Saturday, January 23, 2016

My Readings for 2015: A Near Complete Review

        2015 has ended! Another long year of pandering to my reading addiction. But my folly can be your joy. For this installment I decided to list all of the books that I've read this year that I have deemed worthwhile. Again, these are just the good ones. There have been just as many that were terrible, which I will spare you. For more suggestions look at my What I've Been Reading page. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!

Daddy's Girl by Debbie Drechsler (Finished 12/20/15). Originally published in 1995, this is a collection of disturbing stories detailing the author's sustained sexual abuse at the hands of her father. It is perhaps one of the most searingly honest, empathetic, and profoundly disturbing uses of the comics medium in its history. This is great book, but the visuals leave nothing to the imagination. Reader beware. Amazon Listing

Heartless by Nina Bunjevac (Finished 12/17/15). Illustrated in the exhausting pointalist realism style of Drew Friedman, this book is a collection of short stories dealing with alienation and nationalism. Her chain-smoking, slightly alcoholic and manically depressed character Zorka may just be todays ultimate antiheroine. This is an excellent book, masterfully done in both art and prose. I wish I could find more work from her. Hopefully it will come out soon. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing

Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto (Finished 12/16/15). An autobiographical graphic novel of a somewhat vapid woman in her forties who is diagnosed with breast cancer. It was difficult to get into as the protagonists greatest fear, as she describes, is that she is afraid of losing her hair and putting on weight. She is an older woman who still acts as if she is in her twenties and constantly mentioning how her boyfriend is being hit on by younger women, but still prefers her. In the end she claims that her experience has caused her to mature as a person, but I saw little evidence presented. The actual treatment parts are interesting, but it takes awhile to get there. This was originally serialized in Glamour, so I guess we couldn't expect anything deeper. Amazon Listing

The EC Archives: Two Fisted Tales by Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Bill Gaines, Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Al Feldstein, John Severin, Will Elder, and Dave Berg. (Finished 12/12/15). A reprint of the first six issues of the classic series. The first issue is nothing to write home about, in fact it is quite bad, but after that the book gradually finds its footing and become the hard hitting, merciless real comic that we all remember. One of its key factors in its stories, which has caused it to still be brutal and hard hitting after 60 years, is they never glamorize war or pain- usually the exact opposite. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing

Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities. by Kevin Shiga (Finished 12/8/15). A choose-you-own-adventure story on steroids. The reader has to pick their path, following a series of lines that lead to tabs in the book. The actual layout is insane, with multiple panels from conflicting storylines filling up each page. This demands a little more attention from the average reader, and can be a lot of fun or a massive headache- depending on your point of view. Amazon Listing

The Quitter by Harvey Pekar & Dean Haspiel (Finished 12/7/15). The early story of Pekar's life. From his growing up in near poverty, this is a seemingly honest memoir of a smart but troubled boy who quits any time he feels that he might fail—a strategy that eventually leads to a near-nervous breakdown after he joins the navy. His life is not the usual grab-bag of tragedy, but it is poignant and feels very real. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing

Grendel vs. The Shadow by Matt Wagner (Finished 12/6/15). The original Grendel Hunter Rose is transplanted back into the 1930s where he attempts to reclaim his throne as a successful writer and ganglord. But he is faced against The Shadow and it is an explosive fight. There are some who claim that is just a retread of Grendel Vs. Batman, but it is it's own story, quite different from the previous one. I always enjoy a Grendel story and this is not an exception. Amazon Listing

Connective Tissue by Bob Fingerman (Finished 12/3/15) Video store clerk Darla Vogel is fed up, until one of her customers, a precocious home-schooled kid, offers her some of his meat-tinged candies. Darla takes a plunge down the rabbit hole into a surreal world of throbbing, vienous buildings, compulsory public nudity, weird creatures and more. It contained too many pop culture references in my opinion, but it was an enjoyable light read. Amazon Listing

Metro: A Story of Cairo by Magde El Shafee & translated by Chip Rosetti (Finished 11/29/15). When Shehab, a young software designer, runs afoul of a loan shark, all avenues of escape in Mubarak's corrupt, chaotic Egypt seem to be closed to him. Getting help from the bank is impossible without connections. A powerful businessman offers assistance, but the next day Shehab sees him being stabbed in an alley―and the man's dying words suggest a conspiracy extending to the upper reaches of the regime. Amazon Listing

