Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

News/!News

Friday, July 21st, 2017

Probably news, at least to some people: Texas A&M has a large science fiction archive.

Possibly news to more people: this includes George R.R. Martin’s stuff.

Probably not news, if you think about it: this includes a lot of “Game of Thrones” related stuff.

And there is plenty of other Martin stuff, including manuscripts for the Wild Card moasic novels he continues to edit and drafts of various “Max Headroom” scripts.

Quote that pushed me into posting this:

But also, there are swords.

(Much like, “And then the murders began“, “But also, there are swords” makes anything better.)

Obit watch: July 20, 2017.

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

I’ve been going back and forth on this one for a few days, and finally decided it was worth noting here.

Jean-Jacques Susini passed away on July 3rd. To borrow the paper of record’s description of him, Mr. Susini was “a fiery leader of a right-wing terrorist group that opposed Algerian independence from France who was twice condemned to death in absentia for plots to assassinate President Charles de Gaulle of France”.

More:

He was arrested and tried for helping to organize the so-called Week of the Barricades, which turned to bloody rioting. He fled to southern France during a court recess and later to Spain, where he joined the Secret Army Organization, an underground band of right-ring military and civilian extremists that used terrorism tactics to fight against Algerian independence.

Independence finally came to Algeria in 1962, but Mr. Susini was nonetheless involved in plotting to kill de Gaulle later that year and again in 1964. Details of the first attempt — in which de Gaulle’s Citroën was raked by machine gun fire outside Paris but he was unharmed — were used by the novelist Frederick Forsyth to open his 1971 thriller, “The Day of the Jackal.” The film adapted from the novel two years later opened the same way, with de Gaulle and his motorcade attacked by gunmen.

I know this is probably a sign of real geekdom, but I’m still fascinated by the struggle over Algerian independence and would love to find a good history. Wolves in the City: The Death of French Algeria sounds interesting, but it’s pricey.

James Byron Haakenson was killed sometime around August 5, 1976, though his death was not announced until yesterday.

Mr. Haakenson was one of John Wayne Gacy’s victims. His body was unidentified until DNA test results came back earlier this week.

There are six Gacy victims that still have not been identified.

More book stuff.

Monday, July 17th, 2017

I’m a sucker for those “collector’s” reprints of various firearms related books, like the stuff in the Palladium Press Firearms Classics Library. I’m not a total sucker: Half-Price Books gets these in every once in a while, and while I’m generally not willing to pay their marked price ($30-$35), if there’s a sale or a coupon, I’m there.

I know they generally don’t have a lot of value to book collectors, but that’s fine: I think they look nice on the shelves. Plus, to take one example, I think I paid $15 for Ordnance Went Up Front. Amazon has a Kindle edition for $9, but I’d rather pay the extra few dollars for a nice physical copy. And there’s a lot of that stuff that doesn’t have a Kindle edition.

This is a different publisher, and a little more expensive, but there’s a catch:

Capstick, Peter Hathaway. Death In a Lonely Land: More Hunting, Fishing, and Shooting on Five Continents. Derrydale Press, 1990.

Yes, it’s a reprint. A “limited” edition reprint of 2,500 numbered copies, which makes it almost certainly worthless to collectors and anybody who doesn’t have the word “sucker” stamped on their forehead.

(looks in mirror)

Well, I’ll be darned. Where did that come from?

But I digress.

I don’t remember exactly how I first came into possession of Death in the Long Grass: I want to say I was a teenager (or pre-teen?) visiting my maternal grandmother, we went by a bookstore on one of our rare ventures out of the house, either I talked her into buying it for her grandchild or I had some pocket money of my own, and…

…I was already kind of gun-crazy at the time, but that book was a revelation to me. It wasn’t just that the whole “let’s go hunting elephants in Africa” thing appealed to me as I was straining the bounds of my existence: it was also that the guy could write. The young me found him sometimes screamingly funny. The old me still does. I think sometimes I even try a little too hard to emulate Capstick’s prose style, the end result being something like if you left my prose next to a complete collection of Capstick books and a gallon of milk for a week in a non-working refrigerator outside in a Texas July.

Point being, I didn’t just want to hunt lions and tigers and buffalo like Capstick, I wanted to write like him as well. At least back in those days. These days, I’m working on developing my own style, but Capstick is still an influence.

