Death Wish ★★★★★

deathwish (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Death Wish
Series: ———-
Author: Brian Garfield
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Psychological Fiction
Pages: 192
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Paul Benjamin is a successful accountant in New York City. One afternoon his wife and married daughter are attacked in Paul’s apartment and savagely beaten. His wife dies and his daughter ends up in a sanitarium, insane for all intents and purposes.

Paul has always been a good guy. He’s done charity work for prison reform, contributes to causes left and right and thinks that if he obeys the rules that Society will protect him. With the attack on his family this delusion is ripped away and Paul must confront what living in a big city really means.

As he mulls these thoughts over, he begins to change. He realizes he has been afraid and he is now going to stop being afraid. But how does one stop being afraid? By taking responsibility for ones self is the conclusion Paul comes to.

On a business trip to the Mid-West Paul has a one night stand with some stranger at his hotel. When she leaves he realizes how empty his life is. How empty those hoodlums have made his life. He buys a small calibre pistol at a fishing shop and takes it back to New York with him hidden in his carry on baggage.

Paul begins roaming the city at night, exposing himself to danger so as to kill the perpetrators of violence and crime. After several kills the papers pick up on the fact that there is a vigilante on the loose. The book ends with Paul having just shot 4 teenagers who were throwing 50lb rocks onto a train to kill people inside and a cop seeing him. The cop raises his hat and deliberately turns his back and Paul walks home.

 

My Thoughts:

My goodness, another fantastic book for this year. Definitely gets the “Best Book of the Year” tag.

So, this review might be long and rambly, please bear with me or just skip it. Either way, it’s all good.

I had heard about this through the 1974 film starring Charles Bronson. Knowing the type of movie Bronson usually starred in, I never got around to watching it. Then in 2018 a remake with Bruce Willis was made and it eventually came to Amazon Prime. I watched the reboot, as I really like Willis. That led me to watching the original with Bronson and then to hunting down the book. I plan on talking about the movies in a Versus post later this month. Death Wish vs Death Wish vs Death Wish!

Based on the synopsis and the movies, I was expecting a book about a vigilante getting his revenge. A soft, pasty, weakminded fool seeing reality for the first time in his life and going all gung-ho to the other extreme. What I got was a psychological book that impressed me over and over and over. Paul never finds the hoodlums who killed his wife and he never expects to. What I read was the mind of a man pushed beyond its self-imposed limits. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t always easy to read about but it was good.

I’ve always considered Crime & Punishment to be THE book on what a criminal mind goes through after a murder. Death Wish is entering the same territory in my mind but from the other end. What does a man go through when he truly realizes how broken, destructive and unsafe his world is? This book shows the answer to that.

Given the fact that I already agree with most of the statements made in this book (see my Quote post from the other day) it is no surprise that I liked this. The only part I struggled with was Paul taking the role of Executioner into his own hands, not lightly, but so determinedly. I believe that every human has the God given right to defend themselves. I believe that laws like the Stand Your Ground laws are essential to a free society. However, when defense of Self moves into the defense of Society then I cannot blindly accept or promote it. But neither do I blindly negate it. Evil, and people who commit acts of Evil ARE evil, must be resisted not only by the dutifully elected officials of Law and Order but by every conscientious citizen as well. The flip side of the Right to Self-defense is the Responsibility of Self-defense. This book was written in 1972 and is pretty dated but the battle that Paul goes through in his mind is as relevant today as it was then.

I don’t know what someone who is in staunch opposition to the right of self-defense would make of this book. I don’t think it would change their mind. It is not meant to however. This was a book written to all of those people who sit on the fence and think they are safe because “of the police” or that “it couldn’t happen here in Safe Safe Happy Funland.” Brian Garfield also NEVER ridicules those who think like Paul at the beginning of the book. I really appreciated that.

I would love to unreservedly recommend this book but honestly, I can’t. For me, it was the right book at the right time. People can have their minds changed and responsibility can grow from even the stinkiest compost heap.

