December 31, 2008

The Day Before The Morning After

In honor of New Year's Day, here's an excerpt from Jeeves Takes Charge on New Year's Eve.

I crawled off the sofa and opened the door. A kind of darkish sort of respectful Johnnie stood without.

"I was sent by the agency, sir," he said. "I was given to understand that you required a valet."

I'd have preferred an undertaker; but I told him to stagger in, and he floated noiselessly through the doorway like a healing zephyr. That impressed me from the start. Meadowes had had flat feet and used to clump. This fellow didn't seem to have any feet at all. He just streamed in. He had a grave, sympathetic face, as if he, too, knew what it was to sup with the lads.

"Excuse me, sir," he said gently.

Then he seemed to flicker, and wasn't there any longer. I heard him moving about in the kitchen, and presently he came back with a glass on a tray.

"If you would drink this, sir," he said, with a kind of bedside manner, rather like the royal doctor shooting the bracer into the sick prince. "It is a little preparation of my own invention. It is the Worcester Sauce that gives it its colour. The raw egg makes it nutritious. The red pepper gives it its bite. Gentlement have told me that have found it extremely invigorating after a late evening."

I would have clutched at anything that looked like a life-line that morning. I swallowed the stuff. For a moment I felt as if somebody had touched off a bomb inside the old bean and was strolling down my throat with a lighted torch, and then everything seemed suddenly to get all right. The sun shone in through the window; birds twittered in the tree-tops; and, generally speaking, hope dawned once more.

"You're engaged!" I sad, as soon as I could say anything.

I perceived clearly that this cove was one of the world's wonder workers, the sort no home should be without.

"Thank you sir. My name is Jeeves."

December 18, 2008

The Lincoln Lawyer ***

*** The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connelly, 2005

I'm a big Michael Connelly fan since I first tumbled to the Harry Bosch series about ten years ago. I had the thrill of hearing him speak at the Texas Book Festival a few years back and he seemed like a real down-to-earth guy. He's good people, as we say down here in Texas.

But I'm far from star-struck. All the books I've read by him are decent reads, but some are more decent than others. The last few I've read wowed me less than the others, so I wondered how The Lincoln Lawyer would compare. Lay aside all doubts. This is Connelly at the top of his game.

For me it was plane-reading. I was headed to San Luis Obispo to lay down bass tracks on the newest CD by the Number One Son. (Photos on his blog.) It was captivating and I only set it aside when I complained about having to pay $150 to get the flight case on the plane and discovered I was sitting next to John Hagen, cellist extraordinare, (These things happen when you fly out of Austin.) on his way to do a Lyle Lovett gig, who had also paid $150 to get his cello checked. I read it as time permitted, until the night before the recording date, when I hit a spot that wouldn't let go. I ended up reading straight through till the end, closing the covers around two a.m. It made for a long recording day, but some things just can't be helped.

This book is as good an introduction to Connelly as any. Or start with the first Bosch book, The Black Echo. Either way, check him out. He's worth your time.

December 11, 2008

From Beirut to Jerusalem ***

*** From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman, 1989

Three stars for the average citizen. Four stars for those interested in the Middle East.

Dated, but detailed, it's no surprise why this three-time Pulitzer-prize-winner received the National Book Award with this account of his time spent in the Lebanon and Israel in the 70s and 80s. Friedman was on-hand to see and report first-hand on such history-making events as the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israel, the Sabra and Shatila massacre, the 1983 Marine-barracks bombing in Beirut and the beginning of the first Palestinian Intifada (1987).

Friedman's perspective seems to this marginally-informed reader to be fairly balanced. Read it and let me know what you think.

December 4, 2008

The Maze of Bones ***

*** The Maze of Bones, Rick Riordan, 2008

Book 1 of the 10-book series, The 39 Clues. Rick Riordan wrote this one and designed the story arc for the entire series. Each of the 39 Clues books will be written by a different author. The second, One False Note, is available as of December 2, 2008, and was written by Gordon Korman.

I liked Rick's first series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, but I like The Maze of Bones even more. Not sure why. But if you have kids who like this sort of thing, or if you are a kid who likes this sort of thing, The 39 Clues experience also includes trading cards and a huge on-line game which will allow you to become a member of the Cahill family and compete for prizes.

If you do the online thing, let me know how it turns out. I'm too busy reading the books.

December 1, 2008

Coming in 2009: Songs You Won't Hear On The Radio

Because I apparently don't have enough to do already, I'm going to post the occasional music-related review of songs that have stood out for me over the years.

Here's a little appetizer: A shockingly young Tom Waits singing The Piano Has Been Drinking live on Fernwood Tonight.