Monday, May 19, 2014

Again for the Defense: Mickey Haller

Reviewed by James L. Thane
Four out of five stars

This is another excellent Mickey Haller courtroom drama from Michael Connelly. As the book opens, Mickey is called to the L.A. jail to represent a pimp who is accused of killing one of the women he "represents" in a dispute over money. The pimp had booked a date for the woman at an expensive hotel. But the woman calls the pimp and tells him that there's no one in the room and that she has come home empty-handed.

The pimp admits going to her apartment and arguing with her, insisting that she was simply holding out the money on him. He even admits to putting his hands around the victim's throat, but insists that she was alive and well when he left her.

The cops believe they have an open-and-shut case, and when Mickey is called in, things are not looking good. They get even more complicated when it turns out that the victim was a former client of Mickey's. Mickey always had something of a soft spot for the woman, whom he knew by another name. He believed, mistakenly, that she had taken the stake Mickey gave her, left the life and started anew. He's embarrassed to discover that he's been played.

Mickey takes the case, and no reader will be surprised to learn that it quickly becomes even more complicated than it initially appeared on the surface. Even more surprisingly, Mickey's client may actually be innocent. Proving that, however, will not be all that easy and along the way, Mickey makes some very powerful enemies and may put himself and those around him in grave danger.

As always in a book by Michael Connelly, there's plenty of action, great dialogue and tension that builds to the proverbial shattering climax. The courtroom scenes are especially gripping and confirm Connelly's position as a major player in the legal thriller genre.

Saturday Night Dead: Buried SNL Stories Unearthed

Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL from Someone Who Was ThereThirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL from Someone Who Was There by Tom Davis
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Captivating for its often hilarious and, in the very least, entertaining stories about life as a writer for Saturday Night Live in its earlier years.

Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss is an autobiography of sorts, sketching out Tom Davis's life with a patchwork of details. Davis was Al Franken's long-time writing partner. The duo formed up early in their lives, working out bits that garnered them, if not fame and fortune, enough notoriety to attract the attention of SNL's producer Lorne Michaels.

Davis is a natural writer, so the book is interesting enough on its own, but once the stories featuring SNL alumni kick-in...that's when the good shit hits the fun-fan! There are plenty of oddball and incredible tales that many of the principles would no doubt rather weren't published. If you enjoyed the show in the 70s and 80s, this is for you.

Where Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss falters's in the title. Davis took a lot of drugs when he was young, not all of which were entirely beneficial, especially in relation to his current state of coherence. The latter half of the book gradually succumbs to his disjointed mind, as the stories flitter from one topic or time period to an entirely different one without the slightest segue or any seeming purpose. Occasionally a story ends for no apparent reason at all. At other times you're left wondering just how reliable Davis' memory is and how skewed the facts may be.

Even with all its failings, if you get through just half of this book you'll have consumed a chunky collection of prime-grade comedy.

Exposing Paul

Paul McCartneyPaul McCartney by Peter Ames Carlin
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Get Back To Where I've Never Gone.
I've read about the Beatles and I've read about Lennon, but I'd never read about McCartney, and I supposed it was about time. You see, because of bios and whatnot that I've read about Lennon, my boyhood idolization of him lost its shine. As a consequence, Paul's star rose subconsciously in my mind, and I knew that wasn't fair. It was time to level the playing field and Peter Ames Carlin's book steamrolled it.

I Should've Let It Be.
Paul McCartney has the reputation of an attention-grabbing, soulless popstar. Sure, the people say, he's written some catchy tunes, but Lennon's the one who pumped heart and soul into the lyrics. I knew the reputations (and I also knew to take some of that with a grain of salt), but what I didn't expect was the level of Paul's desire for fame: Paul to manager Brian Epstein, "If we all make it, that's fine. But if we don't, I'm going to be a star, aren't I Brian?" That sort of bare selfishness coming from a boy talking about his best mates makes it hard to stomach McCartney's attempts to portray the Beatles as all-for-one, four musketeers, blood-brothers for life. Everything's cool! Everything's groovy! We're all in this together! It wasn't and they weren't.

Take A Sad Song And Make It Sadder.
Death, tragedy, yes yes, the man's had it all and it's quite sad, but what really saddened me was Wings-errorera McCartney's attachment to the Beatles and Lennon. On the one hand it feels like puppy-dog, younger brother devotion to big dog/older brother figure John. On the other hand it stinks like a desperate man grasping to put it all back together, like a drunkard who's just realized his damaged marriage is all he's got.

I'm Happy Just To Read Of You
Icky, yes, this book makes me feel icky about Paul McCartney, but Carlin takes his digs at all four members as well as many in their entourage. But no, it's not all bad. I doubt I would've finished the book if it had been a cover to cover slam-fest of the man and all around him. The book just shows him worts and all. It's even-handed, almost journalistic. I hesitate to say it's completely unbiased, because Carlin clearly loves the music. He spends a great deal of time going over almost each song, especially during the Beatle years. Readers will find many pages worth of in-studio stories, as well as what they were thinking and going through while writing chart-toppers and life-alterers, those many three minute moments that have gone straight to the hearts of so many listeners. This isn't "my" music, I was born in '72, but The Beatles and post-Beatles songs were played heavily on the radio in my youth. I remember being about 4 years old sitting on an old area rug in the living room picking at the rubber matting underneath it through the foot-worn holes and thinking the lyrics to the song playing in the background, Band On The Run were actually "band on the rug," as in rubberband, the stuff I was plucking at. Oddly specific song, I thought. Regardless of my confusion (I've got it sorted now, thank you), the Beatles have played a major role in the soundtrack of my life, and I love them for it, even after reading this.

Come Together Ratings: 4.3
I'm struggling with the rating on this one. It was just about 5-star-enjoyable and it gave me everything I'd want out of a Paul McCartney bio, but still, I came away from the reading with a bad taste in my mouth. It's no fault of the author. Blame it on the doe-eyed manchild on the cover.