Sparrow by Alison Marek (Finished 11/28/15). This sad tales centers around Jumpy, a troubled five year old who is being raised by his mother, who finds being a single parent extremely difficult, and his bitter grandfather. This is a simple, yet very complex tale, and one of the saddest I've ever read. The reason for this is because each of the characters are realistically portrayed, I believed in every one. Amazon Listing

Habibi by Craig Thompson (Finished 11/27/15). Sprawling across a landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection. Amazon Listing

The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth (Finished 11/22/15). An alternative history where Charles Lindbergh becomes president and keeps the United States out of World War II and eventually begins a series of social programs designed to force assimilate Jewish people into what is considered to be standard American culture- thus destroying their economic and political power-base. The story is framed in Roth's own family history, thus putting a very personal touch on what might have been. Amazon Listing

Classics Illustrated: The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories by O Henry and Gary Gianni (Finished 11/7/15). An excellent collection of short stories expertly drawn by Gary Gianni. Apart from O Henry's most famous story, it also contains The Voice of the City, The Last Leaf, A Retrieved Reformation, and The Pimienta Pancakes- All excellent stories. told with O Henry's usual flair and taste for a twist ending. Amazon listing

Red Meat Gold by Max Cannon (Finished 11/6/15). This strip features a disturbing and sidesplitting cast of characters that includes latex-clad fathers, sadistic milkmen, vomiting robots, malformed neighbors, incontinent inter-dimensional beings, decomposing clowns, and other bizarre characters. This is an acquired taste and Cannon stands out as a master of the "disturbing humor" strip. Amazon Listing

Rat God by Richard Corben (Finished 11/5/15). An arrogant college student on a quest to uncover the background of a young woman from the backwoods finds a decaying town ruled by a vile cult, combining Lovecraftian cults with Native American legends. Richard Corben continues his fine tradition of horror comics with a Lovecraftian bent and, as usual, his artwork is supreme. It is filled with creepy visuals, nudity and violence.The story seems a little rushed at the end, but I found it satisfying. Amazon Listing

Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahnuik (Finished 11/3/15). Buster “Rant” Casey just may be the most efficient serial killer of his time, spreading a new strain of rabies, harvested from his own body, throughout the polulace. Like all of Palahnuik's work, you either love it or you don't. There is no easy description of this book, it is filled with a future where people are split into nighttimers and daytimers, a game of smashing cars called Party Crashing, and time travel where one goes back to inseminate their mothers with themselves or erase their ancestors, thus becoming immortal. A unique work. Amazon Listing

Blood and Circumstance by Frank Turner Hollon (Finished 10/20/15). Told entirely through a series of pre-trial interviews, a man shoots his brother in the head and a psychologist must determine whether he is competent to stand trial. As the reader listens in on their conversations, it becomes less and less clear whom to trust, what is certain, or where truth and fact actually live. A fascinating short read and highly recommended. Amazon Listing

The Night Owls by Peter & Bobby Timony (Finished 10/16/15). In 1920s New York City, Professor Ernest Baxter, an expert in all things arcane, Mindy Markus, a scrappy flapper and Roscoe, a gargoyle, are The Night Owls. Together they solve crimes specializing in the supernatural, in this volume collecting the short stories that make up their webcomic adventures. Cute adventures, reasonably priced. Amazon Listing

Naked Lunch: The Restored Text by William S. Burroughs (Finished 10/14/15).
I reread this classic hallucinatory text primarily due to the editor’s work in including new material from several old drafts and editions of the book. This new edition contains about 20% new material, including the various prefaces and appendices from previous texts. As a bonus it includes about 25 pages of outtakes- material included in the unpublished draft, but removed for various reasons. The effect is that the book is actually more coherent, if that’s possible. Amazon listing

Rocketo: The Journey to the Hidden Sea Vol. 2 by Frank Espinosa and Marie Taylor (Finished 10/8/15). The finale of the series. This books wraps up the tale of Rocketo Garrison and his comrades on their journey. As with the previous book, it is wild and epic in its scale and contains a story of mythic proportions. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing

Rocketo: The Journey to the Hidden Sea Vol. 1 by Frank Espinosa and Marie Taylor (Finished 10/7/15). In a far flung destroyed earth, where the magnetic poles no longer exist, the Mappers chart the new seas. After returning from a war a broken man, Rocketo Garrison is swept away on a journey to the Hidden Sea, a fabled land that may hold the key to an ancient mystery. This is truly a different story, filled with tons of imagination and flair, and a unique illustrative style. Amazon listing

