Tommy Red

Tommy Red
The Progressive Killer

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Book reviews: Craig McDonald’s The Running Kind … Joseph Haske’s North Dixie Highway … Politics: The AfterBern …

The Running Kind by Craig McDonald … crime novelist Hector Lassiter is reunited with an old mate from prior adventures in the Lassiter series, Jimmy Hanrahan. It’s 1950 and too close to Christmas when Hector and Jimmy (a cop) are huddled indoors from an Ohio blizzard and a young girl approaches Hector with a plea for help. Her mom and aunt are in danger because one of them is a Cleveland mafia boss’s wife and the other his girlfriend (comare—pronouced Goomarr if you’re from the East Coast). Hector’s been having a few with Jimmy, but there’s no way he’ll deny the young girl’s request for help. A battle quickly ensues, which is the start of a cross country adventure that involves several notables, to include Elliot Ness and J. Edgar Hoover (and his G-men), still ambivalent about this so-called mafia thing (which is about to hit the television airwaves). There’s also an appearance by a young Rod Serling, and by adventure’s end, old Blue eyes himself, accompanied by the woman he couldn’t wait to own (and never would), Ava Gardner. Frank is there with a message from Momo (Sam Giancana).
As it turns out, the mom and comare have something on the mob boss and are looking to turn witness, which is a tough sell when there are so many in law enforcement enthusiastically on the mob’s payroll. It’s one treachery after another, until it becomes the safer play to head out of town. It is in Missouri where Hector, who’s already had a little fling with one of the two women (the mother or the girlfriend?), and winds up falling for the mother of the mother, as did this reader, has to draw battle lines.
It’s a raucous ride wherein Hector is eventually matched up against a hitman with a scary nickname and mad tracking abilities. Seems everybody is running in this terrific read, and one can only hope Hector can make it back alive for the life he’s often dreamed of, and with a woman he’s always hoped he’d fine.
It’s a start to finish thriller featuring honorable men in a dishonorable world of corruption. Hardboiled and ready to burst, with a wonderful touch of Americana and celebrities. One more from a wonderful series—a hell of a read.
An extra bonus (at least for me) was the dedication.
North Dixie Highway by Joseph Haske … This one quickly became one of my favorite reads of the year, and I look forward to this author’s future works. Buck Metzger is back from the conflict in Bosnia and he’s having problems with the changes that happened at home since he left. Sleep doesn’t come easy, even when he drinks himself into a stupor in his car. He’s haunted by a life he no longer recognizes, and he’s unsure of what his world is supposed to be now that he’s home—home being the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Home is as rural as it gets, except a lot colder in the winter. From an initial ride with family men to a casino where copious amounts of liquor are consumed and tiny stakes of coin are lost (a great touch because it shows just how poor these people are), we are drawn into an unforgiving world where steady employment has fled the scene, and living off the land and/or what swims in the river is more often a must than not. And booze, of course, there’s always booze where employment suffers most, and Buck’s people are no slouches when it comes to consuming alcohol.
Metzger’s story is told in flashbacks from his youth, with lessons learned from hard men living hard lives. It is family loyalty over all else, with whatever is necessary to maintain the code, be it feuding, drinking, and/or promises of revenge. Buck loves his family, no matter the makeup. He’s learned much from his grandfather, from survival skills to a code of honor that offers no excuses. He’s also learned much from his Vietnam veteran dad, including a cruel-to-be-kind slaughter of wild animals when they show up in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bear scene alone was worth the price of entry into this state of nature world that exists alongside and within two centuries of progress.
Buck reads to sustain his sanity, and although his friends and family can’t understand the point in doing so while living in a world where it seems to serve no purpose, it is a form of salvation for a man trying to find himself. The old family feud involving the death of his grandfather often consumes his being, but there’s a lesson learned in that dilemma as well.
Ultimately, Buck tells the story of his family and the community they live in, where cold-heartedness and compassion do not mix well. It is not a world devoid of compassion, however, and the men and women (women every bit as hard as the men), provide it in doses when necessary.
Comparisons to Cormac McCarthy and Daniel Woodrell are justifiable, although I was also reminded of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s wonderful works. There’s a special place on one of my bookshelves at Casa Stella for novels like North Dixie Highway, and Haske’s debut takes its proper place there. Simply put, it is a wonderful read, recommended and sent to me by Gonzalo Baeza. Haske’s debut novel is an intriguing read at least equal to the best of his contemporaries, to include McCarthy, Woodrell, and Campbell.
