I know a book worth two of that


Right now, it’s snowing here. I’m looking at the biggest flakes I’ve ever seen in my life. Bigger than Ritz crackers, I swear. None of it is sticking, though. The boy, he is disappointed.

It’s been a while since I wrote about the books I’ve been reading, mainly because even the meager writeups I do take a lot of brain space.

Last week I finished I Know a Trick Worth Two of That by Samuel Holt (Amazon.com). It was a light read (every book I pick up is a light read any more) but very satisfying. Sam Holt is the name on the cover, and it’s also the name of the protagonist in this first person mystery. In reality, it’s one of Donald E. Westlake’s pen names, but the conceit is a clever one. Holt is a former cop who fell into acting and played a detective on a TV show for several years. Now the show has ended and he’s rich, but can’t get another acting job because everyone associates him with Packard.

And when murders occur, folks turn to him to solve it, because hey, he’s Packard!

In this one, Holt’s old partner comes to him for help–folks are out to kill him, and Holt agrees to hide him in his house. Unfortunately, during a dinner party, his houseguest is killed. Holt knows that the murderer is one of his guests–one of his closest friends–but who? Can he find the killer without driving away everyone he cares about?

And you know what? It works. You get a convincing look into the life of a formerly successful actor, lots of great characters, an honest-to-Pikachu whodunit with clues and everything (I ignore clues–I’m terrible with them) and a denouement in which the protagonist calls all the suspects together to name the killer.

Fun! I’ve been such a book grouch, that I’m pleased to have found this one.

Then, there’s The Boys by Garth Ennis, (Amazon.com, Indiebound.org) a superhero graphic novel set in a world where costumed superheros are self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing assholes, and the characters of the title are a team of freelance government operatives who spy on them, collect blackmail material and generally show their hate.

The main baddies are a twisted version of the Justice League–reckless, violent jerks more concerned with their licensing rights than doing good. And the protagonists are the kind of depraved, cynical anti-heroes that so many comics creators seem to love.

There’s a lot that’s wrong here. It’s full of casual racism and sexism (want to know what the only female member of “the boys” is called? “The Woman. Nope, not kidding). It’s rife with the immature nihilism that defines so many “adult” comics. It’s got hate-fucking, prostitutes, drug use, boozing, and… um… doggie rape. All things I would hate in fiction.

And yet, it has an undeniable power, too. Not just in an “Oh John Ringo No” sort of way, but in the reader’s secret suspicion that, if we really did have people with superpowers, this is how they’d behave. And the story has a driving force to it that pulls me through all the annoying parts. Also, the audience stand-in character who gets everything explained to him? Modeled on Simon Pegg. I have no idea why that makes me happy, but it does.

Anyway, after I finished Volume 1, I added Volume 2 to my to read pile.

The snow has turned to rain. Too bad.

Currently, I’m reading The Bone Gardenby Tess Gerritson, which has so far not engaged me with all the misery and pus. On the graphic novel end, I’m reading the trade for The Middleman.