Wednesday, June 19, 2019

WHITE JAZZ BY JAMES ELLROY

White JazzWhite Jazz by James Ellroy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”All I have is the will to remember. Time revoked/fever dreams--I wake up reaching, afraid I'll forget. Pictures keep the woman young.

L.A., fall 1958.

Newsprint: link the dots. Names, events--so brutal they beg to be connected. Years down--the story stays dispersed. The names are dead or too guilty to tell.

I'm old, afraid I'll forget:
I killed innocent men.
I betrayed sacred oaths.
I reaped profit from horror.
Fever--that time burning.
I want to go with the music-spin, fall with it.”


Lieutenant Dave Klein is in the middle of so many treacherous situations that the spread on whether he will live to see 1959 is carrying long odds. The only way he might live that long is if he is in jail awaiting trial, but even then powerful people, like the gangster Mickey Cohen or the Chief of Detectives Edmund Exley, better be convinced his lip will stay buttoned or something most sinister will happen to him before he ever gets a chance to flap his gums.

He’s got a lot to talk about.

”Killings, beatings, bribes, payoffs, kickbacks, shakedowns. Rent coercion, muscle jobs, strikebreaker work. Lies, intimidation, vows trashed, oaths broken, duties scorned. Thievery, duplicity, greed, lies, killings, beatings, bribes, payoffs, Meg--”

I’d like to tell you that Klein is an innocent, caught up in the machinations of a corrupt system, and that he is crusading to do the right thing, while trying to work the ends against the middle and the middle against both ends, but the truth of the matter is, he is as morally corrupt as the city he is paid to protect.

You need a witness tossed out a window? Call Klein.
You want a rival neutralized? Call Klein.
You need an illegal payoff dropped off? Call Klein.

Klein is a most resourceful young man just trying to make enough money to finish law school.

Some of you may have noticed the mention of Meg at the end of his list of sins. She is his business partner in a block of rentals. He is head over heels lustful in love with her. The problem is, incest is a sin, and my, my, my does Klein want to sin, sin, sin with his sister Meg.

So the trouble begins when Exley calls in Klein to investigate a burglary of a “sanctioned” drug dealer’s house. The guy’s name is Kafesjian, and his illegal activities are fronted by a string of dry cleaning stores. It doesn’t take long for Klein to realize that the story surrounding the Kafesjian burglary has a lot of sordid intrigue attached that goes well beyond the parameters of what he is supposed to be investigating. Exley, you remember Exley from L.A. Confidential, has made it clear that anything regarding Kafesjian is not to be touched. In fact, don’t even turn the rock over to start with.

As if Klein doesn’t have enough to do on his plate, Howard Hughes, yes that Hughes, calls him up and wants him to find a girl. It seems one of his actresses, Glenda Bledsoe, has gone off the reservation, and her contract with Hughes gives him exclusivity on what films she can work on, and he had her sign a morality clause as well. What? Hughes has someone sign a morality clause? Most actresses in Hollywood of the 1950s had to resign themselves to the fact that, sooner or later, they were going to be summoned to Hughes’s estate to service the beast.

Well, Klein doesn’t exactly follow Hughes’s instructions because he falls in lustful love with Glenda, which frankly proves a nice change of pace from the mooning he has been doing over his sister.

Feature:”Tall, lanky, honey blond. All legs, all chest--a grin said she never bought in. A little knock-kneed, big eyes, dark freckles. Pure something--maybe style, maybe juice.”

That “never bought in” part is what really drives Klein crazy. She isn’t an innocent, but yet there is something untameable about her that allows her to feel free to give Hughes the double middle finger salute. Klein doesn’t need to be made any more insane, but this woman is going to put another layer of care on the mound of unsavory deeds he can’t find a hole deep enough or big enough to bury.

Klein even gets caught up in the ongoing feud between ex-partners Edmund Exley and Dudley Smith. He has to play Exley and Smith and rely on their natural high levels of paranoia to keep them from realizing that Klein isn’t playing either one of them straight. One thing he knows is that Exley is the Wyatt Earp of Los Angeles. Whenever the gunfire has ended and the smear of accusations have been wiped off the wall, as the smoke clears, Exley will always be the last man standing.

