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A friend of mine recently read this 87th Precinct book, and because he knows how much I love Ed McBain he was asking me about it, and for the life of me I couldn't remember if I'd read it or not, it didn't sound at all familiar. I don't own it, and I couldn't find any record of having checked it out from the library (what, you don't keep all your library receipts so you know what you checked out back in in June of 1995? I can't be the only one who does that). But I didn't keep great records for a few years, so I might have borrowed it and don't have the receipt. Or maybe I never read it, it certainly didn't sound familiar. It was a good story: a popular TV personality drops dead while on the air. He was poisoned, a very specific, fast acting poison he would have had to ingest within just a few minutes of dying, only he was on camera and no one remembers him taking anything in that time frame. It's actually a cheerful thought that there are Ed McBain's out there that I haven't read yet, I hate it when a favorite author dies and I know I won't ever get to read anything new.

 First up, "Dreamland" by Sam Quinones. How did black tar heroin from a small town in Mexico become the drug of choice among middle and upper class white kids in the heartland of America? Such a thing seems impossible. Quinones deftly explains how the invention of a time release opiate known as Oxycontin in the mid-1990s changed how physicians prescribes opiates. Believing that the time release aspect would keep people from becoming addicted, doctors began prescribing Oxy in record amounts. Of course people became addicted, and because black tar heroin was cheaper, plus the drug dealers pushing it became adept at figuring out a delivery system, more and more people switched to heroin. It was shockingly scary to read.
Michael Koryta's latest was very good, taunt and suspenseful. Jay Baldwin's wife Sabrina is kidnapped, and Jay is contacted by a man named Eli Pate. Eli is described as a cross between Charles Manson and Nikola Tesla. Pate tells Jay if he cooperates and helps him bring down a massive power grid then Sabrina will be returned to him unharmed. Meanwhile, in Florida, Mark Novak is trying to find the man who murdered his wife two years earlier. Mark and Jay's stories intertwine in the Montana wilderness.
It doesn't feel like Larry Hagman has been gone that long, but it will be four years in November. Wow. I was such a fan, I loved "Dallas" (I got to take a trip to Texas in 2005 and visited the actual South Fork Ranch. It was awesome). I read his autobiography a few years back and enjoyed it. On his deathbed, his daughter Kristina recounts how he begged for forgiveness, only she couldn't figure out what he needed forgiveness for. She tells her story in this tribute to her dad, growing up with the always drunk and high Hagman who loved nothing more than to be the life of the party, the center of attention. While it's clear she loves her parents, she also made no excuses for their poor behavior that often put her and her brother at risk. It was a quick read that makes me want to go back and rewatch "Dallas" :)

I love Coco Chanel. I read a biography about her years and years ago, so I don't remember much about it. Gortner's fictionalized account of her life was well done, fun and interesting. What an amazing woman, she revolutionized women's fashion forever. She led a very inspirational life, working hard to achieve all she had, although to be fair she had help from male admirers. I'm a No. 5 girl, and if you don't know what that means I feel sorry for you :)

I finished two books this weekend, neither of which was what I was expecting but they were both good. "Wicked Boy" by Kate Summerscale was about Robert Coombes, a thirteen year old boy who killed his mother back in 1895 while his father was away at sea. He and his younger brother, Nattie, lived with her corpse for 10 days in the heat of summer until the smell finally led neighbors to investigate. Robert was found guilty of his mother's murder but insane and sent to a mental hospital. He lived there for 17 years and was released in 1912. He moved to Australia and ended up serving with distinction during WWI. He returned to Australia and by all accounts led a quiet life, farming. He never married, but he did become a sort of guardian to a young neighbor boy whose stepfather beat him. I was expecting more of a true crime sort of aspect, which wasn't really there. It was still quite interesting and I enjoyed it.

