Spent most of this past week in a loaf-off with this guy:
Since I was a Harry Potter widower (spoiler: He's gay!), I got a lot of reading done. Here's my report.
Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry-- I've been saving this one for a while since I was a huge fan of Lonesome Dove (...Laredo is the sequel). Have to say I was fairly disappointed. Without Gus McCrae's loopy soliloquies for contrast, Cal isn't a very interesting character. It could have used some flashback scenes featuring McCrae (since Cal is constantly thinking about him). The manhunting plot is weak as a structural device and the outlaws are so unmotivated and sociopathic that they feel like serial killers from a Thomas Harris novel rather than historical personages. I accepted Blue Duck in LD but he wasn't the most memorable part of the journey. All this book has is another flock. Also I was bugged by the series of ridiculously dangerous lone journeys undertaken by the female characters. Plucky heroines are one thing but anachronistic, foolhardy ones are another. McMurtry still shows off a gift for evoking place though. "Crowtown", a lawless settlement built around a rotting pile of crow-infested buffalo hides, will stay with me.
Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell-- Couldn't get through it. Style was overbearingly pretentious and the voice didn't fit the main character's circumstance. Not a tragedy though since I can de-accession the 6-inches of Woodrell titles on my overstuffed fiction shelf.
Maddball by Fredric Brown-- Looking for a noir-recovery after disappoinment of Tomato Red. Went with a favorite author and a favorite subject. Madball (from the magazine story "Pickled Punks") is like Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians (aka: Ten Little N-words; And Then There Were None) set against a carnival/freakshow backdrop. It's thick with authentic carnie lingo ("madball" refers to the fortuneteller's crystal, "pickled punks" are the jarred fetuses used in the "unborn show") and peopled with colorful, likeable characters...all on the make. Very satisfying.
Valley of the Flame by Henry Kuttner-- Batty and hallucinogenic Rider Haggard-ish sf novel about a meteor crater in the Amazon that leads to another world where time moves at different speeds--like a river current--and mutation is quick. Slow-motion landslides, leopard people, a living forest in the service of a giant reptile brain...I finished this at 3 AM during a lightning storm. Not sure how much of it I dreamed.
Barbara Stanwyck: A Biography by Al DiOrio-- Felt even slighter than its 220 pages. Gave me a list of movies to look for though. Oh for Turner Classic Movies and a DVR.
Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser-- Forgot about this one. Might save it til next summer.
There...he moved! Did you see him? I win.