Don’t bet against Exley.

The plot is, needless to say, convoluted with shotgun splattered sentences and what I can only describe as scat speak. James Ellroy takes us into Klein’s head, and what we get isn’t necessarily cohesive sentences, but broken pieces of thoughts, sometimes unfinished. Yet they convey the tortuous twists of guilt and fear that is wrapping around Klein’s brain tighter and tighter with every new revelation, with every new indiscretion.

I read quite a few hardboiled books a year. I don’t know why, but I always seem to get a hankering for them in the summertime when my blood runs hotter anyway. I have to say that there is no one working in the genre today, or maybe ever, who brings a more realistic view of the sordid underbelly of society. In fact, Ellroy makes other writers look almost naive about the extremes of human nature and the true motivations that make people into brutal, self-destructive, untrustworthy, shameful versions of themselves. If you were in trouble in Los Angeles in 1958, you didn’t call the LAPD because you might end up needing to be saved from them.

Hush hush, keep these SINsations on the QT.

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

The charming "Kingdom of Exiles" by Maxym M. Martineau is a winning fantasy




“Kingdom of Exiles” by Maxym M. Martineau is a captivating fantasy with interesting characters, good world-building , magic, and a brooding romance that heats up over time. Leena is a Charmer, with the rare magical gift to enchant magical animals and monsters.  She is in exile from the Charmer homeland of Hireath. A victim of an unscrupulous member of the Charmer Council.  She is forced by circumstances to sell her captured monsters, a crime in Hireath. She is in the midst of such a sale, when she is accosted by a member of the Cruor, a group of undead assassins, hired to kill her by someone from Hirearth.

 Used to bartering in the world outside of Hirearth, Leena barters with Noc, the male guild master of the Cruor; she will give four assassins a magical beast in exchange for their termination of the assassin contract.  It’s a good bargain, but as with any bargain, it’s the unwritten rules that get you, and Noc holds back a major catch, that unless Leena dies, he will die.

The story alternates between Noc chapters and Leena chapters so we get two perspectives of the action.  Leena’s charms as a Charmer and a woman soon come to captivate Noc and the other members of the assassin group, and Noc is soon entranced. Leena is running from her demons, an evil Charmer, who used one of Leena’s monsters against her, but Noc is running from death, his death and the death of countless others, caused by a curse that he bears, that even dying and being reborn as a Cruor has not vanquished.

Martineau’s depiction of the magical forces in the novel shines.  The Cruor have magic, the guild leader can revive dead people and once a member of the guild, the assassins can become shadows, vanish and reappear, and move incredibly fast. Noc, has his own powers as well.  However, Martineau powers up the appeal of the novel with her magical creatures, who come alive on the page. Form the amorphous Iky, a short timer from the beast realm, but an invisible creature able to grow limbs and become solid to the Gyss, a magical creature, who grants wishes but claims a powerful penalty for each.

But the story is not limited to Leena’s creatures. There are some cool battle scenes.  Leena ability to discern which creature will suit each of  the assassins on the quest and gifting of them. There is also the budding romance between Noc and Leena.

Noc, however is looking for his own beast, because he wants the curse lifted.  But Noc does not want to love Leena because of his curse, but he cannot kill her because of his attraction to her and hope that he can lift the curse. 


For a book about a quest with assassins, they come off as honorable and likeable. It is Leena’s past that catches up with them and Leena and Noc will have to join together to defeat the evil Charmer bent on torturing Leena into submission.

This charming novel should be on your short list for the summer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

SWAN SONG BY ROBERT R. MCCAMMON

Swan SongSwan Song by Robert R. McCammon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”The sky was filled with waves of moving, blinking stars. Wheels of light rolled across the darkness over the trailer court, and streaks of yellow fire zigzagged upward into the haze that obscured the moon. Thousands upon thousands of fireflies were passing overhead like galaxies in motion, their signals forming chains of light that stretched from west to east as far as Swan could see.”

 photo apocalypse_zpsbn5ibjzt.jpg

It would be pretty, right? All those missiles streaking across the midnight sky. The end of the world wrapped in the gossamer of sparkling, awe inspiring enchantment. Once the guidance system tells these glowing tubes to descend to the earth, they explode into these nearly perfect, cylindrical, fiery mushroom clouds that reach for the sky.