This was $75, marked down by 50% because of the coupon. It was still a little more than I would usually have paid, but this book has one great advantage that my other Capstick books don’t:

Capstick died in 1996 of complications from, of all things, heart bypass surgery. I never met him – I don’t think he did a lot of book tours, and I don’t move in Safari Club circles – so this is the only signed Capstick in my library right now. It was worth it to me, and to that small boy inside me.

Recent aquisitions.

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

I’ve been a little off my feed recently (for reasons that are not open to discussion), but I’m starting to feel a little better. And Half-Price Books sent out another batch of coupons: I wasn’t able to use them Monday or Wednesday because reasons, but I have picked up a few mildly interesting things the rest of the week that I figured I’d share:

I have one more book on hold waiting for tomorrow’s 50% off coupon, and that may be the subject of a separate post. It combines one of my interests – African hunting – with childhood nostalgia and one of my favorite writers. No, not Ruark: the other guy.

Bookity bookity bookity bookmark!

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

By way of @newsycombinator:

A whole big bunch of free NASA e-books in various formats, including Kindle and PDF.

A few titles that pique my interest:

  • Unlimited Horizons: Design and Development of the U-2
  • X-15: Extending the Frontiers of Flight
  • Breaking the Mishap Chain: Human Factors Lessons Learned from Aerospace Accidents and Incidents in Research, Flight Test, and Development

I’ll admit some of these are a little geeky even by my standards. It takes either a professional or a special kind of person to want to read a history of pressure suit design, or one of the Langley wind tunnel. But guess what: I am that person, and I bet some of my readers are, too.

Besides, who doesn’t love the X-15 and the U-2?

(No, really, who doesn’t? Raise your hands. No, I’m not noting your IP address…)

Obit watch: June 5, 2017.

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Jimmy Piersall, noted center fielder for the Boston Red Sox.

Piersall was an outstanding center fielder, a solid hitter and a two-time All-Star, playing in the major leagues for 17 seasons.

However, he was better known for off-field reasons:

The Red Sox demoted Piersall to the minors in June 1952, hoping he could gain control of his emotions, but his antics continued, and he entered a mental hospital in Massachusetts a month later. He remained hospitalized for six weeks, undergoing shock treatment and counseling for a nervous breakdown.

He returned to the Red Sox, and later wrote a book about his illness and recovery, Fear Strikes Out.

“Mr. Piersall’s courageous description of his struggles with manic depression, now called bipolar disorder, helped bring the disease and its treatments out of the shadows,” Dr. Barron H. Lerner, professor of medicine and population health at the New York University Langone Medical Center, wrote in The New York Times in 2015. “It was really a big deal 60 years ago.”

The book was also famously adapted as a movie, with Anthony Perkins playing Mr. Piersall.

“I hated the movie,” Piersall wrote in his 1985 memoir. Perkins, he said, gave a fine performance but looked foolish trying to play baseball. He maintained that the movie included events that had never happened, and that he had never blamed his father for his breakdown.

(The 1985 memoir is The Truth Hurts.)

And hey, I haven’t brought this up in a while!

Piersall later had broadcasting jobs with the Texas Rangers beginning in 1974 (doing color and play-by-play for televised games) and with the Chicago White Sox from 1977 to 1981, and was teamed with Harry Caray. He ultimately was fired after excessive on-air criticism of team management.

Yes, Jimmy Piersall does indeed show up in Mike Shropshire’s Seasons in Hell. As I recall, at one point he threatens to beat the crap out of Shropshire: they later made up when the team was sold and the new owner hired Mr. Piersall as a salesman and doubled his salery.

Books in brief.

Friday, May 26th, 2017

My head is in kind of a weird place right now when it comes to reading.

I have a large stack of unread gun and hunting related books, including the PO Ackley biography and Ordnance Went Up Front, both on the basis of Hognose recommendations. (You know, I really miss Hognose.)

But I’m also trying to avoid burnout, so my rule is: one gun or hunting related book, then one book on a different subject. But then I get into a mode where what I have on hand isn’t something I’m in the mood to read, so I get stuck not reading anything except the Internet, causing my blood pressure to spike. Fortunately, I found a couple of books a week ago at Half-Price that I kind of enjoyed. (Also, fortunately, Half-Price is having a 20% off sale this weekend…)

I’m not sire why I didn’t read Papillon when I was young and impressionable. It was apparently a huge bestseller, so it should have shown up at garage sales (like a lot of other books I read at that age), or I should have seen it at the library. I can’t explain.

