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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Spenser Novels - Part 2

After taking a short break from reading fiction I have resumed reading the Spenser novels written by Robert B. Parker.  I recently read novels 11 through 20.

Valediction - 1984

A Catskill Eagle - 1985

Taming A Sea-horse - 1986

Pale Kings and Princes - 1987

Crimson Joy - 1988

Playmates - 1989

Stardust - 1990

Past Time - 1991

Double Deuce - 1992

Paper Doll - 1993

One of the most interesting story themes within this group of books is the evolution of the relationship between Spenser and Susan Silverman, Spenser's long time girlfriend.  Using the term girlfriend to describe Susan Silverman's relationship with Spenser is extremely over simplistic.  She is far more than a girlfriend.  She is Spenser's significant other, but they don't live together - much. They live independent lives, except when they are together.  Yet their love and commitment to each other is undeniable.  In this group of books Susan has to deal with her own goals and desires and make some fundamental choices about her life.  She becomes Dr. Silverman with a Harvard Phd, but even with all of her academic training she has to deal with her own emotions and desires and puts her relationship with Spenser to the ultimate test.  A Phd does make anyone immune from making bad personal choices.  I believe Parker's evolution of the Spenser/Silverman relationship is an attempt to explain his evolving relationship with his wife Joan and their unique relationship within their long marriage. 

The novels are fiction but there is a lot of truth within the storylines.  If you have the desire and interest I reommend you read them.  After another short break I will return to the Spenser novels. 

TPM

12:47 pm          Comments

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Alphabet Novels

My wife and I were looking for some new reading material at our favorite used book store.  She picked out the first two alphabet detective novels by Sue Grafton.  The alphabet series currently consists of 25 published novels.  The first was published in 1982 and the most recent in August of this year.  The star of the series is private detective Kinsey Millhone.  Ms. Millhone is based in the fictional town of Santa Teresa, California, which is based on the real city of Santa Barbara. 

It appears that Ms. Grafton was significantly influenced by legendary detective novel author Ross Macdonald.  She wrote an introduction to a biography of Macdonald, honoring him for his work.  Macdonald wrote the Lew Archer series of crime novels about a private detective based in Santa Teresa, California, and other novels as well.  Check the Library on this site for the dates of my blogs on his work.  Grafton's writing style is similar in some ways to Macdonald's, but it is obviously unique because her style reflects a woman writing about a female lead character in a later time period.  Ms. Grafton's creativity is her own. 

I have read the first three books in the series so far and I find them a great read.  One of the unique features of the books is the aging or lack thereof of Kinsey Millhone and the other characters in the books.  The first three novels were published between 1982 and 1986 yet the time frame for the three novels takes place within a six month period in 1982.  It will interesting so see how the characters age over the next 22 novels. 

The first three novels are: 

A is for Alibi - 1982

B is for Burglar - 1985

C is for Corpse - 1986 

I need to head back to my used book stores and see if I can find the rest of the series so I can add them to my stack of reading material.

TPM

6:04 pm          Comments

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Weaponized Lies

Have you ever heard the saying "Figures Don't Lie, But Liars Figure"? Most of have heard this saying at some point of our lives.  I was recently given a new book by Daniel J. Levitin on this subject.  The original title was A Field Guide to Lies.  The title on my paperback edition is Weaponized Lies - How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era.  It is clear that the publisher changed the title in an attempt increase sales by making the book sound very political during this period of intense political debate with accusations of lies and fake news all over the political media landscape.  The reality is that the book isn't very political.  There are only a few minor references to the current political environment in the book. 

The book is about statistics, probability, logic, critical analysis and the scientific method as applied to both theoretical and real life situations.  The author effectively makes the point the many people are duped by individuals or corporations that use numerical information to make a point that can be very misleading.  He also illustrates that information provided with only words can be used to purposely mislead readers or listeners. 

Some of the interesting aspects of the book are the few times where the author makes a point with no back up for his position.  He effectively says "trust me on this", which contradicts a fundamental premise of the book.  He recommends that all of us look at important claims made by others very critically before accepting them.  I found this aspect of the book a bit amusing.  It doesn't materially impact the fundamental message of the book. 

The world we live in today is full of lies, smears, fake news and misinformation.  All of us need to careful when we analyze what we read and see and recommend to others.  Weaponized Lies has value for those that are analytical and desire to discern the truth amid all of "information" that is floating around.  It won't help anyone that has predetermined "the truth" about the world around them. 

TPM

6:28 pm          Comments

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Spenser Novels

Robert B. Parker wrote forty-one novels featuring Boston based private detective Spenser between 1973 and Parker's death in 2010.  Thirty-nine of the books were written solely by Parker about the cases of the adult Spenser.  One Spenser novel, Chasing the Bear, written by Parker is a retrospective on Spenser's youth and was targeted to young adults. The final Parker written Spenser book, Silent Night, was in progress at the time of Parker's death and was completed by Parker's literary agent, Helen Brann and published in 2013.  Ace Atkins has written six additional Spenser novels to continue the series to the present day. 

Spenser has become a legendary character due to Parker's novels, the Spenser For Hire 1980s TV series and the later TV movies.  After reading the Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall series I decided to accumulate and read all of the Spenser novels in the order they were published.  In recent months I have found 38 of the 41 books, 37 in 4 used book stores in our region and one new purchase.  In some ways reading the novels is like reading historical fiction during my adult life.  Spenser has a very unique philosophy of life and his thoughts as reflected through Parker are unique, at least to me.  The interactions between the main characters are extremely interesting, in particular the interactions between Spenser and his primary love interest, Susan Silverman. 