”It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”---R.E.M. (Oddly enough that song was released in 1987, the same year as this novel.)

Well, maybe not so fine. I’ve had debates about end of the world scenarios. People talk about what they would do to survive, but my hope is to be at ground zero. I like culture and civilisation and don’t really want to scramble about in a Mad Max world. Of course, if by some chance my book lined ivory tower were to survive, I would really appreciate it if someone would drop off a bit of food and a bottle of red wine occasionally.

Josh Hutchins, a world weary professional wrestler known as the Black Frankenstein, is on his way to Garden City, Kansas, for a match when the world decides to end. Someone would think that Kansas would be a good place to be for a post apocalyptic event, with its small population and lots of desolation. It would be my state of choice, especially for a zombie apocalypse, for those reasons and the fact that the horizon goes on forever in every direction. Line of sight, right? From my tower window I can see those lurching, slobbering brain eaters coming from miles away.

Unfortunately, there are strategic military reasons why the Russkies would want to blow up Kansas, and they have more than enough of these glowing tubes of destruction to wreak havoc in every state of the Union. Josh finds himself, after the fallout, the guardian of an orphaned nine year old girl, whose trailer trash name is Sue Wanda, but fortunately, she has been nicknamed Swan.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Well, try having an apocalyptic event, and you will find out.

Now Swan is a very special young lady, and as she grows up over the next seven years, her natural affinity for growing plants evolves into something quite spectacular. “‘Everything can think and feel, in its own way,’ she replied, and she looked up at him. The eyes in her young face were very old, Josh thought. ‘Bugs, birds, even grass—everything has its own way of speaking and knowing. Just depends on whether you can understand it or not.’”

Josh, in the midst of all this destruction and hardship, has had his own epiphany about life. ”Josh opened his fist and drew his arm back. The insect kept going, out of the light’s range and into the darkness on its purposeful journey. Who am I to kill such a thing? he asked himself. Who am I to deliver death to even the lowest form of life?”

Swan, you see, can bring apple trees back to life. She can plant corn seeds in infertile, radiated soil and make it grow. She is the most important human being on the planet, and there are people looking for her.

There is Sister Creep, well not as creepy as her name would imply, is seeing visions and knows she must find Swan to give her something she will need desperately in her coming battle against pure evil.

There is Colonel Macklin who, with the help of his teenage henchman, Ronald Croninger, has built what they call the Army of Excellence (AOE) and are marching across the midwest killing all who refuse to join them and stealing the food and supplies of everyone they encounter. Assimilate or perish.

There is one creature more insidious than Macklin and Croninger and their whole army combined. You can call him Friend, *shudder*, or The Man with the Scarlet Eye, or The Man of Many Faces, or if you want to try to think of him as something more human, you can call him Doyle Holland. He knows he has to destroy Swan because she is a beacon of hope amongst the chaos. “‘Hope hurts me,’ he said. ‘It’s a disease, and you’re the germ that spreads it. We can’t have disease at my party. Oh, no. It won’t be allowed.’”

So what is Doyle exactly? He isn’t a man. A demon? The devil? He can shape shift, manipulate, control minds. He takes credit for all the chaos and evil in the world.

Doyle can feel the power of Swan, and she can feel his weaknesses. It is an unsettling meeting. ”He blinked uncertainly, and in his eyes Swan saw fire and savagery, a core of pain past human suffering and so furious that it almost ripped her own heart to shreds. He was a scream wrapped up in straw, a little, weak, vicious thing gnashing inside a monstrous facade. She saw what he was made of, and she knew him very well.”