When I did finally get around to it, though, I had trouble putting it down. Henri Charrière is a great storyteller, and is well served by his translators. (June Wilson and Walter Michaels in the edition I read. Fact I did not know until I was looking at Wikipedia: the original English translation was by Patrick O’Brian. Yeah, “Master and Commander” O’Brian: before he became famous for those books, he was a well-regarded French translator.) And, let’s face it: Papillon is a really compelling adventure story about one man’s life in some of the worst prisons in the world and his drive to escape. This is exactly the kind of thing that should have appealed to me as a small boy.

And it still appeals to me today. Except for the Internet and some nagging little details that I found while I was looking up things on Wikipedia. It turns out that Papillon is maybe “10 percent true”, in the sense that these things actually happened to Charrière. The general consensus of opinion seems to be that Charrière incorporated things that he witnessed, but didn’t happen to him directly (the sharks and the little girl is a commonly cited example) and possibly elements from other works (specifically Rene Belbenoit’s Dry Guillotine).

I still want to see the movie, and read Charrière’s sequel, Banco (which either hasn’t attracted the same level of revisionist scholarship, or else sticks closer to Charrière’s actual post-prison exploits). But it is kind of depressing to discover that this grand adventure story is also, mostly, untrue.

I’ve written before about my fascination with the rabies virus, so you would expect Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus to push my buttons as well. And it did. I could have done with a little less “this is how the ancient Greeks and Romans treated rabies” and “rabies in popular culture” (especially the attempts to tie rabies and zombies together). But the chapters on things like Pasteur’s rabies research, contemporary treatment (turns out the Milwaukee protocol is more controversial than I thought) and rabies eradication on Bali (which also turns out to be more controversial and political than you’d expect) kept me hooked. And Rabid has the advantage of being an “economical” book: long enough to get everything in, but short enough to get through is an evening or a plane trip. Recommended.

Obit watch: May 23, 2017.

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Anne Dick, Philip K. Dick’s third wife. (Hattip: Lawrence.)

Roger Moore.

(Edited to add: NYT obit, which was not up when I posted earlier.)

Followup: apparently, and contrary to the NYT report which I relied on, G.I. Joe had two daddies.

As a connoisseur of disaster…

Friday, April 28th, 2017

…I am enjoying reading about Fyre Festival so, so much.

It’s the feral dogs that really make a good music festival.

That reminds me. (adds Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus to his Amazon wish list.)

William N. Finley IV’s Twitter feed: Finley was boots on the ground at Fyre Festival and is quoted in many pf the stories I’ve seen.

Questions, so many questions: could Ja Rule and Kendall Jenner be prosecuted for fraud? Would this have been a justified use of a MOAB? And is it true that United Airlines was an official Fyre Festival sponsor?

Obit watch: April 25, 2017.

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Damn it all to hell and Hong Kong.

Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, passed away yesterday.

I’ve written before, but sort of in passing, about Zen. It was a huge influence on me as a young man, and continues to be an influence on me today.

NYT obit for Kate O’Beirne.

Happy Buy a Gun Day!

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

You’ve still got time, if you haven’t been out yet.

Longer post to come at some point in the (hopefully) near future, but here’s my 2017 BAG gun:

Savage Model 11 Scout in FDE. Purchased new in box through GunBroker at…well, a hefty discount off of MSRP, and much less than I’ve seen it elsewhere.

(The book is H.W. McBride’s A Rifleman Went To War. I’m not a big WWI buff, but a lot of people I respect have cited McBride’s book as being a valuable work. And damn, the guy could write: there’s something I want to pull as a quote of the day in almost every chapter.)

Bonus, since I never posted it here: my 2016 BAG gun.

Smith and Wesson Model 19-4 in .357 Magnum with the round butt and 2 1/2″ barrel. Sort of the ultimate snub-nosed revolver. The holster came with it, too. Tam has a good post up about the Model 19, though she’s writing about a diffenent variant than mine.

(Book: Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson, 4th Edition, of course.)

Administrative note.

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

My birthday is coming up soon. As always, I do not expect any of my loyal readers to get me presents.

However, if someone felt inclined: please do not buy this book for me. Thank you.

(Seriously. I have nothing against Jesse Sublett: he seems like a pretty cool guy. But I don’t care much for the food at either Threadgill’s location. And one of the worst aspects of Austin culture is the incessant nostalgia: or, as Lawrence likes to put it, “the burned-out old hippies who constantly talk about how they went to the Armadillo, dropped acid, and saw Shiva’s Headband.” Said it before, I’ll say it again: if the Austin Chronicle and other people had their way, this town would be a 1970s music theme park.)