If you are interested in reading the Spenser novels start at the beginning and read them in order.  I have read the first 10 so far.

The Godwulf Manuscript - 1973

God Save The Child - 1974 

Mortal Stakes - 1975

Promised Land - 1976

The Judas Goat - 1978

Looking for Rachel Wallace - 1980

Early Autumn - 1981

A Savage Place - 1981

Ceremony - 1982

The Widening Gyre - 1983 

I am going to take a short break and read some other things next, but I will return to Spenser very soon. 

TPM

9:06 pm          Comments

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Strange Death of Europe

Early this summer I was visiting a friend in Florida.  He recommended a book that was completely unknown to me.  I just finished reading The Strange Death of Europe - Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray.  This book was published a few months ago.  It includes references to events that occurred in the first quarter of this year.  It is very current.  Murray is an interesting person.  He is gay, an atheist and British.  By US standards I think we would label Murray as very liberal politically.  That makes The Strange Death of Europe an even more remarkable book than it is. 

Murray explores the history of migration from the Middle East, East Asia and Africa to Europe beginning in the aftermath of World War II.  Since millions of young men died during World War II Europe needed huge numbers of workers to help rebuild the continent and economy.  Many nations in Europe were colonial powers that abused the nations that they had previously colonized and had become independent or were in the process of becoming independent.  The migration of millions of people from many different nations and cultures began the process of migrating to Europe.  Murray spends a significant portion of the book analyzing the evolution of the mind set of Europe's political and cultural leaders over the seventy year period from the end of World War II to the present period.  He also explains how the attitudes of the political class began to diverge from the views of the general population they were governing.  He makes the case that in recent years the European media has become adept at ignoring the facts in order to advance a political philosophy. 

Murray reviews the radical Islam terror events of the past few years in detail and puts them in context of the political thought in Europe during this period.  He makes the case that Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, the long time leader of Europe's most economically powerful nation, is leading the continent to an inevitable cultural disaster.  It is also clear that some nations in Europe (mostly in Eastern Europe) are beginning to protect themselves from the onslaught of immigrants while others nations, like Sweden, are in the process of committing cultural suicide. 

Many Americans have watched the news coverage of some of the most henious acts of radical Islamic terrorism in Europe or read about the horror of the massive number of rapes of German women by Islamic men during the New Years holidays or large numbers of rapes of Swedish women at music festivals.  The Strange Death of Europe explains how the European politicians and media reacted to these events.  Most Americans would be shocked to understand that these horrific acts were essentially brushed off as nothing events by European leaders. 

I am an American of European heritage reading about the cultural destruction of Europe presented by a European author that would likely disagree with me on most topics in a political discussion.  I think I would consider him far left on a broad discussion of political issues.  But on the issue of European immigration and cultural destruction caused by unlimited immigration, the author is considered to be "far right" in Europe.  From my perspective most of the leadership of Europe is a group of fools with much of the European main stream media also fools.  Murray addresses the issues of Immigration, Identity, Islam within Europe in a very rational manner.  Yet he is considered a radical on the right by many in Europe because of his views.  This is absolutely amazing. 

After reading The Strange Death of Europe I tried to envision a meeting between President Trump and Chancellor Merkel on the topic of "refugees" and immigration.  There is literally no overlap between their views.  I believe each would evaluate the other as a fool or crazy or some other negative adjective.  "Extreme vetting", border walls, immigration limits and travel bans have no place in mainstream European thought.  The approach to immigration by most European governments appears insane to many of us in the US when you understand the details and have context for news events.  It also appears that Europe's governments are ignoring the will of their people if you analyze the polling data related to immigration taken during the last few years.  

All Americans should be perepared for the culture of Europe to continue to evolve radically.  If immigration and birth rates continue at their current rates within a generation much of Europe may have majority Islamic culture.  It is hard to see that the US and Europe will have much in common a few decades into the future unless fundamental changes take place in the attitudes and actions of the European political leadership in the near future. 

The Strange Death of Europe is a tough book to read.  Murray deals with tough subjects.  He presents facts backed by hard data.  He ties the history together to provide context for what has happened.  It is hard to admit that the long storied culture of Europe is dying.  I have been in a variety of European cities during the last 10 years and have seen some of circumstances Murray relates in his book.  So I can confirm some of it from personal experience.  But my personal experience is nothing compared to Murray's.  He lives it every day and travels throughout Europe to get a first hand view of the entire situation.  I hope the Europeans will listen to him before it is too late.

TPM

P.S.  In The Washington Post on Sunday, August 6, 2017, an article - "Germany debates deportation as a deterrent - A fatal stabbing in Hamburg has ramped up calls for swiftness, but experts say stricter laws would not have helped" - A 26 year old Palestinian male, born in the UAE, knifed six people, one fatally in a Hamburg supermarket, "wanted to die a martyr, prosecutors said.  His attack last month has renewed questions about whether Germany has control of its borders, prompting recriminations from opposing political factions ahead of a September election that will be a referendum on the nation's chancellor, Angela Merkel."  We will see what happens!

5:10 pm          Comments

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