Everything I read about Chris Offutt's book made it sound like he didn't know his father wrote pornography until after he died, so I was expecting more of a book about how Chris came to terms with learning such a big secret. However, it turns out he knew, he grew up knowing that his dad wrote porn. Andrew Offutt sounded like a highly unpleasant man: he was controlling and obnoxious, liked to drink and verbally abuse his four kids and his wife. He had legions of fans who loved his bondage porn, which Andrew turned out at a fantastic rate. It was all right, it wasn't as good as I'd hoped but it had interesting bits.

I grew up watching "The Twilight Zone", I loved that show. I looked forward to the marathons on Thanksgiving (I still do, actually, even though I usually watch football all day). Anne Serling, Rod's youngest daughter, paints a loving picture of her father who worked hard and played harder. He was a prolific writer, he always seemed to have some major project going. Hard to believe he was only 50 when he died. What a shame. I cried when she talked about how devastated she felt after his death. He was definitely one of the good ones.

Model Home

"Model Home" by Eric Puchner has been on my "to read" list for years, and I finally got around to it. I'm glad I did, it was a quick read and darkly humorous. Warren Ziller moved his family to Southern California from Wisconsin in the mid 1980s, and they're living above their means in a private, gated community. Warren has lost all their money in an investment scheme gone bad, and he's dreading telling his family. He finally does, and then a terrible accident nearly kills his oldest boy, Dustin. Dustin is left badly disfigured and in need of constant care, while the Zillers' home is destroyed. They move out to the desert into one of Warren's failed model homes by a toxic dump, and what was left of their family quickly unravels. Bad luck and bad choices seem to plague the Zillers no matter how hard they try. But there were glimmers of hope throughout that kept the book from being a complete downer.

"The Song of Rhiannon" is the third book in the Mabinogion series by Evangeline Walton. Manawydden, King Bran's brother and the last surviving child of Llyr, has no desire to return home and see his cousin on the throne, so he accepts Prince Pryderi's invitation to come home to Dyved with him. Once there he starts a romance with Pryderi's mother, Rhiannon. Pryderi and his wife Cigfa and Manawydden and Rhiannon live peaceably until one night a strange storm wipes out all of Dyved, leaving only the four of them living. They set out to find a new home, trying their hand at various occupations, having to leave town when they upset too many people. It had a happy ending, though, which was nice after the sadness of the second book.
"Faulkner and Film" mostly put me in the mood to read more Faulkner :) It was an interesting collection of essays from the 2010 Yoknapatawpha Conference, which is held annually in July. One day I'll get to go. At any rate, several of Faulkner's novels have been made into (mostly terrible) films, and he worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood for almost a decade. God, he was so brilliant. It's amazing to me that fifty some years after his death we still find things to discuss about his writing and his impact on culture.
And finally, "The Girls" by Emma Cline. There's been huge buzz about this book, Cline got a seven figure advance for her debut novel. So I was expecting brilliance. Instead what I got was...well, it wasn't bad. It was so *earnest*. I don't know how else to say it, she just seemed to be trying way too hard. And the similes! Oh my word, every sentence. "His mouth hung open like the trunk of a car". "Her hair was skanky like a hedgehog" (I'm paraphrasing, because I don't have the book right in front of me). She compared everything to *something*. After awhile I was just rolling my eyes.
The story itself was interesting enough: about a young girl who finds herself in a Manson like cult. Right off the bat, though, the protagonist claims that from the minute we're born, women are at a disadvantage merely by being women. That during the teenage years boys are busy learning how to be themselves while girls are busy learning how to be attractive to boys. She clearly doesn't like men (the main character, Evie, not Cline. I don't know how Cline feels about them). She talks about being leered at by older men when she was a teenager and being groped, touching inappropriately, and wearily explains that it's just the fate of being female, we all go through it. Um, no we don't. I've had some truly wonderful male friends, especially back when I was a teenager. So that definitely put me off. It was a bit disappointing. I probably would have enjoyed it more if it hadn't been hyped up so much. Oh well.

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