Feeling the Bern … Assuming Herr Drumpf survives the various investigations seeking to topple his never ending buffoonery, assuming he makes the Over in a 2 year Over/Under, what comes after Trump? Will there be a Trump II?
I’m afraid this is where progressives and/or socialists like myself are feeling the worst of the AfterBern. After the fiasco that was the 2016 Democrat presidential primary, with all that was exposed, and all that is being covered up in a Florida courthouse where former Berners are seeking restitution from the DNC in a FRAUD case for being robbed of our coin, we’re left wondering what might have been. Not if Sanders had won the nomination and then presidency. I’ve never been sure Sanders would’ve beaten the Clown currently occupying the White House, mostly because patriotism, with our collective ignorance, is an easy sell. What troubles those like myself most about the Sanders revolutionary retreat was the missed opportunity for a viable third party.
There’s no denying the strength of the Sanders’ influence in the political arena last year. His message woke up a population used to sleeping through the process, but his eventual capitulation to a party that rejected him to the point of cheating was something many of his new and old supporters have yet to digest. Sanders supporters were selflessly loyal, reaching into their own pockets to fund his campaign over and again, so when the Wikileaks dump exposed how unfairly his campaign was treated, and just how corrupt the entire process is, many Sanders supporters rejected his plea to back the establishment candidate. Some didn’t vote. Others voted Green. And some voted for her opposition. Protests votes all, but all very effective in rejecting Hillary Clinton.
What is most disconcerting about the Sanders capitulation is what might have been. Had Sanders joined the Greens, or went solo and formed a Labor Party, any third party, I’m pretty sure at least half of the 14 million who voted for him in the primary would’ve gone with him. At the very least, he would’ve had a place on the debate stage where he could’ve gone after both Clinton and Trump without DNC handcuffs. At the very least, there would be a viable third party to push forward now, when it is obviously most needed.
In retrospect, I have to believe he was never serious. His reluctance to be another Ralph Nader, what he’s stated, is a pathetic excuse for people seeking political revolution.
While none of us know what will happen down the road, so far the DNC doesn’t look any more interested in shifting to the left now as it did during their fake primary. Those who supported Sanders remain on the outs. Those who supported Clinton cling to the nonsensical Russian conspiracy as the reason for her loss.
In the meantime, Progressives like myself dig our heels deeper. There will be no more a compromise in 2018 or 2020 than there was in 2016. The DNC has retained its corrupt super delegate format, allowing lobbyists to vote alongside establishment politicians to overturn the voice of their own electorate. How does anyone stay with a party that ignores its voters?
Make no mistake, we’ll be around to remind the public how voters in several states might as well stay home come the next Democrat Presidential primary, when super delegates get to ignore wins as big as 12%, 22%, or 88% of the registered democrat voters within each state.
I offered a compromise the DNC so badly needs, but I suspect it too is in vain. Rather than exile Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, how about embracing her efforts to do the right thing during the primary and excuse herself from her co-chair position with the DNC rather than hand off debate questions to the DNC’s choice for nominee? How about one giant apology for the scathing letter sent to her by the DNC for her support of Sanders? (Thank you, Wikileaks.) How about backing off the attacks on Nina Turner (who would be my choice to reform the sewer that is the Democrat Party)? How about a Turner-Gabbard or Gabbard-Turner ticket? Do you really want to shatter glass ceilings? Well, there it is.
Pretty much everyone outside of Sanders sycophants feels as though the Bern left us scorched for all our efforts and coin. Bernie, while continuing his political revolutionary rhetoric, no longer retains our faith or support. We know Bernie talks a great game, but to many of us, he’s proved himself just another good democrat. We can only hope that people like Nina Turner and Tulsi Gabbard leave the mess that is the Democrat Party to establish a third party with the help of former Berners. We were generous with the Sanders campaign only to get doubly screwed. Many of us on the left have pledged to never give our money to any Democrat candidate again. Not while the party maintains super delegates and operates like a third rate, desperate, mafia family waiting for the other party to fall apart.
There’s nothing about the current Democrat Party that inspires. Leaving it seems the way to go, and with Hillary Clinton continuing her excuse/blame tour (currently having the nerve to attack the very organization that rigged the primary for her -- the DNC), it seems her latest round of "Me, Me, Me" will continue to tear the party apart.
RIP, Gregg Allman … The Allman Brothers Band …

