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Alfred J. Kwak

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Bandits
Bandits
par Elmore Leonard
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 12,03

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Attractive ex-nun inspires a spectacular act of retribution, 26 janvier 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Bandits (Broché)
EL (1925-2013) felt strongly about how badly illegal Hispanic farm workers were treated in the US. “Bandits”, published in 1987, well within Ronald Reagan ’s second presidential term, is perhaps his most political crime novel, with him taking sides in the conflict in Nicaragua between the Sandinistas, who ousted the Somoza regime in 1979 and the US-backed Contras, who waged a cruel, bloody guerilla war to seize power again.
War is costly, even the Contra kind, what with fighters at $ 23 a month, moving in bags of rice and beans, ammo and other supplies, paying bribes everywhere... Ex- Col. Dagoberto Rogoy is a well-placed fundraiser. armed with a personal letter from RR himself, he collects funds for the fight against communism from oil barons and other rich Republicans in Louisiana. Piece of cake, until he loses his cool about a former lover, implicating then threatening a reluctant assistant-mortician called Jack Delaney, a former hotel thief. A confrontation is inevitable. Jack enlists two buddies from Angola penitentiary, an ex-cop and a rusty bank robber (65). Why? To do what?
The less said the better for readers of this superb and totally satisfying crime story. It has a smooth-flowing, but quirky plot and believable characters, some of whose thinking EL inserts effortlessly into the narrative. Plus, as always, great dialogue, his cinematographic writing style and a completely unexpected, but laudable ending make him a superlative author once again. I rank “Bandits” in my Top Five of Elmore Leonard’s best books.


Cop Town
Cop Town
Prix : EUR 5,67

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Liberal overkill and poor editing, 22 janvier 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Cop Town (Format Kindle)
Read only her “Martin Misunderstood”, a very funny novella indeed, before this annoying book with not a single character to sympathize or bond with.
Found the first 150+ pp of this crime novel set in 1974, truly shocking. It depicts the first working day of Kate (a young Jewish widow of a Vietnam fighter) facing the hazing and pinching, drinking on duty and racism, sexism and homophobia of Atlanta,GA’s police force. But it all really begins with a chaotic, early morning portrayal of the Lawson’s, a cop family living in a derelict house: Maggie and brother Jimmy wear uniforms; their horrible, hard-drinking uncle Sergeant Terry Lawson often intrudes on their breakfast. And uncle Terry has bad news: Jimmy’s partner Don was badly hurt during an ambush, Jimmy was unhurt and carried him twenty blocks to the nearest hospital…
Read this tale of police bigotry, planting evidence, free-loading, poorly following standard procedures and an excluding culture, with growing distaste. Midway, the quality of writing and plotting deteriorates with chatty, over-long chapters, irrelevant asides about the Lawson’s deaf neighbor, Kate’s family and her foolish falling for “Dr. Zipless”. Serious editors would have excised all of this, tempered the book’s relentless foul mouthing and improved on its messy showdown, now hard to follow or believe. And have checked if Amsterdam was really bombed to ruins in 1940. (It was Rotterdam…)
KS is a liberal after all, judging from remarks about poor women’s rights in 1974 Georgia and her closing chapters. But one with a sledgehammer touch. Am proud of myself to have read this ordeal of a book to the bitter end.
Remarque sur ce commentaire Remarque sur ce commentaire (1) | Permalien | Remarque la plus récente : Feb 23, 2015 7:03 PM CET


Cat Chaser: A Novel
Cat Chaser: A Novel
par Elmore Leonard
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 14,14

