Sunday, August 4, 2019

My Reading in July 2019

I read a lot of books in July. Of the fifteen books I read, ten were crime fiction, although one of the graphic novels could be placed in that genre and the nonfiction book I read was mystery reference. Two graphic novels, both very good. And two older straight fiction books.

Mystery reference

Hardboiled, Noir and Gold Medals (2017) by Rick Ollerman
The subtitle of this wonderful mystery reference book is "Essays on Crime Fiction Writers from the '50s Through the '90s." Rick Ollerman has written several introductions to omnibus editions of works published by Stark House, and he shares several of them here, along with other essays or articles written for his book. Authors covered include: Peter Rabe, Donald Westlake, Ed Gorman, James Hadley Chase, Wade Miller, and Charles Williams. An entertaining and informative book.


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) by Betty Smith
This is a well-known and enduring classic story of poverty in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn. The story of Francie Nolan, her parents, and her brother Neeley begins in 1912.  While reading When Books Went to War, I was surprised to learn of this book's huge popularity when distributed as an Armed Services Edition. I am very glad I finally read this book but I found it very hard to read.

Benighted (1927) by J.B. Priestley
This book is sometimes described as horror or psychological terror, but it is not very horrific. It is atmospheric and a good read. And short. Benighted was adapted to film by James Whale, as The Old Dark House in 1932. Introduction by Orrin Grey. My thoughts are here.

Graphic Novels

Aetheric Mechanics (2008) by Warren Ellis (Writer),  Gianluca Pagliarini (Artist)
This is really a graphic novella at only 40 pages. It is a wonderful mish mash of mystery (Sherlock Holmes style), alternate history, science fiction. The line drawings by Gianluca Pagliarani are lovely.
Ignition City (2009) by Warren Ellis (Writer),  Gianluca Pagliarini (Artist)
This could also fit right into the crime fiction section, although it is also science fiction. Mary Raven is a grounded space pilot who finds out that her father has died in Ignition City. She goes there to find out who killed him. Ignition City is a spaceport filled with thinly disguised versions of older space heroes.  I enjoyed this one a lot, even I didn't get a lot of the references. I was surprised that the illustrator was the same as for Aetheric Mechanics, since the artwork is completely different. 

Crime Fiction

Might as Well Be Dead (1956) by Rex Stout
This is a Nero Wolfe novel, published in 1956. The case starts as a search for a missing person, then later turns into a hunt for a murderer. This time Nero Wolfe solves the case from the brownstone, while  Archie Goodwin and the freelance investigators do the legwork. My review here.

Pearls Before Swine (1945) by Margery Allingham
This is the 12th book in the Albert Campion series, also published as Coroner's  Pidgin. This one is set in wartime London, towards the end of the war. Campion has just returned from years on an assignment, and gets pulled into a very strange case. My review here.

The Keeper of Lost Causes (2007) by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Carl Mørck has returned to work as a homicide detective after being on leave following an incident which ended badly, leaving him nearly dead. Another policeman was killed and the third was left paralyzed. Moerk feels guilty and responsible, has lost his  edge and is not keeping up with his work. His boss plots to put him in charge of a new department to follow up on high profile cold cases and use most of the funds for the new department to shore up the main Homicide area. This is the first book in the Department Q series, and was published in the UK as Mercy. Set in Denmark. Carl and his assistant Assad are both unusual characters and I hope to continue the series.

Allmen and the Dragonflies (2011) by Martin Suter
This is an unusual crime fiction novel set in Switzerland. Translated from German by Steph Morris. I enjoyed it very much. My review here.

China Lake (2002) by Meg Gardiner
Evan Delaney series, book #1. I bought this book because it was set in California and a large portion of it takes place in  Santa Barbara. I had also heard good things about the author. The book was a page turner but it was too much of a thriller for me and I had problems with the characters. I still have Mission Canyon, the 2nd book in the series, and Mission Canyon is the part of the Santa Barbara area that we lived in the first six years in California. So I am sure I will read that one too.
Broken Harbor (2012) by Tana French
The fourth book in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series features Mike "Scorcher" Kennedy, who had a minor role in Faithful Place, and his new partner, rookie detective Richie Curran. See my thoughts on the book here.

