It’s Still January. Isn’t It?

I am back after a too long delay but I am a happy reader.  Very happy.  I will start with the most excellent, simply wonderful new character in the the the many very good, literary mystery series on the shelves.  Sujata Massey of the Rei Shimura series (and you must read all these – I have),  had crept into India a few years back and dazzled me with her two books set in South Asia.  The Sleeping Dictionary is a tour de force that I recommend.  She promised a new mystery series set in 1920’s Bombay, India (my most-loved locale and in my favorite time-frame).  Perveen Mistry (a Parsi –   of a small, but unique and amazing group in that city) appeared on January 9th as the star of The Widows of Malabar Hill.  I was truly transported.  She is at the top of her game on a mesa with lots of room for more.  Brilliant and literary,  Perveen joins Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh series to my delight the Sam Wyndham series set in Raj Calcutta by Abir Mukherjee, The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh,  the Maharaja series by Arjun Raj Gaind. I am not familiar with Vish Puri – but I know he is another of this exalted group and I am waiting for a title by Tarun Tejal.

I love Bombay.  Love it.  And Widows is so diligently researched and is an example of superb authentic fiction.  I have read it in pieces so it would last longer and I am hoping Massey has taken a deep breath, some time off and has started another one.  She joins several other cherished Bombay novelists, Thrity Umrigar – {read all her books please!!} Salman Rushdie, Rohinton Mistry,  Ardashir Vakil, Vaseem Khan, Shilpa Agarwal and Siddartha Dhangvant Shangvi, just a few on my long list ).  We are experiencing the welcome Indian (Anglo, Canadian, American) entrance into the mystery genre and about time. (I am a serious reader of India – for 20 years – so my enthusiasm is a long time and includes many South Asian authors – just about as prolific a group as the artists of Haiti).  This reading is not limited to fiction either. As an added bonus the Widows has two maps and a glossary.  This book tops my 2018 list so far and while the year stretches ahead – I think the Widows will endure.

Now that I have waxed deliriously about Widows, I must mention Tom Zoellner – whose book on diamonds was so marvelous; but his book Uranium was like a short course on Uranium itself, the atom bomb, yellowcake and the geographical locations of this heavy and very volatile, radioactive element.  It is a very frightening element and subject and has changed our world forever.  I found out, among much reading, that plutonium does not occur in nature but is a by-product of U-235 and that the infamous yellowcake must be weaponized. I also came away with a deep loathing of King Leopold of Belgium and his pimping and pandering of the Congo. As an unexpected benefit, Zoellner’s intensely researched, heavily referenced book relieved me of my continued, and laborious read of American Prometheus.  I am not surprised that J. Robert Oppenheimer died a man with many things on his mind.  I may finish this book eventually, but Uranium answered many questions.  Zoellner’s style is terrific.  It was a subject presented in a most engaging style that was very hard to put down – I think I liked it even better than The Heartless Stone.

Both the above books have whetted my appetite for further reading in these subjects  To this end I have expanded my hold list at the library

Fire and Fury – too much about a little, obnoxious man with small thumbs and a propensity for lies.   It is printed on cheap paper and not worth even that. This charlatan is a fat-assed, self-centered miscreant who has surrounded himself with disposable colleagues and has no business being in any part of politics and for that matter, business.  It is well written but also like reading the National Enquirer endlessly. Fascinating, but thoroughly nauseating.  Kudos to its author, Michael Wolff, however.

Is this it?  Seems as if I have read more, but could be magazines.  In the New Yorker, this week was Jill Lepore’s excellent piece on Barbie v. Bratz. (doll wars) .   Have also having appointments outside to make and this too takes time.  I promise I do search the library before I pile additional titles on my own bedside table (floor, dresser…).  Yet Amazon calls.  You too?

As a lagniappe – Must suggest a photo book by my longtime friend Dirck Halstead; Moments in Time.  A Time-Warner shooter, he has had 47 Time Magazine covers and is a photojournalist of renown.  He has covered the WH and been every damn where shooting the last century superbly.  The book is not a new one but the photos resonate indelibly.  I am bit biased but highly recommended.

Many on hold. And FYI – you can read short descriptions of all the books I mention on Amazon, your local library, and Goodreads.

Your comments are always welcome!

I had To Stop.

Piu Eatwell marries titled men.  I think she has an OBE too. Okay – this is a talent some have. But as an author?  Not so talented.  I had to stop reading Black Dahlia, Red Rose to stay sane.  She solved nothing.  She re- explained her 276 footnotes in the disguise of cluttered, repetitive back of the book notes and this is still a damn cold case.  I cannot imagine who edited it and now I don’t care.  It was simply annoying.  And it’s a done deal.  I couldn’t finish it nor did I want to.  And this is a mystery I find intriguing. The story was far better told by James Ellroy.  Even Steve Hodel  posited a fascinating theory.  Piu.  Not so much.  Read it and see if I am wrong  Your thoughts would be appreciated.

