Saturday, February 25, 2012

11/22/63 by Steven King

11/22/63 I've been a fan of Steven King my whole adult reading life.  He has a home down style that keeps the reader turning pages.  However, not everything he writes is great.  And, though I can say many good things about this book, this 849 paged reading investment was not great.  However, it was entertaining, fast and fun to read.

What really captured my interest in this book was a tunnel that  transports Jake (aka George) from the present (2011) to the same location but a different time, namely September 9, 1958.  Jake inherits, from a dying friend, the tunnel knowledge along with the idea that it would be good to  prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. To do this he has to hang out in the 50's and early 60's for 5 years.  If things aren't going good, he has the option to go back to the tunnel and start over again, a "redo", in September 9, 1958.

King is the master of horror, and this he does quite well. There are many monsters.  One of my  friends claim that time is the monster, but I disagree. Time is more of a victim.  It turns out that that this story has many human monsters (such as Lee Oswald, and other murderers in this story), but the number one monster is reveled as ole Jake the time hopper.

King was particularly clever with his idea of being able to do a "redo"in case the future (which was altered when the past was visited) wasn't what was intended.  I also loved his depiction of Derry, Maine, and the links with a previous novel, "It".  If you have never read "It", the clown monster has just hibernated in Derry at the same time that Jake passes though.  We get to revisit a few of our beloved adolescent characters from "It", Beverly and "Beep Beep" Richie.  This was delightful.

Why wasn't this a great book?  King gets off the story line, and subplots you to death with a very long love story between Jake and a gal he meets in Texas.  It was fun to read, but was too long.  The main subplot was like a book within a book.  If his editor would have done the job he/she was supposed to do, this could have been a great book, but it has a problem with too many words.  Additionally, his time travel story (with respect to such things as the butterfly effect) doesn't always make sense.  He tries to make up for this with some lame explanation regarding time threads. King takes you along this long story line trying to prevent the assassination of JFK, and then with no warning, some really dramatic things happen that aren't explained even in his fantasy world.

The last thing I don't like about this story is his hatred of Dallas.  I happen to love Dallas, living there a good portion of my childhood and some of my adult life. Dallas was charming, the city of entrepreneurship, sky scrapers, oil money, helpful people and fast new freeways!  Granted, there was a quiet racial segregation in the city that was typical in the1960's and 70's, but this city was and is full of a free and abundant human spirit where liberty and capitalism prevail.  King personally (in his afterward) judges Dallas as a city of extreme hate.  Heck, if he does this to Dallas, he should pretty much despise Texas, or why not the whole Southern US?

"Some people will protest that I have been excessively hard on the city of Dallas.  I beg to differ...  Dallas was an hateful place.  Confederate flags flew rightsize up...  It is better today, but one still sees signs on Main Street saying HANDGUNS NOT ALLOWED IN THE BAR" King states in his Afterward.

Seems to me that this is a statement about King's political views on the racial issues the whole country struggled with, and, what else, gun control? In a state where gun ownership is common and it is possible to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, it seems pretty reasonable to have a sign like that in a bar.  What is your point, Mr. King?

My recommendation for a great fantasy/horror genre would be Neil Gaiman's American God's.  Now, that was a great book!  However, for a good time, 11/22/63 is just fine.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Deadwood by Pete Dexter

Deadwood This is one crazy dirty book, but then that was what life was like in Deadwood, Dakota Territories, 1876. I picked this book up at the Adams Museum in Deadwood South Dakota, one of the nicest small town museum I have ever been to. The people of Deadwood are proud of their history, and the museum clerk recommended this book as a great view of post civil war life in Deadwood.

This book is divided into five parts, rather than chapters. We meet characters such as Wild Bill Hickok, the famous sharp shooter, Calamity Jane, the well meaning dirty mouthed slutty drunk, Charley Utter, the business man and side kick of Bill, Al Swearingen, the nasty perverted whore-man and saloon owner and many more interesting characters. What makes this book interesting to me is that it actually is historical fiction. Bill was really killed by Jack McCall, and Deadwood really was one dangerous, muddy, wild gold prospecting town that paid real money for severed Indian heads.

If you say that because you saw the cable series Deadwood (it was great) you know the story hence you don't want to read the book, please reconsider. The series was focused on the process of Deadwood becoming an organized city and had different story lines. On the other hand, if you want to meet the whore Lurline Monti Verdi and find out what is up with Charley Utter's "peeter", than this is the book for you.

All seriousness aside (ha!), this isn't the kind of book that would go over in my nice ladies book club. Matter of fact, I tried to share it with a male friend who likes to read Westerns with all the saloon girl antics and gun fights, and he didn't make it past the first few pages. On the other hand, I found it down to earth, funny and just crazy enough to read in my current demented state of mind. You are put into the situations with no pretense of literature. It was surprisingly well written.

And, now for a tasteless taste of Deadwood (the book), and may I say I'm having a heck of a time trying to find something that is not offensive to copy from this text.  You can't make people in the past politically correct, because it is the past? Right?

For context, Nuttall and Mann's Number 10 is a salon, and Bill has taken a liking to Pink Buford's bulldog. Matter of fact the two love each other.

"Charley found Bill back at Nuttall and Mann's Number 10, shooting glasses off the head of Pink Buford's bulldog. The bulldog was fearless. As soon as Bill set a shot glass between the animal's ears, the dog would put his tongue in his mouth so his head wouldn't jiggle, and set dead still while Bill drew one pistol or the other and shot it off. Bill was careful at first, aiming, but the dog proved steady, and by the time Charley came in looking for him, Bill was lining up a left-handed, over-the-shoulder shot in the mirror"

That image makes me smile!  But, be warned, the book is tragic.  Alas, lawlessness brings out the worst in many people.