Black Paths by David B. (Finished 10/6/15). When the Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated after WW I, control of the port of Fiume was hotly disputed. Enter “Pirate King” Gabriele d’Annunzio, an Italian poet declared Fiume a free republic and himself commander. He envisioned a utopian city-state, but Fiume quickly became a surreal center of violence, looting, and decadence, with shades of the Fascist movement to come. Wonderfully illustrated by the author, this story doesn't hold back. Amazon Listing

The Prisoner Omnibus by Thomas M. Disch, David McDaniel, and Hank Stine. (Finished 10/5/15). A collection of three novels set in the Prisoner universe. The Prisoner, Who is Number Two?, and A Day in the Life. Each of the novels is loosely connected and are all set after the final episode of The Prisoner "Fall Out". They offer very little new information to that show's setting, but they all that unmistakably weird element that makes a good Prisoner story. A fun collection, but only for fans of the show. If you haven't seen it, then you will be lost. Amazon Listing

Blazing Combat by Archie Goodwin and Various Artists (Finished 9/27/15). This is a collection of the four issue run the magazine published by Warren Publishing. Despite very high quality work, the magazine's life was cut short due to the company's outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War. Done in the style of Two-Fisted Tales, none of the stories here presents war as fun or glamorous. Amazon listing

The Identity Thief by C. Michael Forsyth (Finished 9/24/15). A fun story of a con man who steals the identity of a Saudi national and then becomes hunted by intelligence services when it comes to light that Saudi is an Islamic Terrorist. A fast paced novel with many satirical elements. Amazon Listing

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (Finished 9/20/15). Probably the most famous private detective novel of all time, with Sam Spade becoming involved in a struggle over the titular figure. Hammett has a straightforward style, lacking excess details, thus the novel is packed with action and mystery. Going through this I found that the Bogart film followed the book very closely, with the exception of a story Spade tells to Brigid. Amazon Listing

The Museum of Hoaxes by Alex Boese (Finished 9/15/15). An excellent book, based on the author's website, which collects a great number of hoaxes throughout history. Beginning in the middle ages and on up to the digital age, many of them are presented here for the first time. I suspect one or two might be hoaxes by the author himself. A fun read. Amazon Listing

Up Front by Bill Maudlin (Finished 9/13/15). Originally published in 1945, this is collection of some of Maudlin's single panel cartoons for Stars and Stripes during the US's Sicily and Italian campaigns, which the author participated in with the 45th Infantry Division. Along with the strips are several extended essays of Maudlin's reflections on the infantry man's life and beliefs. The cartoons reflect this point of view and tend to be both sad and funny simultaneously. A historical and worthwhile read. Amazon Listing

Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley (Finished 9/8/15). Satirizing the old kids comics of the 50s and 60s the titular Wally Gropius is a teenage Richie Rich. He is vapid and vain and is being forced by his father to marry "the saddest girl in the world." It looks like an Archie comic but is actually absurdist humor that is quite deep and sometimes dark. The dialogue is witty, lyrical, sampled, dada, and elliptical--all in the service of a very bizarre mystery. There's sex, violence, rock and roll, intrigue, and betrayal Well worth looking up. Amazon Listing

Painting and Guns by William S. Burroughs (Finished 9/7/15). A pocket sized book containing two essays, the subjects are listed in the title. It mainly focuses on the various theories of art and which ones he is attempting to achieve. In the second essay Burroughs talks about the need for firearms and advocates less gun control laws. The two subjects do come together when the author discusses his experiments with "shotgun art", shooting spray paint cans against a canvas. This is a quick read and somewhat interesting. Amazon listing

In the Flesh:Stories by Koren Shadmi (Finished 9/6/15). A collection of stories which focuses on relationships and the interplay between men and women, while adding in a surrealist element in every piece. This darkly poetic book has some very valid commentary on modern relationship and delivers in a unique manner. It also a very literary work and contains several allusions to other prominent works of literature, some obvious, other much more obscure. Amazon listing

Creeping Death From Neptune: The Life and Comics of Basil Wolverton Vol 1 by Greg Sadowski with illustrations by Basil Wolverton (Finished 9/5/15). A comprehensive look at the life and art of Basil Wolverton. This follows his early development up until the early 1940s. Wolverton had a distinctive style that easily set him apart from his peers as can be seen in this volume, which collects most of his non-fiction work from this time period (excluding Spacehawk, but including art pitch for Disney). Unfortunately as of yet Vol. 2 has not been forthcoming. Amazon Listing