Swan is also suffering a radiation inspired malady, as are many people, that is called a Job’s Mask. ”Her head was covered by gray growths that had begun as small black warts, had thickened and spread over the passage of years, had connected with gray tendrils like groping, intertwining vines. The growths had covered her skull like a knotty helmet, had enclosed her facial features and sealed them up except for a small slit at her left eye and a ragged hole over her mouth through which she breathed and ate.” They can feel their faces shifting under the growths. (view spoiler)

The epic post-apocalypticThe Stand by Stephen King was published in 1978, and this novel was published in 1987. Some could say Swan Song is an ode to King; some will say it owes a lot to the King novel, and some would say they enjoyed The Stand more. I have read The Stand recently, and I must say that I enjoyed Swan Song much more. The writers chose different ways to destroy the world. It doesn’t really matter what destroys civilization the point of post-apocalyptic stories is what the writer makes of the wreckage and hopefully the redemption. King had his religious prophets, and McCammon had, for me, a much more compelling character in an earth goddess trying to lead humanity back on the path to civilization. I liked the plotting and flow of Swan Song better than the plot devised by King for The Stand.

They are both epic length novels each weighing in at around 1000 pages, but for me Swan Song was more smooth sailing than The Stand. I read Swan Song extremely quickly, in just a few days, while I lingered over The Stand for a couple of weeks. In this heavyweight bout, the winner is…Swan Song in the glowing green trunks.

May there really be an earth goddess among us waiting to save us from ourselves.

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Sunday, June 9, 2019

Car Crashes & Other Sad Stories

Mell Kilpatrick
Taschen Books
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary


An incredible and utterly unique historical document. This book contains selections from the photographic collection of one Mell Kilpatrick, a news photographer from South California who relentlessly pursued his profession during the 40s and 50s, capturing images from the plentiful crime scenes and in particular automobile collisions that came his way. Kilpatrick was an obsessive witness to the effects of the post-war explosion of car culture in California, and through his lens he repeatedly viewed the fatal consequences of speed. technology and reckless abandon. His work might have remained lost and unknown, sealed away in his locked darkroom, untouched since his death in 1961, if it hadn't been brought to light by collector and dealer Jennifer Dumas, who found the 5,000 negatives and realised she'd stumbled upon something very special. Although he covered other 'stories' apart from crashes, including shots of everyday life in the small towns he visited, it is the roadside images that dominate the collection. They are an unsparing archive of human tragedy. Picture after picture unveils yet another tableau of disaster with infinite variations -- the fragile shells of cars collapsed and upended, corpses hidden or fully revealed, stoic cops and laughing bystanders dealing in different ways with the reality of sudden death. It is this combination of the banal or ordinary and the appalling horror of the moment of impact that makes Kilpatrick's work a fascinating experience.


My Review


While this disturbing and unpleasant book is far from my favorite Taschen books, I can’t give it less than 4 stars. The black and white photographs are mostly of car crashes that occurred in southern California in the 1940’s and 1950’s. While some photos just show the demolished car, others show the twisted, lifeless bodies that will never again enjoy a car ride. The other sad stories referred to in the book’s title are murders, suicides and pedestrian deaths.

It’s a truly gruesome find, yet there is an artistic, evocative quality to many of the photos. Mell Kilpatrick started his career in 1948, photographing evidence for insurance companies, as well as car accidents and crime scenes.

One of my favorite photos in this collection is of a young man with a bloodied face and wrapped in a blanket sitting by his totaled car while what appears to be his parents are standing on either side looking down at him with stern expressions. Mom’s hands are akimbo and dad’s are in his pockets. Behind the car, there is a police officer and curious onlookers.

When I was no longer able to look at the corpses, I focused on the other details in the photos – the car wrecks, the empty beer cans strewn in the back seat, the laughing teenagers, the shocking lack of safety features in cars.

I would have liked more details about the photos other than street names. Maybe knowing the names and ages of the victims would be too much, but I’m kind of morbid like that.

Even though lap and shoulder safety belts were around in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I was never forced to wear them as a child and my mom always refused to wear them for fear of wrinkling her clothes. My brother and I loved the freedom of sliding side to side in the bench seats. It was easy to crawl around on the floor, open the windows, or even snuggle up next to the rear window. Little did we know we were riding in a death trap.

