Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Books, Books, and More Books

From the cluttered desk and deteriorating mind of Paul Levine...

Some people read one book straight through, then go on to the next. ">Maybe it's my Attention Deficit Disorder, but I hop from one book to another and back again. I sample writers' work by reading a few chapters, sometimes for pleasure and sometimes to learn.

How far into the story is the inciting incident? How many characters does the writer crowd into one scene? Where does Act I end? Is the story fresh? Are the characters distinctive and real? Are the plot twists logical? In crime fiction, has the writer played fair with the reader? Is there any glimmer of humor? Is character development woven smoothly into plot (and vice versa)? Do the characters talk like real people? How's the pacing? Does the writing pack punch? And of course, how are the sex scenes?

So, here's what's on my desk and nightstand:

BOOKS I'M READING AGAIN: "Thy Neighbor's Wife" by Gay Talese; and "On Writing" by Stephen King.

BOOKS I'M READING FOR RESEARCH: "Havana Nocturne" by T.J. English; "Sins of South Beach" by Alex Daoud; "Cuban Miami" by Robert Levine and Moises Asis; "Tough Jews" by Rich Cohen; and "Tropical Deco" by Laura Cerwinske.

BOOKS I'M READING FOR PLEASURE: "Blue Heaven" by C.J. Box; "The Winter of Frankie Machine" by Don Winslow; "Between Meals" by A.J. Liebling; and "The Palace Thief" by Ethan Canin.

BOOKS I'M DYING TO READ: "The Human Disguise" by James O'Neal, so titled apparently because his alter ego James Born is in the Witness Protection Program; "Strong Enough to Die" by Jon Land; and "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

So what are you guys reading, or have just read, or must read before you die?

IN OTHER LITERARY NEWS: Alaskan stud muffin Levi Johnson, the unemployed high school dropout who is the father of Bristol Palin's love child, has hired a lawyer to shop his memoirs.

ARE WE A NATION OF FATTIES OR WHAT? On this week's New York Times "advice and how-to" bestsellers, six of the top ten are diet books, including number one: "Cook Yourself Thin" by the staff of Lifetime Television. Yummy.

IS JAMES BORN "INTRIGUING?" In the current issue of Florida Magazine, our James Born was selected as one of the 21 Most Intriguing Floridians. I know what you're thinking. Florida must be a very boring state. At least the magazine didn't try to tell us that Jim is:
THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD: That title belongs to the suave gent in the Dos Equis commercials.


All joking aside, it's a great honor for our Jim, who, like the Don Equis man, leads a life so interesting, he lives vicariously through himself.



  1. Here in Sopchoppy, FL, we wouldn't mind seeing Jimmy Born in one of those cop/firefighter calendars, showing some skin.

    But then we auction off prize bull semen at the county fair, too.

    Helen B.

  2. Currently reading/read: "Women of the OSS: Sisterhood of Spies" by Elizabeth P. McIntosh; "Nancy Wake: SOE's Greatest Heroine" by Russell Braddon; "Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War 1941-45" by Leo Marks.

    Want to read really soon: "Hardboiled Hollywood: The Origins of the Great Crime Films" by Max Decharne.

    Want to reread: "On Writing" by Stephen King.

    Should be reading for reasearch: "Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America" by Paul S. Martin; "After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America" by E.C. Pielou.

    Would really, really rather be sinking my mental teeth into a new Jacqueline Winspear, James O'Neal, or other toothy crime fiction.


  3. I'm reading History Begins at Sumer by Samuel Noah Kramer...hmnp...i'm not even sure why I haven't stop reading it yet...it so...


    I'm dying to re-read the Harry Potter books. Hopefully I can get them soon.

  4. Congrats to James O!!!!!!

    I'm reading Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear.

    I read Frankie Machine and almost every other book written by Don Winslow. He is an accomplished writer with a unique narrative voice.

    A memoir by studmuffin Levi? I think I'll pass.