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Languid, sentimantal love & murder drama, 14 janvier 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Cat Chaser: A Novel (Broché)
Elmore Leonard (EL; 1925-2013) wrote 46 crime novels, many situated in Detroit and Florida. Only a few took place (partly) abroad, in Somalia, Rwanda and now in the Dominican Republic (DR). “Cat Chaser” has a rich cast of colourful characters. Three have a military background: two were US soldiers serving in different forces during a brief invasion of DR in 1965. The third is the ex-security chief of Dominican dictator Trujillo (killed with 27 billets in 1961), general Andres La Boya, a legendary sadist. Who made good after his 1961 narrow escape to Florida and is worth 40-50m USD when the book starts around 1981, 20 years later. Despite many security measures, he remains a target for extortion or worse...
What else to say without giving away the plot? There are several more colorful major and minor characters, incl. Andres’ irresistible third wife Mary and a brilliantly-planning mob enforcer with an Irish name. All characters, incl. the losers are beautifully portrayed. Also loved the talks between ex-Marine George Moran, owner of a small seafront motel and his alcoholic paying guest, ex-Airborne Nolen Tyler. Who probably caused Moran’s being medivaced back in 1965.
As usual in EL’s books, the field of competitors for high and low rewards and outcomes, thins out to leave just two finalists, with dead bodies everywhere, but not incrementing the eventual victor too much, being this story’s underdog throughout. EL’s ending is more open than hoped for by his many fans, who must have yearned for an Epilogue. But EL does not did Epilogues, he rather kept readers guessing.
Once more, rich background, superlative plotting, stunning writing and great dialogues.


Calico Joe
Calico Joe
par John Grisham
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 7,99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Warning for European fans, 13 janvier 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Calico Joe (Broché)
John Grisham (JG) has tens of thousands of fans in Europe reading his creations in English or in translation. But this book will confuse and disturb many, esp. female readers, whilst French, German, etc. translations are unlikely to appear (unlike possible Spanish, Korean or Japanese versions). Why? Because it deals with baseball and baseball is no big deal in Europe. Only Italy and the Netherlands have a longish baseball tradition with promotion/relegation leagues and a small fan base.
So it is useful to understand the game, its rules and rich vocabulary before buying this riveting tale about the lives of (fictional) veteran pitcher Warren Tracey (34; NY Mets) and (fictional) upstart slugger Joe Castle (21; Chicago Cubs) and their fateful encounter in late August of 1973. The story is told by Warren’s son Paul more than thirty years after the event. Also, thirty years since he played or watched a game of baseball himself. He was 11 when it happened and a great fan of Joe Castle, a newcomer (‘rookie’) making an instant impression, breaking record after record. He also describes his feelings about his awful, philandering, hard-drinking and indifferent father, who adheres to old codes about pitchers’ honor.
Watching with his mother in Shea stadium the duel between his dad and his hero Calico Joe, little Paul is the only fan to see it coming, knowing his dad too well… The rest is for readers to enjoy and devour, because this is a superbly plotted- and written tale of lifelong shame for father and son. This reader expects much debate by fans about how Grisham concluded the tale. But he imagined a story and told it well.


Mr Majestyk
Mr Majestyk
par Elmore Leonard
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 10,21

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Deadly Duel, 7 janvier 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Mr Majestyk (Broché)
Two tough men escape from a prison bus. One is Frank Renda, a mob killer suspected of ten murders, but the police has never succeeded in putting him away. His associates attack the bus, and off they go, with another prisoner behind the wheel, Vincent Majestyk, a melon farmer with a Ranger instructor background. From then on there is plenty of conflict and violent action, with Renda continually underestimating the near bankrupt melon farmer.
Timing is of the essence in this fantastically written and paced crime novel. Is Renda still the cold planner and executioner? Are Mr. Majestyk’s old skills, last practiced in Laos, still intact? Speaking of time, both men are in a hurry to deal with the other terminally: Renda is driven to distraction by the quiet farmer. Mr. Majestyk has only a week left to harvest his melons, or go bust…
Adapted from his own Hollywood script, with Charles Bronson playing Vincent Majastyk. Great little book.