This is definitely not for the squeamish, and certainly not a book I’d leave laying around for my guests to look at.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Steven Kotler's "Last Tango in Cyberspace" meandering plot dooms this near future thriller




Steven Kotler channels his best William Gibson, in the new sci-fi thriller “Last Tango in Cyberspace”, which plot centers on corporate greed, drugs and eco-terrorism. Unfortunately, Kotler does not completely pull it off.   One problem is the meandering plot.  Marketed as a thriller, one could wish for more action.  Instead, Kotler overindulges in a veritable smorgasbord of near future predictions. From a deep dive into marijuana variants that only Seth Rogan could understand to bar code branded people to vegan people who are eating grown cultured beef, the novel is full of ideas about the future.  And some are interesting. There is a deep dive into animal rights and why people should be more protective.  But Kotler tries too hard to fit some of them in.  And Kotler also seems to have a fascination with “Dune”, the Frank Herbert, magnum opus, which will play a significant role in the story.  Even the title is cited several times in the text, as if the author is trying to convince the reader that the novel is about cyberspace, when in reality it’s mostly about drugs and the cyberspace connection is merely a loose tie-in.

Judah “Lion” Zorn is an “empathy tracker”, who is able to discern emerging trends in society. Sir Richard, who runs Artic Pharmaceuticals has hired him to track down the leader of a cult, who may have information about a new drug about to hit the market. The drug helps with autism, so Artic’s motives may be good.  The problem is that the new drug increases the empathy that people feel for others, including animals. So a noted hunter, who may have taken the drug, is found dead, his head mounted like the other prey he killed on the wall of his trophy room.  And there may be cross interests at work. Jenka, who works for Arctic is in charge of “special creatives” is involved. His assistant Penelope, is also a player, who will become more important to Zorn as the story progresses. The Cult leader will be met on the way but missed but then found again.  Arctic Pharmaceuticals motives will, in the best cyberpunk tradition, to be grey at best.

I found the novel to be a slow slog. It does pick up in the second half, but there is still too much meandering around. There are many sharp science fiction speculative ideas in the story, but digging out the nuggets is not worth the time to discover them. Kotler can hold your interest, but there is better fare out there.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

PROUST'S OVERCOAT: THE TRUE STORY OF ONE MAN'S PASSION FOR ALL THINGS PROUST

Proust's Overcoat: The True Story of One Man's Passion for All Things ProustProust's Overcoat: The True Story of One Man's Passion for All Things Proust by Lorenza Foschini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”At the ball, Marcel Proust sat down in front of me on a little gilded chair, as if coming out of a dream, with his fur-lined cloak, his face full of sadness, and his night-seeing eyes.”--Marthe Bibesco

 photo Proust by Cocteau_zpskoc3wr8o.jpg

Jacques Guérin was a man of elegance and charm. He made a fortune from the perfume business, showing a savvy mind for marketing, for anticipating shifting market trends, and for outmaneuvering his competitors to gain market share. He was a very successful person if we are weighing people on a capitalist scale.

Being a perfume baron didn’t make him interesting to me, not in the least. Now Guérin the collector of rare books, manuscripts, and fine things, that was a man I found to be fascinating. Guérin was a Proust fanatic, but he also appreciated and supported other writers. In fact, he gave Jean Genet safe haven on more than one occasion when he was down on his luck or just emerging from prison. I loved the way Genet described his friend and benefactor. ”There is no better way to express my gratitude than by proclaiming the joy I feel in knowing a reader for whom fetishism is a religion.”

Guérin had met Proust’s brother, Dr. Robert Proust. The meeting did not go well. It was only after Robert died that Guérin found himself caught up in a desperate struggle between the widow and the remaining possessions of the great Marcel Proust. She despised her connection with a man who was unabashadely homosexual, wrote such extravagantly embarrasing books, and showed such disregard for the bourgeois way of life. Mrs. Robert Proust wanted to destroy or sell everything in her possession that had once belonged to Marcel. Backyard bonfires destroyed numerous notebooks and letters. Inscriptions were ripped from books. It was enough to bring anyone who loved literature to their knees. A malicious assault like this on the ephemera of a writer denied all of us those glimpses of the man behind the words.