The Wild Kingdom by Kevin Huizenga (Finished 8/29/158). A collection of strips from Drawn and Quarterly. This is an experimental work using the cypher of Glen Ganges. The author explores the natural world and man's interaction with it. How he dominates and how he is affected by it. A lot of the material is very symbolic, but there is something for everyone in this book. Listing here

Miss Don't Touch Me by Hubert and Kerascoet (Finished 8/27/15). Originally published in French. This is the story of two girls in 1930's Paris who run afoul of a serial killer. After they stumble about for a bit one of the girls gets a job at an upscale bordello where she specializes in the "English style" of flagellation. It is a fun book, deeper than you would expect from the subject matter. Well drawn and well plotted. It was published in two parts, but has now been collected into one volume. Amazon listing

Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980's edited by Michael Dowers (Finished 8/26/15). A huge collection of small press comixs that came in the wake of the original underground scene. There are over 980 pages of material here, containing a lot of material by people who went on to produce amazing work in the field, Rick Geary, Peter Bagge, Johnny Ryan, Mack White etc. It is an interesting collection of material from a medium within a medium where the artists were free to experiment with no editorial oversite. That being said it is hit and miss in quality, but does contain some excellent work. Amazon listing

Empire State: A Love Story (Or Not) by Jason Shiga (Finished 8/18/15). A sheltered man in his early twenties ventures off to New York for the first time to visit his best friend/first crush. This is his journey of discovery: things about himself and the world. The work is done exclusively in red and blue tones, which some people have debated the symbolism of, I took the colors to represent the protagonist's level of comfort- Red means he's comfortable with his surroundings, blue means he's ill at ease. Agree or disagree as you will. Amazon Listing

Silly Daddy by Joe Chiappetta (Finished 8/17/15). The Amazon description tells it as good as I can, "This collection shows Chiappetta's considerable evolution as an artist. The drawing and lettering in the early stories, from over a decade ago, looks terribly crude, but the naturalistic family portrait on the book's new cover is genuinely handsome. In between, Chiappetta usually hews a path between realism and caricature; most importantly, he succeeds in visually conveying his characters' emotions." A fun read and not what I was expecting. Amazon Listing

Dear Julia, by Brian Biggs (Finished 8/12/15). An offbeat tale of a man who wants to fly under his own power. But before he finally takes the leap from his eighth-floor window, he writes a letter to his ex-girlfriend Julia trying to explain why. It is a perfect demonstration of a book being both simple and complex simultaneously. A true work of art. There is a lot of comparison between Briggs style and Edward Gorey's, with good reason, but Briggs is his own man here. Listing here

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (Finished 8/10/15). I reread an old classic here. The standard textbook on political realism, Machiavelli wrote it for the Medici prince in Reniassance Florance, but many of the arguments are still valid today- perhaps moreso as our political leaders have a much harder time of clinging to power than the ruler of an 15th Century Italian city state. It is a calculating look at power and how to maintain it. The maxim for the book being, "The end justifies the means." Amazon Listing

The Wild Party: The Lost Classic by Joseph Moncure March (Finished 7/29/15). This edition of the infamous flapper poem from 1928 has additional artwork provided by Art Spiegelman. There was a watered-down version reprinted in the 60s, but this the original in all of its glory. It tells the simple tale of a drunken party in New York that spins out of control leading to abuse and murder. It deals quite frankly with homosexuality, alcoholism, and open sexual partners. The author easily creates a vivid world with minimal amount of words. Highly recommended. Amazon listing

Comics as Philosophy Edited by Jeff McLaughlin (Finished 7/28/15). An interesting collection of essays discussing the philospoical aspects of comics and comic heroes as they relate to society and how they can be used to understand the tenats of philosophy. My favorite essay relates the superhearo to Kierkegaard's notions of the fallen hero and the knight of faith. A good read for someone who wants a different slant on the classic format. Amazon Listing

The Cardinal's Hat: Money, Ambition, and Housekeeping in a Renaissance Court (Finished 7/22/15). by Mary Hollingsworth. This is a very detailed look at the practicalities and daily life of a Cardinal in Renaissance Italy. It deals with the court of Ippolito d'Este, second son of Lucretia Borgia using letters and ledgers, uncovered in an archive in Modena, Italy and shows how a person lived and thrived in that time period. It is less about dates and wars and more about how a Lord lived when they weren't plotting and fighting. A fascinating peek behind the scenes. Listing here

