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Book Review; Original Gangster by Frank Lucas & Aliya King

9780091928674_p0_v1_s260x420I love gangsters. Not your Bloods and Cripps (sic), your Killer Bees and Mongrel Mobs…your classic, stereotyped gangster.

From Prohibition which brought us Capone and mobsters sporting comically dangerous aliases such as Jimmy Blue Eyes, Joe Bananas, and Vinnie the Butcher the mobster has been portrayed as a loveable rogue merely providing a much-needed service to the public, complete with violent killings and Italian accents.

Move on from this era and we hit the sixties and seventies where a lot of the ‘rules’ of being a gangster remained, but the landscaped changed, and the key currency on the street moved from booze to heroin, and the master of this domain was a 6-foot tall New York negro from the south named Frank Lucas.

Lucas didn’t need a fancy name, and for the greater part of his million-dollar a day earnings he didn’t need it. He was well-known to everyone on the street, was friends with big names such as Sammy Davis and Joe Louis, but until a weak moment during the Ali-Frazier fight in NYC, he was completely unknown to enforcement officers in the FBI, DEA and such.

This book is a fascinating look into one America’s most prolific drug importers. From his youth and the Ku Klux Klan, to stealing off the streets, and working for the then undisputed king of the Big Apple, Lucas lays his life on the table for all while setting the record straight, dispelling many rumors and misrepresented facts (e.g. importing heroin within the bodies of Vietnam servicemen being returned Stateside) to his involvement in bringing down corrupt cops.

The book is violent at times, subtle and humourous as well. But at no time are you left wondering what this guy wanted to achieve, and achieve he did. How he wasn’t killed is anyone’s guess, and that in itself is a testament to the guy.

As a fan of the movie genre I am looking forward to watching ‘American Gangster’ with Denzil Washington, and as this clip shows, fiction, and Hollywood as well, has a way of pulling the wool over your eyes as the book does not recount this incident (and wasn’t his MO as a rule)…but no doubt a must see if taken with a grain of salt. The book spells it out better…


Book Reviews; two for the price of one…

…and the subject matter couldn’t be more different.

imagesThe first again hits that favourite spot for me; WWII and Naval Warfare – Clash of Carriers – The True Story of The Marianas Turkey Shoot by Barrett Tillman.

While a lot of naval books focus on the ‘big’ battles of war – Jutland, Midway, The Atlantic – this one is an in-depth study recollecting a US vs. Japan battle in the Philippine Sea in gaining control of the Guam and its island neighbours. The term ‘Turkey Shoot’ was coined by an airman after one of the dogfights during the week-long fight and is famous for being a totally fought in the air by two battle groups hundreds of miles apart where surface ships never saw sight of each other.

While Midway became the real turning point in the Pacific War for the Americans when Japan lost a lot of its major ‘flat tops’, Philippine Sea all but sealed the deal as the Japanese, stretched at best, lost not only three more carriers, but somewhere close to 75% of its remaining seaborne aircraft, and more importantly experienced pilots.

The recollection is very good in building up to the battle, the planning and sparring from both sides while putting into layman’s terms what was happening, and what the risk was to both sides. Calling on interviews from survivors on both sides it is (almost) balanced in its reporting, however it does tend to lean towards the American side i bias, something which is probably easy to do when the author is a Yank, and the Yanks were deemed the victors.

All in all a fascinating read that doesn’t bore one with too much jargon and has a good focus on the thoughts and fears of those who dueled in the air. I have read many a book on war and more often than not I have sometimes wondered how the hell the Allies managed to win, what with poor planning, poor execution, and more often than not inter-service distrust. This book almost has you thinking the same thing, but the underlying tone in this is courage, and risk, and the Americans more than had this with near fatal results. Nothing to take away from the Japanese; hopelessly outnumbered and in inferior hardware, but if one chapter sticks out for me, it comes near the end when the American aircrews are left with no choice but to ‘come home’ in the dark.

Thrilling stuff that makes it hard to put down…


images-1The second book is shamefully a genre I read too much of; chick-lit.

I don’t shy away from it, and over the years have enjoyed more than a few, and this one on the blurb alone made me read it, and I am bloody glad I did.

“Letters to a Love Rat’ by Niamh Greene is a girly book, about in part, girly books. It has an interesting plot; one girl writes letters (but never sends them) to a man who crushed her heart years back on the advice of her counselor. Another wakes up after her honeymoon to a note from her new husband which asks her to put out the recycling, oh yeah, and tells her that her he’s left her. The other girl writes a blog (with appropriate following) detailing her affair with her boss…

…the key, they all refer to the central man, Charlie.

In true Irish fashion the book is funny without trying hard to be so, and the writing is great as the three leading ladies are as different as different can be. Throw in a hunky janitor, a house painter, a gay prison guard, and no less than three famous writers, and you have a story (or three) that’s hard to put down.

It seems that Niamh has written a few books where the titles suggest a similar style/plot line, but if this one is anything to go by, I will keep a keen eye for them.

Book Review; 50 Shades of….*yawn*

A novel by EL James

For those who have followed my book reviews over the years you would notice it doesn’t take me long to read a book, anywhere from a couple of days to a week, at most….