Guérin was determined, through begging and with satchels full of cash, to save what he could. It was interesting how vehement stances might be based on moral issues, but that money almost always softened the fervancy of the need for punishment/destruction.

The author Lorenza Foschini was not only telling us the story of Guérin, the foremost Proust collector, but also of her own search for Proust’s fur lined overcoat. ”If I try to imagine Proust. I close my eyes and see him covered in his dark coat, as he was so often described by those who knew him. Reading In Search of Lost Time, I can only visualize the Narrator swaddled in his otter-lined overcoat.” Proust was sickly and spent most of his time in bed, writing, writing, and writing some more. He was determined to capture all his memories in exquisite detail before the Grim Reaper, who had been resting a chin on his shoulder his entire life, could finally collect his soul.

This was about a collector, a fur lined overcoat, and a writer who died with very few possessions, but who left us with a treasure trove of his wonderfully composed thoughts.

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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Dark City


Sarah Kay Moll
NineStar Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



Jude has a tender heart. Yet he was born into a criminal empire and groomed from childhood to step into his father’s violent footsteps. To survive, he created a second personality. Ras is everything Jude isn’t—cruel, remorseless, and utterly without fear, as incapable of love as Jude is of malice.

But when Ras meets a ruthless socialite, he begins to feel a strange stirring of emotion, a brush of Jude’s passion against his own dark heart. Meanwhile, Jude finds himself with a knife in his hand, the evil in Ras’s soul bleeding into his own.

As the walls between them crumble, they could lose everything—their lovers, their family, and their hold on the dark city itself.

Coming together could break them…or make them whole.



My Review



Sarah Kay Moll is a new author and I’m really glad I took a chance on her first novel. The enticing cover suits this stylish and romantic crime story perfectly.

Dark City is dark, as a story about the Russian mafia should be. Jude, the youngest son of a powerful crime boss, is a gentle and sensitive soul. In order to cope with the violence in his world and fulfill his father’s expectations, he creates Ras, a second personality who can perform those brutal deeds the gentle Jude cannot.

I liked the structure of this story. It jumps back and forth between Jude’s complicated relationships with his family, particularly with his father and older brother, his childhood and the incidents that led to the fracturing of his mind, Ras’ work with the syndicate, and their two loves – the ruthless and ambitious Scarlet who has a great deal in common with Ras, and Ash, the kind-hearted prostitute and drug-addict Jude wants to take care of.

There is a vibrant cast of characters, many of them damaged and unlikeable, but certainly not one-dimensional. The beautiful and vivid descriptions of Jude’s city bring it to life in such a way that it also feels like a character in the story.

Dark City kept my attention from beginning to end. It is a character-driven story that explores Jude’s conflicting feelings about his abusive father, who in his own way loves Jude and wants the best for him, and the rivalry between his older brother, Eli.

If I say any more, I’m afraid I’ll go into spoiler territory, so I’ll stop here. Can Jude/Ras be whole again? Can mafia bad boys have a happy ending? You’ll have to read it and see for yourself.

Though this is an imperfect story, it is a brilliant first effort. I’m honestly surprised at the negative reviews, though I attribute that more to what readers expect from a certain genre rather than the quality of the story. Dark City may be too dark for those looking for a romance and is too sweet for those looking for a crime novel. For those looking for something a little different, you can't go wrong. I am confident that Sarah Kay Moll’s next novel will be a winner.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Age of Legend

Age of Legend (The Legends of the First Empire, #4)Age of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The war rages on until it reaches a stalemate. Persephone tries to forge a peace only to see her ambassador betrayed and taken captive. An unlikely group seeks a legend in order to save their friend.

Age of Legend is an enjoyable book, but I just don't see how they could end it where they did. Worst of all it caught me completely off guard because I was only 86% of the way through the book according to my Kindle. I can't believe I have to wait another year at minimum to learn what happens next. That just kills me.