Colonel Butler's Wolf (1972) by Anthony Price
I had just purchased this book when I learned that the author, Anthony Price, had died recently, at the age of 91. This is the third book in the David Audley / Colonel Butler series, a cold war espionage series set in the UK and usually featuring some historical element (in this case, Hadrian's Wall). Colonel Butler was a secondary character in the first two books, but this book is told from his point of view. David Audley is the central character throughout the series, but each book is different and in this book he has a smaller although significant role. I am truly enjoying this series.
The Disciple of Las Vegas (2011) by Ian Hamilton
Ava Lee series, book #2. This book is similar to China Lake by Meg Gardiner, also read this month. Both books are thrillers, and focus on action and pacing. They both have interesting settings (at least for me). The difference is the characters. In The Disciple of Las Vegas, the main characters are interesting, professional, low key -- highly focused on the job at hand. I enjoyed the book throughout and look forward to continuing the series. However, I will admit to being bothered by some distasteful and graphic violence.
The Summons (1995) by Peter Lovesey
The third book in the Peter Diamond series, set mostly in Bath, England. The series started in 1991, and the 18th book was published this year. Goodreads describes Peter Diamond as "a modern-day police detective in Bath". In the early books he is most definitely not interested in modern day techniques, and I look forward to seeing how that changes. In this book, he has not been working as a policeman for a while, and Bath CID is forced to ask him to return to help with a case.
Dance Hall of the Dead (1973) by Tony Hillerman
This book was my introduction to Hillerman's series of books featuring Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. The first three books featured Joe Leaphorn, the next three books were focused on Jim Chee, and the remaining books were about both of them. This is the 2nd book in the series and I am glad I started the series here. This was one of my favorite reads this month.


Cath said...

Wow, you had an excellent reading month! A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is indeed hard to read but I loved it. Must read it again someday. Must also look into When Books Went to War again, I looked before and it was a bit expensive I think. Will keep checking, maybe look on eBay.

Margot Kinberg said...

You really did have an excellent month, Tracy! I always admire the way you sample from different genres and sub-genres.

TracyK said...

Cath, I stopped reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was getting close to the end, to take a break. Then when I came back it was much easier because I had stopped when a lot of things changed for the better. It was a challenging book for me but I am glad I finally read it.

When Books Went to War is a shortish book (lots of lists are the end that I have not read yet). So yes I would look for (or wait for) a better price.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Margot. Sometimes sticking with my mysteries is more comfortable though.

Bill Selnes said...

TracyD.: I have also read the books by Adler-Olsen and Hamilton.

I loved the first of the Morck series. I was not as excited by the second. I should read more to see where the series took Department Q.

The Disciple of Las Vegas is one of the earlier books in the series when intelligence is valued as much as violence. Some later books tip in favour of violence. The latest look to be reducing the violence quotient.

Nan said...

I agree about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I read it as a child, but could never read it now.

Rick Robinson said...

You should be able to find it at your library, Cath. That's where I got my copy.

Rick Robinson said...

You had another very good month! It was also When Books Went to War that finally got me to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I enjoyed it, and unlike you and others didn't find it difficult at all. I wonder why?

Yes, I really do have to find those graphic novels.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

I loved Smith's book, actually beautiful, I thought. I read a lot of mysteries, but I'm not familiar with any of your titles, so I'm going to check. I have several mysteries on my homepage: and 4 of my reviews for mysteries are on Criminal Element:

TracyK said...

I want to try more of the series by Adler-Olsen, Bill. I will be looking out for the next one. I will stick with the Ian Hamilton series as long as the characters keep me interested, but I do hope the violence doesn't get any worse.

TracyK said...

Well, I have a gorgeous hardback that I cannot bear to get rid of, so I will probably read it again, Nan. But I will read it slower then, since I know how it ends now.

TracyK said...

I do often wonder why we all have such different reactions to books, Rick. For some reason people having to go without food or struggling to feed their children upsets me more than some other hardships that I read about... but I cannot say why.

I did enjoy the graphic novels very much and just purchased another one by Warren Ellis. Like I didn't already have enough unread graphic novels.

TracyK said...

Thanks for those links, Emma, I will check them out. I see that you have reviewed Newcomer by Keigo Higashino at Criminal Element. My husband just purchased that book, but hasn't read it yet. We have read two or three by that author.

Rick Robinson said...

Well, they didn't starve, but were certainly very poor. That was the fact of their lives and I accepted it as part - a big part - of the story. But they were poor because of the time and place they were in, and so was everyone else there. The father's drinking bothered me more.

col2910 said...

Great month Tracy. I've only read Hillerman from your list of authors, but not that one. I have a few books by some of your others, none of which are close to the top of the TBR pile. I forget what I have in all honesty.

TracyK said...

Looking back my family did not have much money when I was growing up, RicK, but compared to this family we were well off. Of course, as you say, different times.

TracyK said...

I do that too, Col, and I haven't even cataloged the books I got at the last book sale. And for that reason, I hope I can keep my buying down during the sale.

Clothes in Books said...

Your reading is always so wide-ranging Tracy, I really admire that. I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I read it many years ago - I wonder what I would think of it now? I also like the film very much.

TracyK said...

I liked the book very much, Moira, but I wasn't prepared for how bleak some of it was. Coincidentally we just saw the film in the last week. Glen noticed it was on TCM at a time we could watch it ... that doesn't happen very often. I cried through almost all of it. (I do that when I know it will be sad.) Loved it though it left out a lot and changed some of the characters.