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What I have read and what I am reading.

A couple weeks back I finished David Skibbins's Eight of Swords. It is the first book in the Warren Ritter series. Warren (not his real name) has been in hiding since his 70s era affiliation with the Weathermen went in to the crapper. Warren is essentially the last radical standing.

As a side note there are two good movies out there on the Weathermen. Slightly more available is a documentary from a few years ago unimaginatively titled The Weather Underground. The other maybe very hard to find. Try the library. Underground. The film was directed by Emile de Antonio. Emile was a seminal documentarian of the 1970's . He was the Michael Moore of his generation without the self aggrandizing BS.

This is a good starting point for me. Interesting lead, shadowy past. I can overlook the fact that he rides a motorcycle.... Easy Rider nonsense.

Warren is a Tarot card reader on the streets of Berkeley, CA. Apparently a mid-80s invest in Microsoft has put Warren on easy-street. Anyway, a client sits down at Warren's small booth, and the cards portend an ominous future. Before you think Tarot is ridiculous hokum, the client goes missing and the distraught mother turns up dead. Warren is ably assisted by a paraplegic hacker named Sally McLaughlin, and a nice little romance develops between her and Warren. There is a lot to like here and these characters have great room for careful development. The central crime story plays out nicely with just enough information for the reader to figure it out.

However, there are two elements that just do not work for me, no the motorcycle was not one of them. As I mentioned Warren has been underground for decades. His family does not know where he is and in fact thinks he is dead. Cosmetic surgery has helped to keep Warren hidden, but early in the book Warren's sister, visiting Berkeley for work, recognizes him. Suddenly, Warren's life becomes very complicated, and so do does the book..... needlessly. This plot point is a whole other book. I like the idea of the sister, but not here. If she had somehow played into the greater mystery it might have worked, but she didn't and it only became a distraction for me.

Second problem? Our hero is a bit mentally unstable. He visits a therapist and needs medication to handle his mood swings. Not crazy-crazy, just normal crazy. Don't know what to say here. Just did not work for me. There were a handful of scenes with his therapist and every time I felt the novel just stopped cold.

I have his second book and his third is on the way soon. I'll reserve final judgment until then.

I also read Little Girl Lost by Richard Aleas. A semi clever pseudonym for the founder, Charles Ardai, of the neo-pulp publishing house Hard Case Crime. I'll save the 'review' for later. I've read a handful of books from Hard Case, so maybe I'll group a bunch things in a single blog post.


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