I’m having a good time taking the summer off from writing, though I can feel the itch starting to grow behind my right ear. Reading goes on year-round. Here are my favorite reads for July.
Shadow of the Dahlia, Jack Bludis. Bludis is another one of those writers I’ve been aware of for a while. When an interview in Allan Guthrie’s Criminal-E blog activated the Kindle Impulse Purchase section of my brain, I downloaded a copy. Bludis does a great job of catching post-war LA without going to the extremes that sometimes make reading James Ellroy a chore. The murder here may be related to the famous Black Dahlia killing, but is buried by the media attention afforded the Dahlia. A few shovelfuls of dirt may also have bee thrown by people who draw enough water to keep a story like this hidden, even without the Dahlia case to hog the headlines. Toss in a mob boss who wants the PI protagonist to find a husband for the boss’s daughter and the story is seamy enough to hint of Ellroy without making you feel as though you should shower afterward.
In Defense of Flogging, Peter Moskos. I discovered Moskos through his first book, Cop in the Hood, that tells of his year-and-a half working a sector in the Eastern District of Baltimore. He currently teaches criminal justice at John Jay College in New York. In Defense of Flogging is a thought-provoking book, the central premise of which is that our current system of incarceration is broken and has to be fixed. Moskos isn’t advocating flogging, but uses it to start a conversation Americans badly need to have.
Big Numbers, Jack Getze. Getze does an excellent job of taking a sleazy stockbroker, making downright criminal, and still make you root for him. Austin isn’t as bad as the events in Big Numbers force him to be if he wants to continue to have visitation rights for his children, but he doesn’t fight all that hard against him, either. By the end no one is sure who wants him dead more. This is the kind of story Carl Hiaasen could write the hell out of and sell a bazillion copies if it had a Florida developer angle to play with. Getze has a Jersey stockbroker and pulls it off well enough for Big Numbers to deserve more attention than it has received.
Shit My Dad Says, Justin Halpern. The popular series of tweets turned into a book is better than expected. More than just a series of shit his dad says, Halpern writes brief chapters to give some context to what his father has said over the years. This is both good and bad, as things an elderly man says to a grown child can be entertaining, while the same thing said by a father to a ten-twelve-thirteen-year-old boy make him look like a prick. The last chapter goes a long way toward redemption, and the book is pee your pants funny in spots.