Saturday, March 18, 2017

4 Book Reviews … Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayers … Rubdown by Leigh Redhead … American Static by Tom Pitts … and Hunger Knut Hamsun …


Before the reviews, TK regrets to inform its millions of followers that we’ll be taking a temporary break from Temporary Knucksline book reviews for a few months. I’m simply overwhelmed with projects of my own. We’ll do one from time to time, I guess, but please do not send requests or ARCS or books until we announce we’re back in action. Okay, so here are four real good ones in the meantime …

Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayers … Charles “Chowder” Thompson is a rural crime lord, a big fish in a small but secure pond. He has the local law, Sheriff Jimmy Mondale, on his side, along with a couple of cohorts, one of which is feeling ambitious enough to reach toward the bigger fish in the bigger Kansas City pond. Chowder has a daughter rough and tough enough to avoid like the plague. So does Sheriff Jimmy, and although his daughter might be able to spell, she’s also a bit wilder than your average college kid (she likes to fire a gun while getting laid).

Then there’s Terry Hickerson, a supreme fuckup if there ever was one. He also has a cohort, Cal, and when they two aren’t robbing liquor and/or convenience stores, they’re plotting the next great American score, except they may well have pulled one off already. It involved a televangelist preacher, his proclivity for men, and blackmail. Not to be outdone in the family bowl, Terry also has a child, a boy named Wendell, and the author waxes some very humorous parenting via Terry.

Then there’s the apparent gum in the works of a town that has run smooth enough, minus a body or two (including those found burnt to a crisp in their cars) … He’s an assistant state attorney looking to make a name for himself, and he’s rattled the main players on this wonderfully dark rural stage.

What’s a father to do when he learns his daughter has been sexually active with someone they’d rather see dead first? What’s he to do when he also learns his partner’s daughter might’ve had something to do with it?

No spoilers here … Peckerwood features excellent writing, humor, dark that makes so-called “noir” look more albino than black, and some of the most engaging characters you’ll meet on the page. They’re not just mean, cruel, and vicious. Truth be told, you’ll like them, or at least respect them, because they exist in a world where blood comes first, loyalty second, and everything and everybody else are what they sort out, the wheat from the chaff.

Side note: When I first started reading Peckerwood, I thought: These guys make the mob look like cub scouts. It had to do with a particularly brutal scene. By book’s end, I’m forced to reconsider my original thought about rural gangs vs. the more formal mobs. To wit, in the end, they’re all the same. Where they’re successful, corruption holds fast … where they breakdown is where corruption is exposed. The violence, like ISIS beheadings, may be tough as a visual image, but in the end, dead is dead. Whether your head is cut off, you’re burned to death, somebody cracks your skull with a tire iron or Louisville Slugger, or a pair of bullets find their way behind one of your ears, dead is dead.

Get Peckerwood here:

Rubdown by Leigh Redhead … In an age of political correctness that precludes bad habits when speaking and writing (and probably thinking), it was a pleasure to see the word “gash” on the page again. Now, before you lose your shit and hurl “misogynist book reviewer” my way, calm your jets and think context, MFers.

