Ruud van Nistelrooi on the same field, with some stunning moments from each.

April 03, 2013  

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