To end, this was not an action/adventure novel of revenge and over the top violence. This was the story of a man finally growing up.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Terrorist Dispatch (The Executioner #448) ★★★☆☆

terroristdispatch (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Terrorist Dispatch
Series: The Executioner #448
Author: Don Pendleton alias
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 196
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A terrorist group makes an attack at a memorial in Washington, DC and no one is sure if it was Russian terrorists, Ukrainian terrorists or somebody pretending to be the other. Mack Bolan doesn’t care. With information from the Stony Man intelligence farm, he goes after the local russian and ukrainian mobsters and then heads to the Ukraine to do the same to both their bosses.

Hitting both sides equally, Bolan pits them against each other, thus allowing them to wipe each other. Scratch two bad guys form the list of the world’s badguys.

 

My Thoughts:

I read the original 30 some Executioner books by the real Don Pendleton a couple of years ago. Vigilante Men’s Action/Adventure perfectly sums up these books. Mack Bolan was a driven man, capable, rational and unafraid of blood and violence against those who deserved it. Planning, action and guts were the characteristics of his moves.

This book, written by a ghost writer mentioned in the end credits, is produced by Gold Eagle, a division of Harlequin. What bodice ripping romance books are for women, Mack Bolan books are for men. Sadly, the character of Mack Bolan as depicted originally isn’t the same guy portrayed here. Some of the same “words” are used, but the man portrayed in this book uses the word “whatever” a lot. The Executioner doesn’t use the word “whatever”, that implies a lack of caring about planning and intel gathering. Considering he uses it at least three times in this book, it makes Mack Bolan feel very caricature’ish here.

I am glad that I read this but it has put to rest my curiosity about how the franchise has proceeded. Simply put, it has been simplified even more, to the point that I don’t want to read more. Not recommended unless you need a serious brain break for a day or two.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Wrecking Crew (Matt Helm #2) ★☆☆☆½

wreckingcrew (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Wrecking Crew
Series: Matt Helm #2
Author: Donald Hamilton
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 272
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Matt Helm is back working as part of the Wrecking Crew, that shadowy blacker than black government organization that carries out assassinations against targets around the world who are enemies of the United States.

Helm’s wife served him separation papers after finding out about his secret past during World War II and with nothing else to occupy him, Matt returns to the only thing he really knows. This time he is sent after a shadowing agent working for Russia that took out a valuable double agent for the United States. Hooking up with the dead man’s wife, Helm uses her to find his way to the Mastermind. With lots of twists and turns (who is working for who, are the good guys actually the good guys?), Helm bulls through it all in Norway. Using women like sanitizer soap, Helm eventually gets his man.

The book ends with his wife sending him signed divorce papers and a note that she and the boys are now with another man, a “good” man.

 

My Thoughts:

I liked the story. The twisty turny Cold War aspect was great. It was fun, it was thrilling and it kept the suspense up right until the end when Matt shoots the Mastermind.

Sadly, that just wasn’t enough. Helm’s sleeping with multiple women while still married is not something that I want to give countenance too. Someone as controlled as Helm CAN control himself in the area of sex. He simply chooses not to and I consider that a fatal flaw in a book character.

Throw in that he’s pretty “Awww, whatever” about his wife leaving him and the fate of his 3 children and he just sickened me. When he found out they were all with another man they liked, he was like “Oh good, now I don’t have to worry”.

Very disappointed with how this turned out. Matt Helm is no hero and characters like him, with an empty moral framework, do more to destroy this country than any hardline communist ever could. So I’m done with this series and will be moving on.

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Death of a Citizen (Matt Helm #1) ★★★☆☆

deathofacitizen (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Death of a Citizen
Series: Matt Helm #1
Author: Donald Hamilton
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 240
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Matt Helm is now an author, married to the woman he loves with 2 children. What he used to be in World War II was a special forces assassin who took out ancillary targets to weaken the Axis war machine. But that is in the past.

Until the woman he used to love comes back into his life and gives him the signal that he’s been reactivated. The target? Communists who are targeting our own scientists so as to destroy the United State’s technological edge.