52 Pick Up
52 Pick Up
par Elmore Leonard
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 13,18

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Brilliant, intense thriller, 5 janvier 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : 52 Pick Up (Broché)
Final confrontations and their onset are hallmarks of Elmore Leonard (EL; 1925-2013)’s writing. He used the cowboy-movie showdown in many forms. The winner is always cool, some losers too, only less so. More often, his losers are not very smart, esp. when working in twos or threes using drugs and alcohol. EL’s smart crook in “Unknown Man No. 89” survived by avoiding a confrontation – his dumb muscle man did not.
“52 Pick-Up” is situated in Detroit in 1974. It reads like a disaster foretold, because the city has since lost most of its car industry and population, and is now bankrupt. EL’s two storylines concern the city’s endemic crime and violence and the impact of labor unions on its motor industry.
When car-parts factory-owner Harry Mitchell (HM; 45) is fighting union-inspired sabotage and slowdowns, he is briefly abducted to a small cinema. And is shown photos and film images of his secret affair with young Cynthia. He knew her only for three months and wanted to end the affair when he was captured in her apartment.
What follows is momentous and thrilling, with Harry reverse-engineering all he remembers from his capture and cinema viewing, to find first one, then the other two (why else ask for USD 105,000?) blackmailers, one of whom soon scares his beloved wife of 22 years Barbara in her own home. It will get worse because of what he also saw in the cinema: Cynthia being shot dead with five, not just one bullet, from his own, now missing gun along with other evidence pointing at him as her killer…
Inventive and compelling, with all characters instantly believable by how they think and talk. Great background, plotting and dialogue. It ends in another dramatic final confrontation. Highly recommended.


Harbour Nocturne
Harbour Nocturne
par Joseph Wambaugh
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 11,97

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Good plot delayed by endless diversions, 29 décembre 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Harbour Nocturne (Broché)
Read most of Michael Connelly’s (MC) books about the LAPD, but only one or two by Joseph Wambaugh (JW), also a prolific LA crime writer, before this title. Found the promotional pages on JW’s oeuvre impressive and promising. Why I read so many MC and so few JW crime novels is about acquired tastes: found MC’s Harry Bosch novels well-paced and -plotted, thrilling and challenging, with HB renewing himself in every book while keeping his focus, paying respect to a murder victim by catching his or her killer.
I disliked JW’s early books for his urge to tell all about the LAPD and how they operate on the street. Found him loud, a shouter and disseminator of police anecdotes, not someone caring about murder victims or seriously conducting murder investigations, despite spending many years with the LAPD. His early books breathed the atmosphere of “Hill Street Blues”, a chaotic TV-series full of politically incorrect cops.
“Harbour Nocturne” has several converging plot lines, well worth reading to the end for his many fans. Not for me. Its first 100 pages were a struggle.Too much background and ethnic stereotyping, too many poor jokes and badly-told police anecdotes. It all slowed down a potentially straightforward and thrilling police procedural about a raft of crimes with a Russian or Armenian connection. But alas, it was “Hill Street Blues” all over again. Live and learn.
Former journalist Michael Connelly’s often critical thrillers probably did more good to the image of the LAPD than Joseph Wambaugh’s tell-all books, this one included, despite his deep roots in the force. In recognition of his oeuvre, three stars should compensate for any faults made in this review.
Finally, my next read was “Unknown Man No. 89” by Elmore Leonard who recently passed away, first published in 1977. Dear readers, in this title there is a true crime writer at work…


Hit Me
Hit Me
Prix : EUR 6,99

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Disappointing and boring, 24 décembre 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Hit Me (Format Kindle)
Reads like a collection of short stories blown up to 50+ page chapters about a series of arranged killings by a man named Keller and his murder impresario Dot. LB published books about their early fruitful cooperation, but after a failed assignment both are presumed dead. However, they live on with new identities, Keller in New Orleans, Dot in Arizona.
Keller’s his new career of salvaging and selling on distressed real estate, collapsed after the 2008 credit crunch. But he has plenty of off-shore capital, is now married to a woman who knows what he once did (and finds it erotically stimulating). They have a small daughter. Then Dot reports in, would Keller be interested to…?
“Hit Me” goes on and on about collecting, owning and working with stamps, the stress during auctions and the techniques of dealers asked to appraise collections. But apparently, stamps do have historical value, showing how political entities legitimized their existence by printing their own stamps or overprinting the stamps of its predecessor. Something useful after all from this boring book.
Written on autopilot by LB, whose unlicensed PI Matthew Scudder character I much enjoyed, there is little of interest for me here. None of the characters, victims or not, come to life. Tons of small talk on and off the phone, details about showering, meals and travel only serve to stretch, add words. Keller’s assignments and his executions are not riveting or very smart either.
This book is a waste of time.