The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot (Finished 7/16/15) Following the path of Beatrix Potter, the main character, Helen, goes on a journey which takes her throught urban and rural England. She is running from her distant mother and sexually abusive father, and in this journey finds in Beatrix Potter's tales the strength to move on with her life. A beautiful tale, wonderfully illustrated by the author, ending in a Beatrix Potter style story. Amazon Listing here

Iron: Or the War After by Shane-Michael Vidaurri (Finished 7/15/15). It is the aftermath of a long war, in a world of constant winter. An intelligence spy from the Resistance steals secret information from a military base of the Regime. Heavy and atmospheric, the delicate pastel drawings perfectly establish an atmosphere of cold, damp, wintry despair. There is a feeling of desolation - physical and emotional. Everything creates a sense of repression, failed revolution and hopelessness. Lots of fun! Book Listing

Blindspot by Kevin C. Pyle (Finished 7/14/15). An evocative graphic novel about a boy growing out of childhood. Using expressive panels in the green and brown tones of camouflage, writer-artist Pyle looks at a boy's fascination with war and adventure--and, like many boys, his ignorance of danger and consequences. In an instant, the boisterous fun becomes serious, and adult life intrudes on a boy's world.This perfectly captures a shining moment of boyhood. Amazon Listing.

The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce (Finished 7/13/15). This is the most comprehensive, authoritative edition ever of Ambrose Bierce’s satiric masterpiece. It is a list of cynical definitions of common words which comment on society's hypocrisy and mankind's nature. Based on David E. Schultz and S. T. Joshi’s exhaustive investigation into the book’s publishing history, all of Bierce’s known satiric definitions are here, including previously uncollected, unpublished, and alternative entries. First published in 1881 and continuing into 1906, this is Bierce's finest work. Listing here

Crogan's Loyalty by Chris Schweizer (Finished 7/6/15). A continuation of the Crogan series, each book telling a tale of a different ancestor of the narrator. Taking place during the Revolutionary War it tells the tale of two brothers on different sides of the fight, and they have to decided which takes precedent, country or family. This is a very well researched book, with stereotyped good or bad characters. I lapped it up. Highly recommended. Amazon listing here.

El Cid by Budd Lewis and Gonzalo Mayo (Finished 7/5/14). Several mythical adventures of the historical figure El Cid, the 9th Century Spanish Warlord. While the stories take place in that period of history and often mention the fight between the forces of Christian Aragon versus the Moors, each one has a supernatural element placed in it. These are collected from the old horror magazine Eerie from the 1970s. The writing is fine, but the artwork makes this collection stand out. A must for people who fondly remember this old series. Amazon listing here.

Cities of the Fantastic: Brusel by Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters (Finished 7/2/15). Originally published in French, this is a continuation of the Cities of the Fantastic series. It deals with a man who is trying to stay afloat in a city which is undergoing a vast transformation from a 19th century style of living to a futuristic model. It deals with vast issues of old versus new culture and the growing pains necessary to accomplish this. Neither the old nor the new has much to offer the main character in the way of spiritual wealth and it ends on a very "return to nature" moment. Well done as always from these authors. Listing here

Housebound with Rick Geary by Rick Geary (Finished 6/30/15). A collection of brief selections of Rick Geary's work from 1977-1985, gathered from magazines. Most of them are one to two page snippets of random weirdness with which Geary was originally known for. A fun little collection, none of it is especially groundbreaking, but if you can get it for a reasonable price, I would recommend it. Amazon listing

Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell (Finished 6/28/15) A collected edition of three novels: Young Lonigan, The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan and Judgement Day. The story of a not-so-bright Chicago Irish boy, growing up before and after the Great Depression. Farrell spares no sentiment describing a lower class upraising, including a lot of non-PC language and situations. Studs can be a brute and a drunk, but he feels like a real character who makes some terrible decisions and hangs around the wrong crowd. Very much recommended. Amazon Listing here

The Tower by Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters (Finished 6/15/15). Part of the Cities of the Fantastic series, this story deals a man who is a Keeper in an immense tower and has spent his life maintaining it. When supplies stop he goes off in search of why that is and attempts to unlock the secret behind the structure. First published in French, the English translation lacks some of the poetry of the original script, but the art more than makes up for it. A beautiful piece of work. Like all entrees in this series, the story is very different. But a reader might have difficulty finding a copy for a reasonable price. Listing here

The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim (Finished 6/14/15). A collection of three stories. The first being that of a prince who discovers his world is not what he thinks it is. A story of a woman who receives an email from a Prince of Nigeria looking for money and gives it to him. And the tale of a frog who is more than a frog and less at the same time. An excellent collection of very different stories, Kim's artwork shifts from tale to tale, measuring his style to the tale with complexity and ease. Amazon listing here.