Things don’t quite add up though and part way through, it is revealed that Slinky Seductress turned long ago and has been using Matt against the United States. Now, with his baby daughter kidnapped, Matt must save a nuclear scientist’s life, rescue his daughter, prove he’s not a communist to his old Section Chief and capture or kill all those who put him in this situation.

When there is nothing but guts and guns, there is no time for glory. And when you are Matt Helm, there is no time for weeping, sobbing, nancypants, mommas baby’s angst.

 

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this with just a few caveats, so let’s get them out of the way.

This was written in the 1960’s about the 1960’s. So the attitudes and cultural norms are going to be quite different from 2020 (yeah, yeah, I know it’s 2019, but close enough). That didn’t bother me but I suspect it will for the kind of reader that infests devilreads these days. So don’t be surprised.

Second, and what did bother me, was how casually Matt Helm treated his wedding vows. He’s on the run with Slinky Seductress (henceforth known as Slinky) and within a day has slept with her. I think the author writes something like:

“and since I knew I was going to sleep with her, I figured I’d better get it over with so I could deal with the guilt so it wouldn’t affect me later”.

And then his attitude is that his wife will take him back anyway because she loves him. Ugh. And that is why I knocked off 2 stars.

On to the good stuff.

Matt Helm is a man’s man and whether it is with gun, car or fists, he’s good. Not necessarily the best, but pretty close even after 15 years of retirement. He’s pragmatic to the point of dishonor but he just doesn’t care. He’s a throwing knife that once thrown, goes straight to the target.

As much as I’m an introspective kind of guy, it is refreshing to read about a man who just does what needs to be done, period. At one point he kidnaps the man who had kidnapped his baby daughter. The kidnapper thinks he has the power since he knows where the girl is and Matt doesn’t. Does Matt agonize and moan and beg? No, he shoots the bastard in the gut and stands over him while he takes hours to die, agonizingly. Now THAT is justice for a kidnapper of babies.

I like how this book’s title really gives away the ending. Matt Helm can’t remain just a citizen after what happens. But how does he reconcile that with his family life? We don’t get that answer in this book. Probably in the next one or two. But we do know that Matt Helm, author, is dead and that Matt Helm, special forces assassin, is back. I am looking forward to more of his adventures and to how the author will deal with the twin dynamics of Country and Family.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

RED (2010 Movie)

redWhat a blast of an action film!  Thanks to everyone who voted for it, it turned out fantastic.

If you care about details, here’s the IMDB page:

RED on IMDB

Basic synopsis is that Frank Moses is a Retired, Extremely Dangerous, blackops operative. The highlight of his life is tearing up his social security check each month so he can call and talk to Sarah, the bored, attractive woman who wants more than her cubicle job. Moses is attacked one night by a whole team of commandos and goes on the run. He ends up kidnapping Sara to keep her safe, as he knows his calls have been monitored and whoever his enemy is will come after her to get to him. Obviously, Sarah isn’t very happy about this, nor does she believe that Moses is anything more than a delusional nutjob stalker, until he rescues her from a fake police officer who tries to drug and kidnap her. Moses hooks up with various other RED operatives to figure out what is going on. It all comes down to the Vice President of the United States and a village being massacred many years ago.  Sarah gets captured and during the exchange, the real villain is revealed and the CIA agent who has been legally tracking Moses down realizes what is going on, switches sides and the good guys win (well, except for the VP. That bugger still dies).

 

I have been a Bruce Willis fan ever since I first saw Diehard on tv many years ago so any movie that stars him at least gets a “hmmm, maybe I’ll watch that someday” instead of outright dismissal like most of the movies today.  The rest of the cast is pretty great too.  Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren all fit their roles and one never overshadowed the other.  Mary-Louise Parker as Sarah the young woman (well, I say “young” but she’s gotta be in her early 30’s in the movie) seemed to be there to propel Moses onward and to show off her cleavage. Thankfully, after she gets onboard and realizes that Frank Moses is serious she becomes a good lense of “ordinary” while the others are all trained assassins.

mary-louise2bparker2bas2bsarah2bross2b003

 