…reading 50 Shades of Grey took me somewhere between 2 and 3 months, and therein lies a hint at my thoughts of this book.

A friend asked me to read it and at the time I was aware of the book, I mean you would have had to live under a rock, or in Gore not to know about, but I actually had no idea what it was about. When I found out (my wife was reading it) I became very close-minded about it…

…for those who really know me I love porn. Not in a sick way where I lock myself in a small room running up massive bills on my credit card or hiding in the toilet having a wank, but I have been exposed to it for a long time, and am very open about it. However I have no interest in S&M, or other sub-genres associated with domination, and then to have it written by a woman was not endearing itself to me. I know, it is a narrow-minded statement but that’s how I felt about it. But if nothing else I will always give a book a chance (shit, do you remember my trial by fire with Richard Laymon’s books!?).

Anyway back to the book. This is how I interpreted it; Naive stunner (who happens to be a virgin, big point to my argument) meets an extremely rich, handsome man (is there any other type? Just once give me a fat chick bagging a hunk, or an ugly fucker banging a super model!) and this guy, despite all his squillions of dollars still needs to satisfy his control on things by dominating women. OK, fair enough, no issues here so far.

But as the book went on it took on the familiar, self-destructing plot; man offers her a contract to allow him to beat her and chain her up (good call), girl freaks out (as you do), girl can’t stop thinking about him (ummmm, ok), entertains the idea with some out clauses (huh?), falls for him (yeah, yeah, get on with it)…etc, etc, et al…


…*growing anger*

Read more…

Book Review: Rain Dogs and Love Cats

By Andrew Holmes

Whether by fluke, by chance, or by some inner psychic ability I have allowed myself to read more good books than bad of late, and this has been one of the picks for me.

In an enjoyable, yet odd way, Holmes has managed to take an 80s throwback kinda guy with a passion for action figures and vinyl, kill off his Tom Waits impersonating brother and come out with a Film Noir slash Kojak type private dick morph and make it not only funny, but believable.

The story picks up in 1973 when a woman, after drinking a couple of cans of beer falls asleep on her sun lounger while her 8mth old son is in the paddling pool = expected outcome. Fast forward to our wedding DJ ‘hero’ coming to the realisation his life with wife and newborn, while trolling eBay for movie memorabilia and rare records (78s and 45s, not Olympic) who understandably shows more than a little suspicion when his older brother is burnt to a crisp when his car crashes on some motorway while coming to see him. His brother is painted well as a Kramer (from Seinfeld fame) kind of dude who loves jazz (who doesn’t?) and has a special fondness for Tom Waits, especially his iconic (yet not my favourite) Rain Dogs album.

What happens from there involves a sultry and mysterious woman from the sub-continent, a missing Spinone (a dog) named after the husband of a movie star, a wealthy realtor with an interest in graves, Donna Sommers, and finally a masturbating parks-maintenance guy who I picture in my head looks like Shane Warne, and you have a cleverly written detective story which drags up plenty of skeletons from the past. And with typically dry English humour this book is easy to read and just as easy to follow.

More often than not I spend the whole time trying to second-guess books like this and while in some points I solved the case this story threw plenty more up for you to dodge on the way to the ending, and ending that should be closely scrutinised  by Hollywood on how to close out a story…i.e. there doesn’t have to be any large windfall for the hero, no jig-a-jig push-push on the mat, and certainly no walking off into the sunset…well, he does, sort of, as only the English know how I s’pose; understatedly (if that’s a word?).

Great book, highly recommended!

Book Review; The Titanic Secret by Jack Steel

Strictly speaking I am not a Titaniac but I have watched and read a lot on the world’s greatest disaster and so was looking forward to getting through this book. A mix of fact and fiction the story follows a British and American spy aboard the RMS Titanic on here maiden voyage. They are planted there to tail and dispose of three Germans who have in their possession a plan to have the US side with Germany in a pre-emptive war against Britain and her Empire.

It makes for a great plot line once you can get your head around the fact that it was pretty damned unlikely and of course history has taught us otherwise, but in a race against time the agents live and love life onboard the world’s greatest liner which of course, unbeknownst to all, is about to keep a date with a pretty large chunk on ice in the middle of the Atlantic.

Taking the pending iceberg out of the story the plot throws in a curve ball in the fact that disaster or not, Titanic was never destined to reach New York and it is this side story that I found to be the gripping and well told. I was finding it harder and harder to keep with Alex and Maria (the spies) in their cat-and-mouse game with Voss & co (the baddies) as the constant references to “bad omens” about the trip and ‘damned English’ attitude to everything was winding me right up.

And as one would expect, the story could not help but make some sort of love interest occur although thankfully not as obvious as Jack and Rose in the movie.

This book was only published this year so is as new as one could expect, not that it matters considering the Titanic sunk 100 years ago, and it will appeal to a lot of readers out there. But for me I found the plot line too predictable and the ending (as so many of my recent books have done) was amateurish and unfulfilling, but that’s just me.

Doesn’t the author’s name seem like that you would expect in a spy novel?

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