War is a Racket (The Profit That Fuels Warfare): The Anti-war Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier by Major General Smedley D. Butler (Finished 6/13/15). This is more like a pamphlet containing a popular speech the author gave all across the country. Long before the phrase "military-industrial complex" came about, Smedley warned the country that many of its wars and the people behind them were using the army for their own profit. My favorite quote is, "Al Capone had nothing on us. He controlled only a few city blocks, we operated on three continents." See it here

Stray Bullets: Killers by David Lapham (finished 6/12/15). A continuation of the indy series. This time seeing Virginia Applejack living with her aunt and dealing with the violent situations arising from her past and new frustrations her boyfriend. As usual each issue in this arc is a self contained story, yet they mesh together into a violent conclusion. Lapham continues to write characters which feel like real people (including the guy who likes to tear people's fingers off), which has always been the series' strength. Amazon listing here

Stray Bullets Uber Alles by David Lapham (finished 6/9/15). The uber collection of the indy hit Stray Bullets, one of my old favorites. It collects the initial run of 40 issues with an additional issue, printed much later, to finish the cliffhanger that the original series ended on. This crime noir series is highly recommended and comes with a large cast of interesting characters, who all feel real. The story effortless mixes childhood innocence with the bloody reality of the criminal underworld. While the price may be daunting to some, there is 1200 pages of material here with no filler, which adds up to around a dollar an issue. Well worth the price for what you receive. Buy it here

The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man by David Maurer (Finished 6/3/15). First published in 1940, this is the inside story of the confidence trickster. The author, a professor of linguistics, won the trust of hundreds of swindlers. They let him in on their language and methods, allowing him to write this in-depth study. This book originally started as a study of the swindler's lingo, but the author found that, unlike other culture's criminal class, the American jargon was all technical and thus a deeper study of their life was required. A bit dated as the modern day con men all seem to be Nigerian Princes, but still interesting. Buy it here.

Crogan's March by Chris Schweizer (Finished 5/30/15). An interesting tale in the Crogan series, each book telling a tale of a different ancestor of the narrator. Set during 1912, Crogan, a corporal in the French Foreign Legion, has to deal with a local uprising and the idea of his impending dismissal from the Legion. Underneath the story is a discussion on whether a nation has the moral right to interfere in the workings of another peoples. Both sides are discussed and, mercifully, no heavy handed moral is slapped on the reader. A fun read. Buy it here

Cases from the Files of Sam Pezzo P.I. Book One by Vittorio Giardino (Finished 5/28/15). Spanish author Giardino takes a crack at the hard boiled detective series with reasonable success. Sam Pezzo gets caught up in a series of interconnected robberies and murders while slumming as a debt collector. The style is fast with a sarcastic humor wrapped around it. Originally published in 1988, most copies are going for pretty cheap. Recommended for a light read. Amazon listing here

The Imposter's Daughter by Laurie Sandell (Finished 5/27/15). A compelling memoir of the author's relationship with her father. The author grew up idolizing her father, but later becomes alarmed by his, sometimes violent, mood swings and eventually learns as an adult that his entire life is a lie. The more she digs, the more she uncovers deceit and fraud. In addition to her father's background the author discusses her personal affairs and demonstrates how her father's behavior had soured every relationship that she had. A very good read. Buy it here

Parker: Slayground by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke (Finished 5/23/15). What is it about these Parker books that sucks me in? Simple and complex at the same time. Parker, whose getaway car crashes after a heist, manages to elude capture with his loot by breaking into an amusement park that is closed for the winter. But his presence does not go unnoticed - a pair of cops observed the job and its aftermath. But rather than pursue their suspect... they decide to go into business for themselves, with the help of some "business associates." Excellent and fun, I devoured this book in a day. I could not put it down. Get it here

