Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sorry but Switzerland was Great

At Least Now I Have Your Attention
I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks, I took some time and traveled from London to Milan/Florence via Switzerland, crazy most of the time but for some reason Montreux has now turned into our cup of tea. Relaxing and spectacularly brilliant after the antics of the French and Londoners – or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I am working on a video that I’ll post on YouTube about the trip, hopefully this year.

What I really enjoyed about the vacation was the chance to read and write. I read three books during the trip, Dan Brown’s Inferno, Steven Coonts’ Pirate Alley, and a good start on Patrick O’Brian’s first in the 19 book series, Master and Commander, quick reviews of the first two below.
But more importantly, I was also able to finally complete the last chapter of my new World War II romance and spy novel Wars Amongst Lovers. I have had the luxury of having five people read the story and all think it’s great. Their comments have made it even better. These readings help when you have inadvertently messed up the story or confused the reader, they bring you back to point. Most helpful are their ideas that help flesh out the characters and make them real. Thanks to all – I listened and made improvements. You are all on my free book list.
My last blog post (see below) was about the best seller and what it all means, whatever the genre. Being on top of the best seller list is like winning the World Series for a writer. All the hard work has led to recognition, what else is there? Anticipating Brown’s Inferno I titled the last blog as such. I was disappointed. The story is interesting and, as most of Mr. Brown’s works, raises discussions about issues beyond the simple detective thrillers that his books are. The detective (really a college professor), Robert Langdon is a symbologist and, with his skills reading between the written and symbol filled lines of history and fantasy, needles out the solution to mysteries and murders. All well in good. The story moves along (as in all his books the chase takes just one day) from Florence to Venice to Istanbul. In fact I was in Florence the day I finished the book, I looked for many of the things he pointed out in the book. All in all I give it a 5 out of 10.
What you say? A mediocre average, he’s a bestselling author for Pete’s sake. Yes, because Mr. Brown should have evolved into a better writer than this book represents. Amateurs feel compelled to put in all their research, no matter how irrelevant or trivial to the story – but Mr. Brown is compelled to leave it in. He brings up tangential bursts of information so often through the book that it is not only distracting but downright annoying. Inferno at times seems more like an Italian travelogue than a mystery, I’m distracted by art lessons and architecture theory. And while he populates the book with red herrings and crumbs, it is bogged down by these tidbits of tedious knowledge. While politics and Florence go hand-in-hand (Medici and Machiavelli come to mind) – some is too much. I do not think that Christian churches will be holding meetings to discuss the general theme of Inferno, certainly not like they did for the Da Vinci Code. Sad because his publisher, Doubleday has spent a fortune promoting, translating and insuring the book has a worldwide opening (Inferno and Dante were even the theme of an episode on the last CSI, Las Vegas for the year – coincidence?).
On the other hand if you are planning to take a cruise you must read Stephen Coonts’ Pirate Alley. It is one story that you can’t put down – seriously. And when finished you will immediately cancel that summer cruise down the Suez Canal and out to the Indian Ocean. Be afraid, be very afraid. Mr. Coonts over the past 27 years has written some of the best military thrillers in the American genre. His two main characters Jake Grafton and Tommy Carmellini, aren’t Jack Reachers or other super hero types but damn fine soldiers doing hard work in the old fashion kick-their-butts the American way. And Jake does manage to save the world a few times.
Pirate Alley is about the seizing of a cruise ship off the coast of Somalia by pirates and the efforts of the British and American military forces under the command of Grafton (of course) to save the eight hundred passengers and crew from some very nasty Somalis and Islamic terrorists. Well written, fast paced, more weapons and explosives than you can imagine, and Carmellini’s bitching and complaining through the whole book – loved it. But I didn’t like the title, Pirate Alley. All the action takes place on the ocean or Somalia – not some Los Angeles alley. I like Pirate Desert better – kind of poetic and counterintuitive.

Last point, in this morning’s Wall Street Journal there is an interesting article about never finishing books that you have started (GO HERE). There are many I’ve started and had to put down, some because they were boring or annoying, others because they didn’t capture my mood. Or as in the case of 50 Shade of Grey there were no pictures. The ebook has given us greater freedom to “Just walk away.” They are easier to ignore buried in a tablet than the books in a pile on the shelf with those annoying bookmarks noting your failures. Good article

More later and I’m glad to be home . . . . . . .

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