July 30, 2009

Havah ***

*** Havah, Tosca Lee, 2008

After thoroughly enjoying Tosca's first novel, Demon, I eagerly anticipated her second, Havah: The Story of Eve. It does not disappoint.

I don't know how she writes like this. There were passages that reminded me of Lewis's Perelandra, and I don't make the comparison lightly. And then there's the story of Cain and Abel aka Kayin and Hevel.

Everybody knows what's coming. I can't imagine how daunting it would be to sit down and try to make fresh such an ancient story. But Tosca does it, which should not be surprising, given how she handled the fallen angel in her first book. It was great to read, nonetheless. Dayum, this chick can write!

I forgot to ask her what's coming next. Whatever it is, it's going straight to the nightstand as soon as it comes out.

UPDATE: XDPaul is right. Here's what Tosca says about her next work: Agent of prophecy, patriot rebel, betrayer of God. Coming in 2011: The story of the most reviled man in Christendom, Judas Iscariot… as told in his own words.

July 23, 2009

The Night Watchman ***

*** The Night Watchman, Mark Mynheir, 2009

I met Mark in 2003 at a publishing trade show. He handed me his card and said he was a cop who wrote novels. Cool, I said, and that was that. But we ended up hanging together over the years at various shows. Very cool guy with some incredible stories.

This is Mark's fourth novel and the first in first person. I think he's found his voice. I read his first three when they came out, but they weren't the type of thing I normally read. This one, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of thing I read. And the best writing, so far. (Which is good. You don't want your writing to get worse as you go along!) It reminded me of Kaminsky's Lew Fonseca stories, a little. And that's a good thing.

I think this is a series, and I'm eagerly looking forward to the next one!

July 16, 2009

Not For Sale ***

*** Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade--and How We Can Fight It, David Batstone, 2007

This book was a bit of a shocker. When somebody says slavery and America, you immendiately think, that was over a century ago. Get over it. Turns out it's right now, and right here. And also other places, all over the globe. Check out the website NotForSaleCampaign.org.

July 9, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress **

** Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyon, 1678

Yes, I know it's a classic. I am sufficiently independent of thought to not feel intimidated by classics or obligated to like them. I am not like the character in Robertson Davies A Mixture of Frailties, of whom he wrote:

During the first day or two she attempted to get on with War and Peace, but found it depressing, and as time wore on she suffered from that sense of unworthiness which attacks sensitive people who have been rebuffed by a classic.

I'm not a sensitive person, I guess.

I realized I haven't reviewed the audio books I've listened to this year, which gives me some more fodder for Thursdays.

I found this book diverting, and listened to it mainly while working, since I like to multitask. But allegory wears thin for me after a while, and soon I got weary of all the doctrine and moralizing. Your mileage may vary.

July 6, 2009

Andy Mazilli

From the Songs you won't hear on the radio files:

Five or six years ago, when I was living in Honolulu, I went to the SF Bay area on business. I dragged Pierre, a co-worker from Montreal, to JJ's Blues in Santa Clara to hear the moving guitar work of Laura Chavez, who was playing with the Lara Price band. [Note to self: Do a Songs You Won't Hear On The Radio episode on Laura.]

Short discursive paasge: I first heard Laura by chance. I bought a Baby Taylor at the Guitar Center across the street from JJ's Blues and noticed a Texas band was playing that night. I came back. The warm-up band was Lara Price and Laura Chavez blew me away. Her work on Little Wing brought tears to my eyes. At that time she was 18, still in high school, and her parents were at the gig. I chatted with them and learned more about her background, teaching herself blues from SRV and other records when her guitar teacher wouldn't teach her to play blues.

So I dragged Pierre to hear this guitar goddess. We got there in time for the open mike and a guy got up and played some of the most raw Hendrix-influenced guitar I've ever heard. I talked to him between sets and learned his name was Andy Mazilli. Later on he approached our table with a turqouise Mexican Stratocaster and tried to sell it to me for $200, saying he hadn't eaten in a day or two.

I didn't, and still don't, have any use for an electric guitar, and I told him flat out I wasn't interested. Pierre made interested noises. I repremanded him, saying, "Look at this guy. He's serious. He's hungry. Don't play with him. You're not going to buy this guitar." "I might." "What, you going to put it in the overhead back to Canada, with no case?"

At this point Mazilli cut in and said, "OK, how about a CD?" I said sure. He left and returned with an Office Depot CD he had burned himself on his computer. He asked my name and signed the CD itself with the phrase, "Thanks for your support."

I listened to it in the rental while driving around town that week. According to the liner notes [a little photocopied square of paper tucked into the Magic Maz poster he folded into a CD holder] it was recorded in one day in a studio with a pickup band for $100. It sounds like it. On the song Too Much Pollution, a string breaks in the guitar solo at 4:22. Maz tries another lick, but it's thrown out of tune. He switches to creating a rhythm with deadened strings and wah-wah pedal for the rest of the song, scat singing after the lyrics to the end.

It also sounds like a guy who had mainlined SRV and Hendrix for decades. But it had a raw, free quality that resonated with me. Jail Farm is my favorite. Raw and sloppy, but personal and fluid. For me it really comes down to passion and authenticity and not to technique and polish. Passion trumps precision in my book.

I later learned he had played with such greats as John Popper, Joan Osborne, Greg Allman, and Kim Wilson. Check this quote from John Popper. "I think Andy Mazzilli might be the best guitarist I know in New York City."

I was working on the Songs You Won't Hear On The Radio series and thought of Mazilli for the first time in years. I did some searching on YouTube and found some live recordings for your dining and dancing pleasure. I also discovered that Mazilli evidently died in 2007 at age 40. RIP Maz. You are not forgotten.

Here's a cut called Guitar Payne that gives you the flavor of his playing. Finding My Way Back To You Thorn Bird Jam.