What are we going to do without Henning Mankell?  I just read  one of his last books – After the Fire and realized he is a writer I will miss very much. The book is not a Wallender, but it does have a mystery and alluring characters that will take you, regrettably, to the last page.  The weather is cold and you will shiver with him.  Quicksand is the last book he wrote and I shall order it.  His saddening diagnosis of lung cancer was the end of a wonderful teller of tales. If you loved Kurt Wallender – read this last novel and say good-by.  I thank him for so many hours of wonderful reading.

Back to another look at diamonds “The Heartless Stone” (another author)- and I must emphasis this is a nasty business and so controlled I can only hope a secret group of  diamond “pipes” and C-10 garnets will appear and that one lucky person will get to mine them all.  These are not a fair traded commodity.  And are a large part of Black Africa’s tragedy. This book atkes another view and I am curious to see what else I need to know about a girl’s best friend (which I thought were birth control pills).

My daughter sent me the 50th Anniversary tome of New York Magazine which I remember from before it became a magazine; in the New York Herald-Tribune.  This magazine has kept me sane for 50 years and I am reserving a quiet, solitary block of space and time in which to read it and weep.  I loved living in NYC.  It is massive volume and requires a quiet time to take it all in. I still get it every two weeks and devour it.

Beginning January 2nd, I plan to save my library receipts as I borrow books so I will remember what I have read and maybe even why.  I should have done it years ago.  But I am very good at hunting titles in the library computer sites before I go hog-wild and buy them.  Some just are keepers, but others are like popcorn.  You eat your fill and then you relax and wait for another bag at another time.

Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and fingers crossed, we will have a better year in 2018.

I Just Can’t Seem to Stop.

Oh I have read and read and read some more. After this last depressing year of being a native born, US citizen and watching that grow scary;  I stayed warm and read til my eyes crossed.  I believe I mentioned my read of Sleeping Beauties and it still is on my mind. Read it.  You may weep; but the Kings kicked some ass.  I read an Alex Cross because I like the character – Patterson – feh.   And then there was The Rooster Bar.  It is not quite his direction and of course was well written but personally I wanted to beat the three main characters like a gong. Mr. Grisham  – I hope you will abandon this type of silliness.  You are better than the Rooster Bar.

I may have mentioned my casual interest in diamonds – when in need of a best friendsthey can work quite well.  I had read a galley of a book on the subject in the early part of the ‘aughts and  it stayed with me.  I found the final edition  recently and oh what a nasty business it is to discover  Greedy, ruthless, competitive and utterly fascinating.  The players are first and foremost deBeers who struggle more to continue to be the biggy.  And the baddy and the monopolists; something that is changing rapidly.

I know quite a lot more than I ever expected to know and it is a fascinating enterprise.  The Oppenheimer’s hold it tightly, wheel and deal and sadly were very instrumental in supporting apartheid for cheap labor and because they could.  The tech end is fascinating and I was so damn fascinated I have another title to expand my ken.  I wear little jewelry – but a bit of sparkle can be enticing and what I do have is a very little sparkler. Diamond by Matt Hart reads like a whodunit.  Check it out.

Between the gems and Grisham , I found a James Ellroy I hadn’t read – ‘Because the Night“.  All the expected L.A. police, bad guys, the grift and the graft – but it was step well away from precious stones.and a good little break .  Ellroy has always been a favorite – a flawed man and a damn good writer. He gets down and dirty because what he writes takes him to some very down and dirty places. I like the opium beds of another era in Chinatown. They showed up a lot in Perfidia.  Just a damn good book to use for a break.

Which brings us to the strangest book I have read in a long time.  My lasting fascination with the Black Dahlia is not a secret and I have read quite a few, well written books of theories and man hunts and of course it is still unsolved. And still fascinating.

Piu Eatwell, another theorist enters with Black Dahlia, Red Rose.  The crime is not a news flash but each author’s take on it fills in gaps that add allure and ideas that are newer or more creative than the last ones  Eatwell has done her homework and gives us lots of information – not exactly new info, but presented well and worth taking it in.  But she does make mistakes, some of which seem to reflect the American idioms she gets wrong.  Irritating minutiae that creates a little itch and a tendency to look for more. This is distracting to me. She may have edited the book herself because a competent editor would indeed have caught them.  None of this would really be bothersome but she has embraced the asterisk and the annotated footnotes passionately and it is truly annoying.  Truly.  One can see ways the info could easily have been part of the text and it is driving me bananas.  She has notes as well and a quick glance at those was not a treat.  But she was published by a reputable house – WW Norton;  but I still would love to know who her editor was.  They need a stern chat.  All this filigree and distraction make the book harder to read, but the entire story is such an interest of mine – I shall go the distance.  If it turns out okay – those of you who like old true noir  should check back.

Christmas and New Year are upon us.  Packages have arrived and I know there will be books.  I can’t wait. I wish all of you who check out this blog a wonderful time in the next week and a better, happier, calmer 2018.I promise my new inventory next week.

I should also mention that very few on the “Best Books of 2017” appealed to me and would not have been on my list. And I am getting less enthusiastic about the NY Sunday Times Book Review – after all these years.  And exception is Marilyn Stasio whom I look forward seeing every two weeks.  She is the crime lady.

Enjoy your holidays and wish for 2018 to be an improvement.  I know I do.