Baker, Mishell. Phantom Pains.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2017.

This is only the author’s second novel, the close sequel to last year’s urban fantasy Borderline, but it doesn’t suffer one bit from the dreaded “sophomore-novel-itis.” And by “close,” I mean it picks up almost exactly where the first volume ended, and without a lot of explanation of what went before, so you really have to read them in order.


Published in: on 31 August 2017 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Baker, Mishell. Borderline.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

I’ve been a heavy reader of all sorts of science fiction all my life but I’m much pickier about fantasy. Tolkien, for instance, doesn’t do a thing for me. I do like a lot of “urban fantasy” though, and Baker, whose first novel this is, is a welcome new addition to that sub-genre. Here she tells the story of Millicent Roper, who is barely getting along a year after a badly failed attempt at suicide when she was a film student at UCLA. Millie went off a seven-story building and survived (unintentionally) by crashing through a tree, but the fall cost her all of one leg and half the other one, and now she has to deal with prosthetics and a cane and a wheelchair. On top of the that, she has Borderline Personality Disorder, and some days she can barely hang on. And she’s in a private therapeutic facility but the money’s running out.


Swierczynski, Duane. Fun and Games.

NY: Mulholland Books, 2011.

This is the first volume in the author’s rather off-the-wall “Charlie Hardie” trilogy, and it’s a doozy. Charlie, now around forty, was never actually a cop but he used to work with the Philadelphia PD on legally questionable crime-fighting assignments. Then everything blew up (almost literally) and his partner (together with his wife and kids) was massacred by a drug gang and Charlie’s own wife and son are in Witness Protection while Charlie himself scratches out a living around the country as a house-sitter.


Published in: on 18 June 2017 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Leonard, Elmore. Be Cool.

NY: Delacorte, 1999.

Sequels are a well-known potential trap for both novelists and film-makers. “Hey, that one went over really well. I think I’ll do another one just like that, only different.” This romp is, of course, the not-quite-so-successful sequel to one of Leonard’s best books, Get Shorty, in which loan shark Chili Palmer becomes a Hollywood movie producer, making a film based on his actual activities in collecting a debt from a gambler named Leo and getting mixed up with some seriously bad guys.


Published in: on 7 October 2014 at 6:20 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Leonard, Elmore. Get Shorty.

NY: Delacorte, 1990.

Leonard is justifiably highly regarded as the author of a couple of dozen generally first-rate crime novels, and they’re all a lot of fun (sometimes viciously so), but this relatively light-hearted caper is still arguably his best. There’s a lot of Damon Runyon in it, in fact.


Published in: on 24 March 2014 at 5:40 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Wambaugh, Joseph. Hollywood Hills.

NY: Little, Brown, 2010.

The author’s method with the “Hollywood Station” series, of which this is the fourth installment, is to gradually develop one or two plotlines involving more serious crimes, whether white-collar or drug-addled, and to alternate the complex working-out of those with numerous anecdotes (which Wambaugh famously collects from cops everywhere), character sketches (both cops and bad guys), and mordantly funny episodes.


Published in: on 30 April 2011 at 4:59 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Wambaugh, Joseph. Hollywood Moon.

NY: Little, Brown, 2009.

This is the third of the author’s “Hollywood Station” series, and it’s the best yet. In fact, this hilarious, touching, blood-chilling, and dramatic gathering of multiple narrative threads is proof that Wambaugh still has what it takes to be telling street-cop stories. All the characters we’ve come to know from the earlier two books are here: Hollywood Nate Weiss, SAG-card-carrying Patrolman-2, and Flotsam and Jetsam, the surfer cops whose beach jive sometimes makes them almost unintelligible to their colleagues,


Published in: on 20 July 2010 at 5:47 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Wambaugh, Joseph. Hollywood Station.

NY: Little, Brown, 2006.

Somehow, I haven’t read any of Wambaugh’s books since The Onion Field, but I have been working my way through Michael Connelly’s “Harry Bosch” series set in Hollywood Division, so I thought I might get a different take on the place. And, boy, it really is different. First, Bosch is a detective while most of the action in this book involves the patrol units dealing with problems on the streets. Second, there’s a definite dark side to most of Harry’s cases, while Wambaugh’s narrative frequently has a wheels-off style reminiscent of Carl Hiaasen or Elmore Leonard.


Published in: on 3 March 2010 at 5:13 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,