Age of Legend has all the usual style and substance of Michael J. Sullivan. Excellent world building and thrilling plot points. I also love so many of the characters. They just complement one another so well. Persephone takes a major back seat as this book is largely carried by Brin and Tesh among others. The devotion between characters is truly touching as well.

Age of Legend is a great book even if I'm disappointed with the cliffhanger ending.


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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

PIMP: THE STORY OF MY LIFE BY ICEBERG SLIM

Pimp: The Story of My LifePimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“A pimp is happy when his whores giggle. He knows they are still asleep...all whores have one thing in common just like the chumps humping for the white boss. It thrills ‘em when the pimp makes mistakes. They watch and wait for his downfall.

A pimp is the loneliest bastard on Earth. He’s gotta know his whores. He can’t let them know him. He’s gotta be God all the way.”


 photo Iceberg Slim_zpsi2b4vujw.jpg
Iceberg Slim

Iceberg Slim, AKA Robert Beck, attends Tuskegee University until he is expelled for selling bootleg liquor. What are the rules for capitalism? Supply and demand. During the ludicrous prohibition, he is merely supplying the liquor that his fellow students are demanding. This is only the beginning of his life as a capitalist who always seems to be on the wrong side of the law. ”Why did Justice really always wear a blindfold? I knew now. It was because the cunning bitch had dollar signs for eyeballs.”

Justice is only for rich, white people.

I would have more sympathy for Iceberg Slim, trying to find the best way to hustle, if he hadn’t been such a brutal asshole. The world has never been a fair place, and the rules are never applied evenly. A banker can write a loan and front load all the interest, but a loan shark who does the same thing is breaking the law. The pharmaceutical companies can make trillions pumping out drugs to a population who doesn’t need them, but if a drug dealer does the same thing, he goes to jail. At 18 years old, Iceberg Slim, then known as Young Blood, decides to become a pimp.

I had someone make a point to me recently that, by making prostitution illegal, we are depriving women of a means of making a living. Again, we are a capitalist country, and yet women can not legally supply the demand for sex by taking money for providing a service. Women can have all the sex they want for free, but they risk jail the minute they ask for a fan of C notes in exchange for it. Isn’t that anti-capitalism? So if the morality is about women having sex out of wedlock or not for reproduction purposes, isn’t that happening right now all over the world in bedrooms, back alleys, bar bathrooms, backseats of cars, no tell motels, the boss’s desk at work, golf greens, back rows of movie theaters, etc., etc., etc.? By making it illegal, we also give jackasses like Young Blood the opportunity to impose his will on women to go out in the streets and hump for him.

If a woman leaves one abusive pimp, there is always another one waiting to take his place. It seems to me, we need to make prostitution legal, and just like the current battle for women’s reproductive rights, boot the men out of the equation...well, except for when they want to exchange their cabbage for getting their pipes clean. Men should be customers only.

Making prostitution against the law didn’t make it go away. So who is the customer for a young, black whore looking to score some scratch?

”A lot of them are clean-cut high muckty mucks in the white world. Some of them show me pictures of beautiful wives and cute children. It makes me feel greater than those white bitches living in soft luxury. Those white broads got Nigger maids they laugh at. They think we ain’t good for nothing but clowning and cleaning. It would give them a stroke to see their trick husbands moaning and groaning and licking between a black whore’s thighs.

They coming because those cold-ass white broads in Heaven ain’t got what these black whores in Hell got between their legs. Black and low as I am. I got secrets with their white men those high-class white bitches ain’t hip to.”


Oh yeah, there is demand alright.

First thing Iceberg needs is a whore, and after being made a fool of more than a few times, he finally meets a woman who fits the bill. ”Through the blue mirror I zeroed my eyes in on the target. My ass bone starched on stiff point. Her big peepers were two sexy dancers in the velvet midnight of her cute Pekingese face.”

Runt, as he calls her, is frequently difficult to control. She has opinions. She has demands. Since she is humping all the money for this enterprise, she even thinks at times she should have a say in how the business is conducted. She even threatens to leave. The first line of defense for a pimp is to use psychology. The most important rule of pimping is to find out the life story of every whore under his control. Convince them of the dangers of navigating the streets without his “protection.” Use everything you know about her to undermine her confidence in herself. If psychology doesn’t work, he must move to verbal threats, and if that doesn’t work, he grabs the nearest coat hanger and whales the living shit out of her. She’ll be out humping on the streets again before the heat from the stripes he lays in her flesh has cooled.