  5. I would vote for Mr. Born as the best public speaker in Florida. He is a really good teacher.


  6. James O. Born6/09/2009 11:02 AM

    I love Sopchoppy.

  7. Isn't sopchoppy a stew with gator meat and swamp cabbage?

  8. Oddly enough, I AM reading "The Human Disguise" by whatsisname.

    I'm also reading "His Excellency" a biography of George Washington.

    Then, setting aside the 4 or 5 magazines and 4 newsletters (at least) that I'm buried under, I'm looking forward to reading:

    Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton
    Step by Step by Lawrence Block
    The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
    Shockball by SL VIehl
    Walking Dead by Greg Rucka
    Dead Silence by Randy Wayne White
    The Chaco Meridian by Stephen Lekson

    and pretty much everything else that passed under my radar screen.

  9. Does this mean there are only 23 people in Florida?

  10. James O. Born6/09/2009 3:19 PM

    Someone needs to fess up to the last comment. That's good.


  11. Oddly enough, Jim Born is also 21st on my list of the most interesting people I know.

    What I'm reading? Beast of Burden by Ray Banks.

    What Marianne's list has inspired me to read: Women of the OSS.

    What I'm reading for work: Classroom in a Book for Flash CS4.

    Next up: The Fortune of War by Patrick O'Brian.

  12. From Jacqueline

    I'm in the midst of reading some great books about California, written in 1913/14 (that'll get you thinking), a book about the relationships between Kaiser Wilhelm, George V and the last Tsar of Russia - cousins all. I'm about to start Isabel Allende's new memoir, and I have a raft of books about the British secret service in the Second World War on the go. I'm also reading up on the Festival of Britain in 1951.

    And if I don't meet my fast-approaching deadline, I could be reading instructions on how to apply for welfare, which is why all of those books are currently languishing waiting for me to go back to them with some serious reading intentions.

    Also, had to drive up to the Bay Area from Ojai today, so was listening to "Here, There and Everywhere," a great memoir written by the sound engineer who worked on Revolver and Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club albums by the Beatles. It's really, really interesting, and this from someone who never thought she would find the language of sound engineering compelling.

  13. Jacqueline, if you ever need reference books for the SOE/OSS during WWII, I've got a good few on my book shelf. :-D

    David, it's a fascinating read. But Leo Marks 'Between Silk and Cyanide' is riveting in places.

    Love reading this stuff. :-D

  14. I'm reading Like Water For Elephants and love it.

    I think all of you naked authors are intriguing. Don't top for the summer again.


  15. Lil, I LOVED Water for Elephants. Many people don't realize this but it's a murder mystery that isn't revealed until the end. I was blown away by the conclusion.

  16. Marianne,

    Please, plase, send me your list of reference for the OSS WWII. I would be in your debt.

  17. Just finished reading Andrew Grant's debut and Caitlin Kittredge's first book in her new series.

    Now I'm reading the upcoming Susan Hill, "Vows of Silence" I believe is the title.

    Then on to John Connolly's "The Lovers", because I'm WAY behind in my reading.

    But I do so love my homework for my job! Not nearly enough time, I'm afraid!

    I wish I did have more time, though, because I'd go back and read all the David Eddings work. I understand he just passed away, and that saddens me no end.

    Yawn to Levi, but Big Congratulations to Mr. Born!

  18. David, dearest: I have more SOE than OSS, sorry to say. But the Women of the OSS book I'm currently reading quotes from myriad memoirs that are all footnoted in an index at the back. You could add to your list of wanna reads from that. :-D I have some vintage memoirs from SOE.

    The recent books - including the Nancy Wake copy to replace my lost vintage one - all came from Foyles bookstore in Charing Cross Road in London. Their military section is to die for, and they have a great memoir section. I spent a scant 20 minutes there before closing one night, and came away with four books...

    I have to compile some information and anecdotes for Highgate Cemetery as my grandad in law is buried there and had some WWII experiences as a chef in London during the blitz. Highgate was interested to add to their info on interesting internees.

    Will dig out some info for you, David, if I can...