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A Dozen Reading Recommendations for the New Year

Hope your New Year is off to a great start, and those resolutions are working for you!

If you’re new to this blog, it’s just sharing what I’ve been reading during January. It includes, but is not limited to, books I mention on the show.

If you try any of these, please let me know what you think.

“Killer Dolphin” by Ngaio Marsh (1966) Marsh, from New Zealand, was one of mystery-writing “Grand Dames”, along with Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Dorothy Sayers. I’d throw in Ruth Rendell and P.D. James, too. If you find you like one of them, you’ll like them all. This installment in her Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn series, involves murder and intrigue at the newly-restored Dolphin Theatre.

“Wine of The Dreamers” by John MacDonald (1951) Better known for his mystery novels, MacDonald was a terrific sci-fi writer. Here, he imagines a circa 1975 secret military program involving humans on a distant planet controlling events on Earth though their dreams.

“Storm Runners” by T. Jefferson Parker (2007) A private eye shattered by tragedy gets another shot at putting things right. Parker writes California life and culture with the masters like Ross MacDonald, Michael Connelly and Joseph Wambaugh (see below)

“The Kremlin’s Candidate” by Jason Matthews (2018) This third book in ex-CIA operative Matthews’ “Red Sparrow” trilogy is every bit as good as the first two. The espionage tale of CIA man Nathaniel Nash and his Russian spy/lover Dominika Egorova ends in maybe the only way it could, but fans hated it (and you’ll see why).

“Attached: The Science of Adult Attachment” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller (2010) A plodding read, at times. The theory here is that we all fall into three categories of how we “attach” to people in our lives, and are attached to. To be honest, once you get their premise, which is sound, you can stop reading.

“The Burglar on The Prowl” by Lawrence Block (2004) Block’s a prolific author, and in his Bernie Rhodenbarr series, he’s created a professional burglar who not only commit crimes (breaking and entering) but solves them as only he could. These novels are breezy, conversational and clever.  Here, a friend hires him to commit a “Robin Hood”-type caper, but it spirals into murder and mystery beyond anything Bernie could’ve expected.

“The Golden Orange” by Joseph Wambaugh (1990) A boozy ex-cop on California’s Gold Coast really should be wondering why a rich, sexy divorcee is suddenly so crazy about him. He should. But he doesn’t, until it’s almost too late.

Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer” by Edward Jay Epstein (1996) Overdetailed and dry in spots, this is the meticulous bio of one of history’s strangest actors. Armand Hammer was a mysterious millionaire in life, and he had almost as many secrets as he had oil wells. I struggled with the writing, but the subject matter (seeing into global conspiracies) kept me going.

“Restoring Our Republic” by Ned Ryun (2019) Ryun’s the son of a congressman who once was the world’s top middle-distance runner, Jim Ryun. Here, Ned delves into a subject we both love: how our founders came up with the mechanisms of our republic, and why it’s still the finest machine of its kind in human history. Very readable, and nicely-researched.

“The Last Temptation” by Val McDermid (2003) I really like McDermid’s writing, but she falls into a predictable trap here. Her protagonist, Dr. Tony Hill, is a criminal profiler.  And psychologist. When someone starts killing prominent psychologists, he goes on the trail. And…guess…what…happens…? Still worth a read, as all McDermid books are.

“The Vengeance of The Tau” by Jon Land (1993) Land is a great thriller writer who deserves to be much better known. Among his dozens of novels is a series with rogue US agent Blaine McCracken. It’s always violent, explosive and taut tension around “McCrackenballs”, who this time is chasing down a conspiracy from the distant past threatening to blow up the world.

“In Such Good Company” by Carol Burnett (2016) This might be my favorite of her books, because it’s solidly packed with anecdotes from her career, our favorite shows and sketches, the great people around her, and what is was like to be there. You can read a page every now and again, or devour it all at once. If you are, or have ever been a fan of this grand lady, you’ll love it.

 



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