Books

The Snatch (7/10) by Kyle Vernier

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I bought this at a used bookstore in Pittsburgh, PA when Audrey and I visited there recently.  I'd never heard of the book or the author, Harold R. Daniels, before. I liked the cover art and the fact that it was a paperback original so I bought it. 

There are some rather suspenseful moments in The Snatch. The story sort of interweaves and overlaps the stories of the three characters as they go about planning and committing a kidnapping.

There isn't a ton about this book or author on the internet, but it seems he was a technical writer who moonlighted as a crime novelist. I like to read things like that. I'm a technical video editor and producer and most of the people I work with aren't working their dream jobs. They work in a corporation using their creative skills on projects that can be less than inspiring. So in their free time many pursue some sort of greater creative outlet. Seems like Harold R. Daniels was just the same sort. 

For more information about Harold R. Daniels and his work can be found here: http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=971

Vacationland (10/10) by Kyle Vernier

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I read this book in a single sitting. I loved it. 

If ever I met John Hodgman it would be so hard for me to remember that we are not best friends and that, in fact, we have never met before. Some people have such a straight line on your own sensibility that is it hard to not feel like you know them personally. But I don't know John Hodgman, I just know that I truly enjoy his work. I'm not really sure what I'm getting at here. I just know that when I put down Vacationland I felt that strange, dizzy, reflective, connected feeling and I loved it. 

The Criminal (8/10) by Kyle Vernier

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I have my friend Matt Wright to thank for introducing me to Jim Thompson. He gave me a copy of Savage Night as a gift probably 10 years ago and I've been a Thompson fan ever since. Finding a Jim Thompson novel I haven't read on the shelf at a used bookstore is always a small thrill. 

Anyhow, The Criminal is short, even for a Jim Thompson novel. Really is it more of a novella. This might be the most pessimistic novel of Thompson's I've ever read. It is sort a Rashomon style look at the rape/ murder of a teenage girl. Chapters alternate the point of view and inner thoughts of the different characters (which Tom Perrotta did well in his novel Election, which is a great book and movie). Every character is deeply flawed, and really no one seems to care that a young girl was killed. They just care about how that fact intersects with their lives. Bleak stuff. 

The Space Merchants (8/10) by Kyle Vernier

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The Space Merchants is a sci-fi classic about an advertising copywriter, Mitch,  in a future where advertisers essentially rule the world. The lowest classes, consumers, scim proteins off scum ponds to feed a giant ever growing blob called Chicken Little. Chicken little is constantly having chunks sliced off its body to be used as meat.  Mitch is eventually caught up in s double cross linked to the Consies, a conservationist organization who the corporate world view as terrorists, and a competing ad firm. 

The Space Merchants feels a lot like Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano. Also it was clearly a huge inspiration for M.T Anderson's Feed. 

The Dain Curse (****) by Kyle Vernier

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I've now read all of Hammett's novels. It isn't a huge feat, there are only five. Still, it was fun.

I don't think this one gets enough recognition. The structure is weird. Probably because it was serialized before being printed as a whole novel. But it kind of has it all; ghosts, religious cults, bumbling police, mad scientists, diamond thieves, a girl with elf ears. Everything. I liked it.