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Friday, July 13, 2012

A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer Dubois - a review

It is hard to process that this is the debut work of an author. She has taken what is traditionally been a heavy involved subject, life in Russia and created a dirge to the Cold War era, embracing the “interminable stretch of a Russian winter” evoking the cold and dark weather and showing life in Eastern Europe as Dostoyevsky did. Her mind pictures are dramatic, each paragraph as if a postcard into the sole of her characters.

She takes the well-worn subject of Russia’s mastery of modern-day chess, creates a character steeped in the game, Aleksandr and shows us how someone of meager beginnings can build a protected empire through the country’s one-upmanship with America for personal gain and advance through the corrupt political system to mount a run at the presidency against Putin in a quixotic and valiant attempt.

Irina, an American student who was brought up playing chess with her father, and is now preparing to her life to Huntington’s disease, just as her father had done takes on her own impossible dream, and meet the chess-player that her father had sent letters to, and in a role of finding purpose in her life leaves everything behind to chase her lost cause.

Their paths tangle and mesh in the most highly improbable fashion and both help form a lasting impression on each other’s fate as well as Russia itself. An improbable tale of endurance and love that will guide the reader down a path of unrequited expectation.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My Bad Tequila by Rico Austin - a review

Most of us have experiences in life we wish we could forget, or did because of alcohol-induced blankness. Austin calls these ‘bad tequila’ moments, as imbibing in that particular libation seems to have more bad consequences than others. This novel, loosely based on his real-life experiences—or those he can remember anyway—is his ‘bad tequila’ moment.

When a young jock on a college football team is cut and down-on-his luck, he is given the opportunity to travel to Mexico with a group of students and take a moment to reflect on his recent bad luck, or to get totally wasted while brooding over his own stupidity. He takes it. Life is grand, not a care in the world, white beaches, surf’s up and pretty woman and alcohol are on the menu.

When tragedy strikes and a motor vehicle accident kills several members of their party, the close-knit group unravels. Rico and Tina, at one moment considering young love, suddenly turn on each other and Rico drowns his sorrows with tequila. The next day when it is time to leave, Tina has vanished. When he arrives back in the States, Rico finds himself under arrest for the murder of Tina. Her father, a US Senator, is baying for his blood, his friends from the trip are all turning evidence against him and by the end of it Rico finds himself in jail facing five long years on a trumped up manslaughter charge.

Rico takes the time to reverse his ‘bad tequila’ moment and rebuild his life, creating a successful life after his prison sentence, until one fateful journey leads him back to San Carlos and the scene of the crime. Faced with his past, he begins drinking again. With a surprise ending, Austin takes us on rough-hewn journey on his debut novel, a 2011 Readers Favorite award winner.

Harbor Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh - a review

Wambaugh, a former L.A. cop, has churned out over twenty novels pulling on experiences he went through ‘on the job.’ He tells us there are two types of cops; that since the years after the Rodney King beating the department became full of “risk-averse cops who wanted to get through their closely supervised careers safely” and the “retro action-oriented risk takers, who always ran straight to the sound of guns.” He makes it pretty clear which one he would have us believe he is.

The cops are regurgitated characters from his last four novels, ‘Hollywood[TAA1] ’ Nate and Flotsam and Jetsam, charismatic figures in the Los Angeles police Hollywood Station series who are once again called upon to carry the story-line with their side-kick partners. The stories are entertaining and probably gleaned from truth to life told to Wambaugh but more recent police escapades. None of the coppers or their adventures are as awe inspiring as his first few novels and you get a feeling Wambaugh knows this as he can’t help himself but to remind us of his illustrious writing past by referring to his 1973 masterpiece “The Onion Field,” and still have all his officers touch a picture of The Oracle, a figure from his past, as they exit the station every day, just like The Green Bay Packers getting a blessing from Lombardi every time they play; tradition is strong within the department.

Wambaugh comes to his own in this latest narrative when he gets away from the police department and wanders into the character development of the seedy side of San Pedro and explores the lives of Lita Medina, a down-on-her-luck illegal alien from Mexico who has been caught up in the entertainment business, taking her clothes of in a local strip club. With Koreans and Russians plying their trade in the human smuggling and making these young girls pay to play local hoodlum, Hector Cozzo plies his trade as a procurer of talent for his new bosses. A chance meeting with Lita and one of Hector’s old high-school chums, Dinko Babich soon leads to true love and the unraveling of the flesh trade in San Pedro.

With his typical dark humor Wambaugh leads us through his latest entertaining, suspense filled and tragic story-line with gritty reality. Another entertaining read from the master of police dramas.

 [TAA1]I don’t know if this is a character’s name a book title or what. He has it in single quotes with no comma so I have no help trying to make sure it’s done right. Can you right out from him and make sure the editing is right? Thanks.

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