Iceberg Slim says he has had over 400 whores working for him at various times, no more than a few at one time, but it just shows that the streets burn them out or they just plain got tired of Slim’s shit. It must have been a relief for many of them the times Slim went down for a hitch in the joint. For all his hard work, Slim never seemed to achieve his ultimate dream, to be like Sweet Jones. ”A gleaming black custom Duesenberg eased into the curb in front of me. The top was down. My peepers did a triple take.

A huge stud was sitting in the back seat. He had an ocelot in his lap dozing against his chest. The cat was wearing a stone-studded collar. A gold chain was strung through it.

He was sitting between two spectacular high-yellow whores. His diamonds were blazing under the streetlight. Three gorgeous white whores were in the front seat. He looked exactly like Boris Karloff in black-face.”


That sounds more like a freak show at the carnival to me. Who’d want to be that?

 photo Iceberg Slim 2_zpsyn7iipm4.jpg

By the time he hits his 40s and he is doing another jolt in yet another steel casket, he realizes that his time is up. Pimping is a young man’s game, and he can’t stack no more time behind bars. He turns to writing his life story in the 1960s, and Pimp is the first of several books he publishes. His influence on gangsta rap is undisputed. Several films have been made based on his books. Most of his reading audience are black initially, but as word got out, his readership continues to grow. I’ve always wanted to read Iceberg Slim to experience the colorful vernacular of his writing style. My peepers were often popping out of my head over his poetic use of street slang. There is a glossary in the back if his meanings are not immediately apparent.

”Scottish author Irvine Welsh offered that ‘Iceberg Slim did for the pimp what Jean Genet did for the homosexual and thief and William Burroughs did for the junkie: he articulated the thoughts and feelings of someone who had been there. The big difference is that they were white.’"

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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Seventh Inning Stretch


J.M. Snyder
JMS Books
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



Every year, a local hospice hosts a charity baseball tournament played by four gyms in the Richmond area. This year, the gym where Matt diLorenzo works is chosen to compete. When Matt misses another staff meeting because he’s “busy in bed,” his co-worker Roxie signs him up to captain one of the gym’s two baseball teams. The first person Matt plans to recruit is his lover Vic Braunson -- who somehow gains superpowers from their lovemaking -- and those superpowers will definitely help out on the field.

Unfortunately, the gym has segregated their teams into staff and members. Matt works at the gym; he heads the staff team. Vic, a member, is asked to play on the members’ team.

Disappointed, Matt suggests they abstain from sex for the next week to avoid giving Vic any powers that might help his team win the ballgame. But before long, Matt discovers that keeping his hands to himself is easier said than done. And when the two teams face off against each other, he finds it almost impossible to keep his mind on the game.

Through the mental connection they share, Vic picks up on Matt’s lustful thoughts. They ruin his concentration, and threaten to throw the game. Matt wants him, badly. So Vic corners his lover in the locker room during the seventh inning stretch to find out just what Matt has in mind ...



My Review




Seventh Inning Stretch is fifth in the Powers of Love series. Matt and Vic are fast becoming one of my favorite couples. Their telepathic ability is strong and enables them to avoid the communication problems that exist in other relationships and forge a deep bond.

When Matt is a half hour late to his job at the gym and misses a staff meeting, he learns that the gym has been chosen to compete in a charity baseball tournament and he is the captain of one of the teams. Unfortunately, the teams are broken up into “staff” and “members”, so Vic will be unable to play on Matt’s team.

Matt suggests they abstain from sex so that Vic doesn’t have an unfair advantage in the game. Matt is not too thrilled about playing against Vic and even though he suggested abstinence, a week is just too much.

I loved how Matt used their psychic ability to thwart Vic’s concentration during the game. Who knew Matt had such a competitive streak?

This was a funny, sexy and very enjoyable story.