Operation Faust
Operation Faust
par Fridrikh Neznansky
Edition : Broché

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Soviet-era police procedural, 12 décembre 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Operation Faust (Broché)
This eventful crime novel set in 1985 Moscow (and briefly, in Kabul) finds Senior Criminal Investigator Sasha Turetsky (ST ) under constant pressure. Many of the cast of "The Fair at Sokolniki" (about Moscow in late 1982), reappear in this thriller. What has changed since 1982? The new Soviet leader Gorbachov wants to stop corruption in high places and curb alcoholism, starting at the workplace. And the long war in Afghanistan that cost at least 20.000 Soviet lives that is causing resentment. ST himself has finally exchanged his cramped room in a crowded, smelly communal flat for a one bedroom apartment. He now also has a car and still attracts women, as shown in 1982 with a serving general's wife.
This thriller erupts in the summer of 1985 with a terrorist attack on a Moscow metro carriage. Days later, during a now illegal alcoholic office party, Turetsky is seduced by trainee Kim Lagina. Soon after, she is found murdered. ST feels rather guilty, but becomes investigator in charge. In both investigations the name `Faust' falls. Is Faust a person, an organization or something else entirely? Based on all carefully collated evidence collected in Moscow, ST and two colleagues fly to Kabul to make an arrest. Instead, the stumble on a massive conspiracy aimed at the heart of Soviet society...

F. Neznansky (FN; 1932-2013)(co-)authored six books in Russian and has always had excellent translators. He was also able to switch styles: in `The Fair' he followed Turetsky in the he-form in a thriller divided into three parts and countless brief chapters, its authenticity enhanced with numerous Soviet-style memoranda and investigative reports. Here, FN writes as ST in the I-form a thriller of 20 chapters with few documents.
Otherwise, written with formidable energy and passion, quite informative about how Soviet criminal investigations were conducted in an overcrowded security and domestic intelligence landscape. This book was first published in English in 1988, the year before the Berlin Wall fell. Ever since, popular interest in the genre has waned and Fridrikh Neznansky is no longer in print...


Fair at Sokolniki
Fair at Sokolniki
par Fridrikh Neznansky
Edition : Broché

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Rich and authentic Soviet crime novel, 9 décembre 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Fair at Sokolniki (Broché)
This warm, eventful and very competent police procedural by a former Moscow top criminal investigator was first published in German in 1984, then in 1986 in English. It deals with a host of characters involved with a double murder in Moscow in late November 1982, when hundreds of wreaths in memory of President Leonid Brezhnev from all over the USSR and the progressive world begin to whither, with the USSR still fighting a hopeless war in Afghanistan.
Junior Investigator Turetsky and his boss Merkulov (Serious Crimes Investigator) are the heroes. Their team quickly establishes who the first victim was and investigates his background despite KGB opposition. Soon, the second victim is also identified. They may have been lovers, but why were they killed within hours, separately, by what appears to be the same two men? And why? More mayhem and mystery follows, for interested readers to discover.
In 1982, Soviet police investigations may have been more methodical than in the West. Turetsky finds his boss unscientific. He himself was taught that a murder investigation is solved when 8 key questions with all possible permutations, are fully answered, an early form of PCM (project cycle management), no house search is allowed without neutral witnesses and perfect record keeping and reporting are key assets. But what if the Kremlin interferes through other security organs? Or when the entire police system is riddled with informers?
Have the Russian police, intelligence agencies and judiciary become more independent from the Kremlin over the last 25-30 years? Has corruption and profiteering by ‘nomenclatura’ ever since abated? Not at all. They have skyrocketed under Yeltsin and Putin.
Hope new readers and new publishing editors take note of this book and author Neznansky’s (1932-2013) legacy as (co-) author of several Cold War bestsellers like “Red Square”. If not, it is a welcome source of inspiration for new writers about New Russia. Finally, perfectly translated from the Russian ms.


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