Once again, time and workload and life and laziness conspired against me. While my personal interest in writing these reviews has never entirely abandoned me, the end of April and all of May and – okay – early June saw me besieged by end-of-the-semester grading, pre-Writing Project Summer Institute planning (and the start of that institute last week), and a general malaise that always strikes in the lull between semesters. So: lots of reading, little writing. Here’s another of my by now patented omnibus reviews, where I reduce hundreds of pages of prose to one- or two-sentence critiques.
Before I do that, though, it’s worth mentioning that it’s now been nine months since I began the 21st Century Bookshelf Deprivation Project. In that time I’ve read 70 books, which leaves me with roughly 90 to go. At the six-month point I predicted I’d be finished around June 2016. I’m still on target to meet that, assuming I don’t get further bogged down in Clive Barker’s tedious Coldheart Canyon (but more on that in a day or two).
Ian Rankin – Set in Darkness. The 11th John Rebus book, this one is set during the founding of the new Scottish parliament and centers on the confluence of three seemingly unrelated events: the discovery of a body in a walled-up fireplace, a homeless man’s suicide, and the murder of a promising young politician. Typically gritty and awesome.
Jonathan Maberry – Bad Moon Rising. The best of a mediocre trilogy, this conclusion to the saga of an ancient evil residing in a Pennsylvania town isn’t great, but it is the first indication of how good Maberry would become with his subsequent Joe Ledger series.
David Peace – Nineteen-Eighty-Three. A typically pitch-black conclusion to Peace’s Red Riding Quartet, this book sees a resolution to the Yorkshire Ripper case, told in bravura fashion from three different narrators. Not for the faint of heart.
Elmore Leonard – Glitz. One of my favorite Leonard novels, it’s got all his usual tropes: dumb tough guys, smart ladies, dialogue that crackles, and a flawed protagonist that can’t get out of his own way. Breezy and fun.
Ian Rankin – The Falls. More of a straightforward mystery than we’re used to from Rankin, the 12th John Rebus book has the curmudgeonly detective investigating a series of murders with connections to Scottish history.
Will Self – Cock and Bull. Frequent readers of Self’s work will know what to expect. This pair of novellas is ballsy (literally), telling, first, the story of a woman who spontaneously grows a penis, and later, the story of a rugby player who grows a vagina behind his knee.
Jonathan Tropper – How to Talk to a Widower. I love Tropper, but I can see now how his schtick has grown thin. It’s not a bad book, but after six tales of aimless thirtysomething dudes who can’t get their shit together, it’s like, I get it.
Elmore Leonard – Pronto. The first (I think) of Leonard’s novels to feature U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, this one started strong, staggered in the middle (as the characters improbably head to an Italian villa), and finished with some of Leonard’s characteristically sly violence.
Irvine Welsh – The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs. The most bizarre of Welsh’s books (which is saying something), this high-spirited riff on Oscar Wilde somehow manages to combine the grime of Trainspotting with the central conceit of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Sherman Alexie – Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories. A predictably powerful collection of short stories that should be required reading for everyone.
Ian Rankin – Resurrection Men. Rather than decline into staleness, the 13th of Rankin’s John Rebus mysteries switches things up by transporting Rebus to Scotland’s police training college and embroiling him in a mystery featuring dirty cops and duplicitous gangsters.
The Teardrop Explodes – Kilimanjaro (1980)