Block, Lawrence. All the Flowers Are Dying.

NY: Morrow, 2005.

All the books in the “Matt Scudder” series are set in his own present day, from 1976 to now, and we know (from internal evidence) that Matt was born in 1939, which means that he became a cop when JFK was in the White House, and in the first book he was in his late thirties, and in 2005 he’s old enough to draw Social Security. He’s getting a little long in the tooth to be entirely credible as the tough streetwise guy he used to be, and he’s apparently beginning to realize that himself.

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Block, Lawrence. Hope to Die.

NY: Morrow, 2001.

Matt Scudder, unlicensed New York private investigator, is getting on a bit. He’s over sixty now, but he’s not ready to retire completely. This time, he and Elaine have just come back from a Patrons’ Dinner and concert at Lincoln Center when they learn that another couple who were there, the Hollanders, were brutally murdered by burglars when they returned home. And then, a couple days later, the killers turn up dead in an apparent murder/suicide.

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Published in: on 28 September 2012 at 4:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lord, Richard. Culture Shock! Germany.

Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2008, 1996.

The so-far nearly seventy volumes in this series aren’t really travel books (though they have some of that flavor) but beginners’ manuals on how to live and work in a foreign country. The list now includes not only obvious locations, like this one and France and Canada and China, but also the less obvious, like Bolivia, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius.

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Published in: on 27 September 2012 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Harrison, Harry. Deathworld.

NY: Bantam, 1960.

This was Harry Harrison’s first novel and I can remember reading it in high school, when it originally appeared in ASTOUNDING (which is also why it’s rather short for a novel). It was popular enough to engender a couple of sequels, though most fans probably identify Harry first with the “Stainless Steel Rat” series.

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Published in: on 25 September 2012 at 5:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cornwell, Bernard. Death of Kings.

NY: HarperCollins, 2011.

This seventh volume in the highly-regarded “Saxon Tales” series is a turning point in the saga of the creation of “England,” which could so easily have become “Daneland” instead. Uhtred of Bebbanburg, born Saxon but raised Danish, has been King Alfred’s war-leader for a couple of decades now, the victor at Edington and Benfleet, the capturer of London, the killer of Ubba (greatest Danish warrior of his day), and all because he gave Alfred his oath.

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Hitchings, Henry. Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson’s Dictionary.

NY: Farrar, Straus, 2005.

I was one of those bright, autodidactic kids whose idea of a great way to pass a rainy afternoon was to curl up with a volume of the encyclopedia, or with a large dictionary, and just browse. I delighted in learning new stuff, and of a very miscellaneous nature. (I was no doubt born to become a reference librarian.) I learned about the history of dictionaries in library school, but Hitchings (whose first book this is, and who did his PhD thesis on Johnson) goes into far greater depth and does it in a highly entertaining way.

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Published in: on 21 September 2012 at 12:16 pm  Comments (1)  
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Beinhart, Larry. Foreign Exchange.

NY: Harmony Books, 1991.

This is the third in the author’s series about Tony Casella, who, until six years ago, was a moderately competent private investigator in New York. Then he made the serious mistake of investigating the wrong people — members of the Reagan administration. (Both Beinhart and Tony have very low opinions of Ronald Reagan, and they’ll tell you why. Several times.) Politicians tend to want to get even when they’re knocked off their perches, and Tony has since been a fugitive in Europe, with a passport identifying him as an Irish priest.

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Tracy, P. J. Live Bait.

NY: Putnam, 2004.

Minneapolis homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are back and they’re bored silly; there haven’t been any juicy murders in several months, not really since they wrapped up the “Monkeewrench” killings. Magozzi has fallen hard for Grace McBride, the paranoid head of the software company who goes multiply-armed at all times, and Gino is enjoying time with his wife and kids, but still.

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Published in: on 17 September 2012 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bellos, David. Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything.

NY: Faber & Faber, 2011.

When I was in college in the 1960s, all history majors who expected to make a career in the field had to be competent in French and/or German (plus Latin if medieval studies was your thing). And, of course, I had taken a couple years of French as a high school graduation requirement. Even though I lived in Europe for much of the 1950s, learning foreign languages in the classroom has always been difficult for me, and I struggled.

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Tracy, P. J. Monkeewrench.

NY: Putnam, 2003.

This is the first novel by a mother-daughter writing team, but they have apparently written several screenplays together, so they’re not absolute beginners at this stuff. Grace McBride and her four closest friends have a successful software company in Minneapolis that has made all of them millionaires. Their latest product, now in the testing stages, is a game about catching a serial killer — but then someone begins mimicking the game-murders in real life.

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Published in: on 13 September 2012 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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