Parker: The Score by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke (Finished 5/22/15): Parker becomes embroiled in a plot with a dozen partners in crime to pull off what might be the ultimate heist - robbing an entire town. Everything was going fine for a while, and then things got bad. Considered one of the best in the Parker series, it certainly is different for a crime novel. Excellent visuals by Cooke. I'm not a fan of splash pages, but there is one in here that is incredibly explosive. It blew me away Amazon listing here

Aunt Rachel's Fur by Raymond Federman (Finished 5/20/15). A sequel of sorts to Smiles on Washington Square. A postmodern novel (which means don't look for a straight-forward plot) of a man's return to France from America after 10 years and his reunion with a family he despises. His extended family having left him and his parents to be taken by the Nazi's while they dodged the Holocaust. His story is woven of fragments, branching out over a lifetime and capturing the alchemy of fiction and memory. An interesting tale if a person is looking for something different. Amazon listing here.

Parker: The Outfit by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke (Finished 5/13/15). A sequel to Parker: The Hunter. This time Parker is going after the organization, via guerilla warfare, the organization that he ran afoul of last time. Fast paced and loads of fun. This is among the best of Cooke's style, altering substantially between different sections, yet never losing the overall flavor of the book. a fun read. Buy it here

Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky (Finished 5/11/15). The long believed lost novel by the famous French writer. Only a fraction of this novel was found typed up by her husband before both of them were sent to Auschwitz, but the full handwritten version was found amongst her papers and published posthumously. In this text, middle-aged narrator Silvio recounts three interlocking stories of love and betrayal over two decades. These secret affairs, he says, can be explained only by fire in the blood, the intense passion that can overtake men and women when they are young, highly sexed and vulnerable. Read it! Amazon listing here.

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind by Gustave Le Bon (Finished 5/4/15) First published in 1895 the Crowd is one of most most influential psychological works on crowd mentality and reactions. There are certain aspects which one may consider sexist or racist (several mentions of the "Latin races") Still is an excellent resource for for the characterization of crowds or a look at the sociological mindset around the turn of the previous century. I'm sure any budding politicians would find it useful. Copies are available here

Every Girl is the End of the World for Me by Jeffrey Brown (Finished 4/30/15): This is an epilogue to the author's Girlfriend Trilogy (which I have not read- but it did not stop me from understanding or enjoying this text), detailing the day-by-day events of a three week run-in with five different girls. A fun book, very understated. Many people do not like his style of art which they call "childish", but I think it fits the subject matter here perfectly. On sale here

Parker- The Hunter by Richard Stark and Darwin Cooke (Finished 4/28/15) What does it say that I prefer the graphic novel version of this to the original text. Parker is a brutal sociopath who kills everyone in his way on a revenge fueled rampage in New York City. Set in 1962, Cooke's illustrations captures the look and feel of the time. Parker is not a likeable character. He is a professional thief and unrepentant murderer, yet still this novel grabs your attention and you being to root for Parker as he fights against an insurmountable opponent. Well done. Buy it here

Duplex Planet by David Greenberger (Finished 4/21/15). A really unique book. The author interviews a group of senior citizens at a retirement home where he worked a series of questions. The answers which will surprise you. The book, which promises cheap laughs, actually delivers a variety of strong emotions, and at the same time offers a balanced portrayal of aging that doesn't shy away from its more frightening aspects. This is one of the collections from over 100 issues of the magazine. Amazon listing here

Six Men by Alistair Cooke (Finished 4/15/15) An interesting look at six famous men that acclaimed journalist and Masterpiece Theater host Alistair Cooke crossed paths with and, in some cases, maintained friendships. Charlie Chaplin, Edward the VIII, H.L. Mencken, Adali Stevenson, Betrand Russell and Humprey Bogart. This is a deeply personal and fascinating look at this diverse group of individuals. A must read and, now, very inexpensive. Amazon listing here

Weapon Brown (Omnibus) by Jason Yungbluth (Finished 4/7/15). From the author of Deep Fried- one of my favorite independent comics. This is a hysterical, yet dramatic, bastardization of the Charlie Brown- Peanuts- comic strip. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Weapon Brown battles against the evil Syndicate who try and rule the wasteland with an iron fist. This story works on so many levels that it is incredible and contains several hundred references to other strips- from the beginning of the medium to the present. A perfect send up of the grim, gritty reboots dominating the movie industry today. It is fun deadpan humor. Highly recommended. Buy it here

A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of History's Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, and Popes by Michael Farquhar (Finished 4/3/15). A fun collection of stories of some of history's worst monarchs and popes. Not an in depth look, but a nice collection of vignettes and, as far as I can tell, accurate. What I do like about this book is that the author does mention differing opinions on certain historical events or motivations when they arise. Granted he does exclusively look at the bizarre and perverse, but that's what we really want. Right? Amazon listing here.