I also really enjoyed Karl Urban as the up and coming Specialist who is tracking down Moses without knowing the full story.  He is ruthless and completely competent but right from the get go we know he’s not a villain, as he’s talking to his wife on the phone about their son being bullied at school WHILE hanging a guy and making it look like a suicide. That was just awesome! Also, he was a bit more chiseled in his face than when I saw him in Thor: Ragnarok, where he looked like a fat little dumpling. Once he knows the full story at the end he does the right thing. He and Willis do a brutal fight scene inside the CIA and it captures the essence of this movie. Hard, brutal, awesome and totally unrealistic.

red-mv-22

 

Make no mistake, if things being “real” is something you need in a movie, don’t bother with this. In the first scene where Urban and Willis meet each other, Willis steps out of a moving at 30mph, spinning car and times things so he can step out of the car, miss the backend hitting him and starts walking towards Urban and shooting at him.  It is physically impossible to go from a moving car to a walk, as your body is moving 30mph as well. But my goodness, it looked so cool!

maxresdefault

 

At the same time, this was not a grim movie, not by any means. John Malkovich provides enough lunacy as a lsd experiment by the CIA to make anyone laugh and the little subplot with Helen Mirren and her old flame, a Russian operative, is gold. Freeman, as an operative with cancer, brings some poignancy to the movie and Brian Cox, as Mirren’s old flame, almost makes me not want to kill communists (but only “almost”).

red32

 

I immediately went on and watched RED 2 and enjoyed it too. Not quite so cool, but still fun. However, a 3rd movie was never made and I don’t know why.  I suspect that the 25% drop in revenue between the two movies might have had something to do with it however. This was actually based on a series of comics published by DC but while I enjoyed the movies tremendously, I doubt I’ll ever check them out.

Overall, this was a fantastic movie that scratched that over the top action machoman guy itch I occasionally get.

 

Next month I’m letting Mrs B pick the movie and I think she’s already settled on one called Penelope. I guess I’ll find out what it is about when I watch it with her 🙂 I just LOVE surprises!

penelope

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Cloak ★★★☆½

cloak (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Cloak
Series: ———-
Author: Timothy Zahn
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 566
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

SPOILERS AHEAD AND BOY DO I MEAN SPOILERS

Synopsis:

A scientist is working on an invisibility cloak. He and most of his team are murdered and the cloaks stolen. The scientists wife is ambushed by skimasked killers and it is only through the intervention of a local private investigator that she stays alive. The detective convinces her not to go to the police but to stay on the run with him. His motives are murky at best.

At the same time, a tactical nuke is stolen from India and somehow the responsibility for finding it rolls right off the Indian government’s shoulders and into the United States’ lap. But the group that stole it knew the US would be looking and plays so many games of misdirection that nobody is sure where it is, where it is going or what the final purpose for it is.

At the same time, the President of the United States is touring the country trying to drum up support for an initiative he wants to pass at at upcoming United Nations meeting. The initiative? To give the UN their own true army, fully weaponized, including tactical nukes.

It call comes together in New York where a rogue Indian General and his agents are trying to nuke the UN meeting to wipe out a lot of political dissidents from around the world and it is up to the scientist’s wife, the PI (who is really a retired FBI agent) and 2 others to stop them. But how do you stop an invisible nuke that you aren’t even sure is in the city?

You figure out it is on an invisible zeppelin floating down the streets of New York of course! And then deactive it.

Score for the good guys.

 

My Thoughts:

When I read Zahn’s Soulminder back in ’14, even though I enjoyed it, I wasn’t impressed. I enjoyed this one a good bit more. The misdirection is impossible to ignore so I didn’t even try to figure out what was going on. I just sat back and let things happen.

I didn’t know WHAT was going to happen until it did and letting go was good for me. I felt like it was the real strength of the book while at the same time being its kryptonite. I doubt this has any re-read value and honestly, the older I get, the more I like to re-read. So some of my consideration of a book is “would I want to re-read this”. With knowing everything, I suspect most of the punch would be gone.