I remember the first time I used that word on the page after meeting my wife. She was horrified (Catholic school girl, you know) … She said to me, she said, “That’s horrible. Do people really talk like that?” Even though she was brought up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (not nearly as tough as Canarsie, obviously), Ann Marie kept her distance from the kinds of crowds I associated with, so she really did draw a blank. “Yeah,” I told her. “Not often, but it’s out there. It’s a niche word, I guess.”

Then she called me an idiot.

By now you’ve figured out Rubdown features said controversial word on the page. It does, and it was a pleasure to see it again. The fact it was used by a female author makes it twice as nice. There’s quite a few politically incorrect words bandied about in this fine, fast, and funny PI crime novel. There’s a touch of the master, Vicki Hendricks, and some wonderful surprises (as those down under words go). It’s another language at times, but easy enough to figure out, and because the character, Simone Kirsch, is a former stripper and doesn’t have much of a filter, it’s a beautiful thing.

The other take I had on this book was, FINALLY, I’m reading a crime novel written by a woman that deals with the kinds of worlds I’m familiar enough with NOT to be offended by so-called misogynistic dialogue. As I stated in a tribute to my favorite crime writer, George V. Higgins, the men AND WOMEN of those worlds (including the Rubdown world) speak another language and are NO LESS men or women for it. It is the Rome they exist in and the language, you better believe, is Roman.

I guess this was the second in the Simone Kirsch mystery series, but it works fine as a standalone. Simone has a PI boss named Tony (the tough as nails type) and they get involved in the search for a missing supposed-to-be debutante (of sorts). The daughter of a high profile lawyer (they call them barristers) is off the reservation, possibly dealing with drugs and the sex industry. Simone is on her tail, except not inside the flat where she apparently kills herself. There’s an ex-boyfriend and his frustrations at failing to get down Simone’s pants/skirt/jogging shorts, etc., and when his current girlfriend gets pissed off enough, well … it’s some of the fun that continues throughout, to include witty sarcasm, some strong sexual tension, and an Aussie-China sex trade connection. The characters that inhabit the sex industry are as sympathetic and/or disturbing as the well-to-do lawyers and their quirks. It always depends on from which angle you get to see them. Ms. Redhead does a GREAT job of making all the peripheral characters in this book interesting, which lends even more credibility to Simone. The fact she has a tongue as sharp as a razor makes it fun to boot.

The author does a wonderful job with the sexual tension (ready, fellas?) … turns out women have the same lustful desires as men, and Simone isn’t shy about them. She’s also fallible, so when she comes very close to being a victim herself, we get to remember she’s one of the good guys (so to speak).

No spoilers here, not ever, but take a bite of this apple and you’re on your way to an entertaining start to finish read. I heard Ms. Redhead read at the Philadelphia Noir at the Bar, and she had the place in stitches at times. She knows how to weave a storyline that draws a reader onto the next page through to the end.

Rubdown is a fast-paced romp through the sex trades of our times, with a dynamic woman armed with witty cynicism and oozing sexuality. Readers are guaranteed to want more of Simone Kirsch as the pages turn with both anticipation and fear. Viva la Ms. Redhead!

Get Rubdown here:

American Static by Tom Pitts … it’s a thriller from very early on straight to the end, with a sadistic SOB (Quinn), a former dirty cop (Trembley), and another former cop, a guy we’d all like to be our grandfather (Carl). When Quinn picks up young Steven after the kid was robbed and left for broke, he takes him for a ride to San Francisco, where the action goes 100 mph to the end. There’s lots of bodies left in a wake of bad blood, and it all has to do with revenge.

Theresa is the woman of the moment in American Static; the daughter of a bad guy[(s)?] with enough clout to make bad things happen. The top dog claiming parental rights is no father of the year, but for some reason he wants his daughter back. Is it because she’s become drug addicted and basically homeless? Is it because he seeks to re-bond with a kid he never bonded with in the first place? Or is it something else? Or is it a combination of all of the above?
Orrrrr, is it politics?
Let's face it, most politicians "would crawl over their mothers to fuck their sisters" (or vice versa). Okay, but what about why the other guys are after her (her non-fathers ... or are they)? What can this poor kid mean to so many mean sons of bitches? And poor Carl, he’s lost his friend and partner on this wild ride … Can Carl save him? Can Carl save Theresa and Steven? Can he save himself? You’ll have to read to find out, but you’ll take a wild ride from the valley to the streets of San Francisco and wind up in the bowels of Oakland. 