BAD: The Autobiography of James Carr by James Carr (Finished 3/21/15). A brutally honest work about James Carr's criminal career and prison activities. James Carr was a member of George Jackson's infamous Wolfpack, a prison gang turned to prison reform group. Murdered in 1972 by hired killers, James Carr takes an unvarnished and unapologetic look at life in prison- including his own involvement in gang rapes, shakedown rackets, race riots, and murders. He does not show remorse for his actions nor totally blame "the system" for his imprisonment. He shows no racist tendencies towards anyone, except when necessary in dealing with prison culture. While he started working with the left, he quickly became disillusioned and began to shy away. An excellent book and highly recommended. Buy it here

The Sanctuary by Nate Neal (Finished 3/16/15): Set in prehistoric times this novel deals with the inner struggles of a cave dwelling tribe and the origins of religion and art. For the novel Neal has created his own primitive language, but it in no way impedes the readers understanding of the material. A simple, yet complex, book it explores power vs. humanity, art, and communication in a unique experience. Highly recommended. Purchase here.

The Samurai's Garden: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama (Finished 3/13/15): Set in WWII Japan this book tells the story of a young Chinese man who is recovering from TB in a small Japanese village while his family hides away in Hong Kong. Over the course of a year, Stephen learns Matsu's secret and gains not only physical strength, but also profound spiritual insight. Matsu is a samurai of the soul, a man devoted to doing good and finding beauty in a cruel and arbitrary world. A very good and easy read. Buy It Here

Blacksad: Amarillo by Juan Diaz Canales(Author), Juanjo Guarnido (Illustrator) (Finished 3/7/15): Set in 1950's America a Jack Kerouac- type murders an antagonistic poet and steals a car which Blacksad has been tasked with driving. Blacksad is then implicated in the poet's murder after the body and his wallet are found in the crashed car. Blah blah blah. I'm sure you can Mad Lib the ending. The story feels like a retread from an old Mickey Spillane novel, but as usual with the Blacksad books, the art far outstrips the story. Once again Juanjo Guarnido has outdone himself in detail and style. Blacksad looks and feels like a real world with anthropomorphic animals. Get it here

Smiles on Washington Square (A Love Story of Sorts) by Raymond Federman (finished 3/4/15): A bittersweet tale of Moinous and Sucette who fall in love "across a smile" in Washington Square. It is a charming and complex novel. With the masterful ease of a tightrope walker, Federman plays with our sense of time and space as he creates, with extraordinary compassion, a tale that makes us see our own vulnerability and worthiness. See it here

Phoenix Square by Paul Barlow (finished 2/28/15): An interesting black and white graphic novel from Slave Labor Graphics. This 200 page book takes place in Chameleon Bay on the Yorkshire coast, in an eclectic collection of buildings in Phoenix Square which is host to a large amount of eccentrics and artists. Enter Troy, a young man reunited with his sister Lucinda for the first time, full of hope that he has found his family - little suspecting the betrayal ahead. From the recently discovered diaries of Troy comes this account of magic, superstition and sinister goings on. An interesting read if you can pick the book up inexpensively. Buy it cheap here

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown (finished 2/26/15): A graphic novel biography of the legendary wrestler. Andre Roussimoff was a normal guy who'd been dealt an extraordinary hand in life. At his peak, he weighed 500 pounds and stood nearly seven and a half feet tall. But the huge stature ( a condition called acromegaly) that made his fame also signed his death warrant. This is an unvarnished look at him and well worth the read. Buy it here

Eight Skilled Gentlemen by Barrry Hughart (finished 2/23/15): Volume three of the Master Li and Number Ten Ox series. The two others being The Bridge of Birds and The Story of the Stone. It was supposed to be a seven part series, but was (according to the author) basically forgotten about by the publishers after the publisher Hughart dealt with died. One would hope he continues it at least in ebooks. The story begins when a respected mandarin is murdered by a ch'ih-mei , a vampire ghoul, in broad daylight, the Celestial Master, the most revered Taoist priest in the realm, gives his old friend Master Li the case. See it here

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