But since I didn’t know everything, this really packed a punch. Sometimes Zahn would misdirect purposely and at other times it was like he was using previous instances of misdirection to make me question if this current situation was a misdirection or not. I love having my chain yanked like that, when I know it is happening anyway.

This was a kickstarter originally. Honestly, I wish he’d do more kickstarter projects and write the books he wants to write instead of sticking to the miserables sods in the Star Wars universe. Well, I don’t know, maybe he LIKES writing in that “wretched hive of scum and villainy” but since I’m no longer a Star Wars fan I want other stories by him. I guess this will have to tide me over.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Empire’s Corps (The Empire’s Corps #1) ★★★☆☆

theempirescorps (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Empire’s Corps
Series: The Empire’s Corps #1
Author: Christopher Nuttal
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 505
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Captain Stalker leads a disastrous rescue attempt on a slum on Earth and ends up with thousands of civilians dead. When he speaks “Truth to Power” (so help me my eyes almost rolled out of my head at the bloody cliched phrase) he and all 80+ of his marines are exiled to a planet on the rim of the Empire, Avalon. He is given a huge budget by the Marine Commander and very vague instructions.

The Empire is tottering and the rim planets will soon be on their own. Marine Commander hopes that Stalker and his marines can keep Avalon from falling into barbarity.

Once on the planet, Stalker is faced with the problems of an entrenched political/economic elite who want to keep thing the way they are even while that path is leading straight to revolution. Stalker deals with the bandits, then deals with the Opposition forces and the Council all in one fell swoop.

The book ends with a Space Navy ship dropping off a note telling Avalon that the Empire will be sending no more ships to them for the foreseeable future.

 

My Thoughts:

PG’s Rambling has been reviewing this series on and off even though he’s more of a spaceship kind of guy while I prefer the ground pounder action. And that is exactly what this book, and series I assume, is all about: Space Marines during the decline of a galactic empire.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.

“Truth to Power”. For fracks sake, responsible people don’t use that hackneyed phrase, only people like the Occupy movement, ie, those with too much time on their hands and no drive to actually support themselves. Thankfully, it was only used 2-3 times but that was just 2-3 times too much. Nuttal also writes about homosexuality enough that I won’t be surprised if I end up dnf’ing this series in another book or two. Thankfully here it was not “PC homosexual character spewing modern liberal cant, CHECKMARK”. He also writes about brothel’s and prostitution and they are both legal in this book universe. One of the characters opines “It’s ok as long as they “want” to get into that business”. It never works that way and always ends up as a legal sex slave trafficking. I was more concerned about the attitude behind it than that it was included. There was also one sex scene that was used as a plot device, so I can’t accuse it of being completely gratuitous, but another one like it in any future books will push this out of bounds for me.

Now on to what I did like.

80 highly trained marines on a backwoods world. Nuttal makes as much hay with this as he can and I loved every second of it. They are like wolves going through a pack of puppies.The fighting was awesome and Nuttal doesn’t make the mistake of writing the bandits or Opposition as complete chowderheads. They are clever and when they have armaments equal to the Marines, a real threat. One thing I was kind of edgy about was how the bandits raped a lot and it was definitely used as a device to make them “Despicable”. It was never described in detail but I just found it bordering on the tasteless with how it was written.

The politics side of things felt a little too pat and easy but considering that Captain Stalker has had to deal with Earth Politics, whatever Avalon throws at him isn’t nearly at the same level. I do appreciate that Nuttal doesn’t try to make his badguy characters to be grey, ambiguous “oh, those poor misunderstood” type of badguys. They are bad, period. Thank goodness for that.

Nuttal is an indie, as far as I can tell, but besides the repeated misspelling of “deport” and its various forms, nothing stood out (depot and depoted were the main culprits). At 500 pages, I was expecting a lot more than that in all honesty. I enjoyed his writing style and his characters had enough depth so they were unique and not just the same character with a different name.

I do look forward to reading more in this series (there are 14 books and it appears that book 14 is the final book) and if it works out, I’ll probably be trying other series by the author.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge (Custom)