American Static is a missile on a rollercoaster of a ride, dripping with blood from blades through the hearts that are lost in San Francisco. You’ll turn the first few pages and won’t stop. It’s as simple as that.

Get American Static here:

Hunger by Knut Hamsun … It’s difficult to say exactly why this novel took me in and refused to let me go. Is it because I’ve gone through similar states of emotional confusion? Is it because my wheels have often turned too fast for the mind to allow rest (i.e., thinking taking the place of sleeping?) … Was it the good me countered by the bad me feeling guilty the good me wasn’t good for the right reasons and therefore was the bad me after all?

Confused? You might think so, but that’s how much of Hunger reads, minus the tirades, dizziness from lack of food, the vomiting from eating too fast after not eating for too long, etc. All I know is I read a book without a plot that I couldn’t put down, and I’ll likely read it again someday. My Facebook hero, Gonzalo Baaeza, recommended it, and it gets a super star review from me. There was more than a touch of Dostoevsky with our protagonist in Hunger, and the self-torture of a mind at battle with itself was every bit as real as caffeine headaches that last for hours (or days) at a time … but in a good way. In such a good way.

I’ll be revisiting Hunger again, but first I’ll want to read some more of what Hamsun wrote, and for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, before dying in disgrace for being a Nazi.

Get Hunger here:


Please Note: Temporary Knucksline will be taking a temporary break from book reviews for a few months while I catch up on some projects of my own. We’ll be back, so stay tuned …

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book reviews … McFetridge, Krueger, Kalteis, and Frankson … Cheatriots, Greatest Ever …

One or the Other by John McFetridge … Tensions are running high for the Montreal police a few weeks before the 1976 Summer Olympics. The law is expected to keep the peace for appearance/tourists’ sake, and do their jobs (not just for show). John McFetridge incorporates history, Canadian and world history, like nobody else. There’s some great references to the world that was (1976) throughout this third in a series of Eddie Dougherty mysteries. When a writer can get one to want to do some research on their own, whether it’s because what they just read is interesting or they want verification, it’s a win-win, both for the writer and his reader. McFetridge manages that big time (or is it Big League or Bigly?). Eddie is bucking for detective, and although he’s often put on cases as an acting one, he takes any opportunity to advance to heart. When the bodies of two teenage lovers are discovered on the banks of a river (St. Lawrence), the head honchos in the police department want it off the table as fast as possible. The best way to do that is label it a murder-suicide. Easy enough, except Eddie Dougherty isn’t buying it. Nor is his partner for the case, Sgt. Francine Legault of the Longueuil police (not to worry, I can’t come close to pronouncing Longueuil either). They work the case as best they can, with Eddie stretching the limits of his authority and proper police procedure while his partner (mirroring his girlfriend in many ways) prefers the up and up. Speaking of Eddie’s girlfriend … she’s the lefty, he’s the establishment in their give and take about where to live and when to marry and how much good having a bleeding heart can do in the real world, etc., and it all makes for interesting dynamics.

When Eddie and Legault are pulled from the case, they decide to work it nights/after policing hours, pissing off some of the upper echelon and other police districts. No spoilers here, but if you want a great sense of history, to include Janis Joplin, KC and the Sunshine Band, Idi Amin, labor on strike, an Olympic athlete or two looking for asylum, and the Baader-Meinhof gang, One or the Other is ripe with those bands, incidents, radical causes, and more. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, AMICI, a terrific read.

An Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger … This is a terrific read. Forty years down the road, after a particularly bad year (1961) in a small town in Minnesota, Frank Drum, a minister’s son, tells the story of the strange and tragic happenings of that awful year. It is wonderful writing start to finish, something I immediately passed on to my wife (and she’s loving it as well). The tragic death of a young town boy is soon followed by another death, albeit an itinerant nobody knows. Frank and his younger brother, Jake, discover the body of the itinerant and a Native American who they can’t be sure might’ve caused the death of the itinerant. There’s some small town prejudice against the Native American that is heightened because of a policeman who speaks before thinking. The Drums also have a daughter, Ariel, a virtuoso destined to attend Julliard in New York, but suddenly she’s no longer sure it’s what she wants. Mother Drum was once engaged to her daughter’s music instructor, Emil Brandt, a world class musician severely disfigured in the war. Ariel is also transcribing her instructor’s memoir and dating his nephew. Frank catches Ariel leaving the house in the middle of the night and returning in the early mornings. Where is she going? Who is she with? Father Drum, the minister, has a friend who lives in the church basement. Gus and Father Drum went through the Korean War together, and they hold secrets never discussed, although each went in a different direction after the war; Drum to the church and Gus to drink.

No spoilers, but this wonderfully written novel is a pleasure to read. It comes VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Ride the Lightning by Dietrich Kalteis … Karl Morgen is a bounty hunter. When he finds his prey, Miro, a drug dealer, having his way with an underage girl in Seattle, Karl goes a bit over the top and winds up losing his license. And of course Miro gets off with a suspended sentence.

Karl heads north into the wonderful world of Vancouver, process serving. Ah, Vancouver, “where people settle things with middle fingers instead of guns.” While in Vancouver, he meets his kind of woman, PJ. The two hit it off, but PJ has a daughter who can make one’s head spin, but for all the wrong reasons (like her allegiance to a knucklehead boyfriend).

His old nemesis, Miro, is involved in other drug dealing and wants to set up his old buddy Karl for the embarrassment of being dragged out of a bar (what caused Karl to lose his license). Miro wants a bit more revenge, especially since he’s having to work with people he hates.

It’s a double-edged tale of revenge, because Karl isn’t exactly happy being a process server and would love nothing more than to take Miro down on more time. There’s also an old time gangster, Artie, who prefers spending his waking hours roasting his balls on a beach, but he’s got the clout to do some damage. Miro and Karl want at each other. Artie wants to operate without the law on his back. Vancouver gets the rough and ready treatment, in a tale told by a voice very similar to Elmore Leonard. It’s a fun read with clever dialogue, lots of action, and an intro to that other foreign country on one of our borders (the one without the wall). A fun read, start to finish.

Dark Introductions and Party Girls by Martin J. Frankson … A series of short stories that take dark to a new level, invoking ironic humor at every turn of the page. “Dark Introduction” alone is worth the price of admission, and the stories that follow only enhance the experience. My favorites were “Meet the Parents” (Hannibal Lecter has nothing on this one) and “Stigma and Memory” (the perspective of a plant). You’re into dark, you’ll want to read these. Real good stuff.

Cheatriots, Greatest Ever … “The horror. The horror.” Yep, that pretty much sums up most NFL fans’ feelings about the Cheatriots’ absurd comeback in Super Bowl LI. How does a team with a 25 point lead blow the game? Easy, they get cocky and make incredibly stupid play calls (remember the Sea Pigeons?) … and that’s what ultimately cost Atlanta their Super Bowl win.

And the truth of the matter is there’s only one team in the NFL that could’ve pulled that off and they are (as I swallow humble pie) the greatest team in NFL history with the greatest coach in modern NFL history and the greatest quarterback in modern NFL history. If I had to assign a rating to the great QBs in NFL history, Brady would get the 10 and Montana and anybody else you want to put there starts at an 8. And, yes, there is a very valid argument that rule changes since Montana’s playing days dramatically help quarterbacks, but Brady has done it with different teams almost every time.

I can only assume that the Cheatriots are the karma for all my Hillary/DNC hating, and/or there is a God and she/he is making me pay for past sins via the Cheatriots.

They are the greatest ever … and now I hope they all get diarrhea.


Mozart’s Requiem for my hockey team? Oy vey …