A House On Cherry Street

Pine Bluff, Ark. Circa 1985.
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26th and Cherry St.

Pine Bluff, Arkansas
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The Port

Slackwater Harbor, Pine Bluff, Ark.
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Derwood’s Dairy Bar

Old haunts in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
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Stag Domino Hall

Old haunts in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
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Two Sentence Book Reviews

PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION : In a speech before his peers, a young mathematician postulates that math may someday be used to predict the future, and when powerful people took notice he is forced to go underground on a strange planet. This is my first Asimov in the 60 or so years I’ve been able to read worth a damn and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

THE BIG NOWHERE: Finally a book title that honestly describes the reading experience. Huge disappointment after American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand.

FALL OF GIANTS: After 985 pages I’m still not sure who the giants are or how they fell but overall I liked this sprawling story of British and German aristocrats, American politicians, Welsh mine workers and Russian peasants whose paths intersect all across the world. World War I is the backdrop for the first book of the three part series, and I’ll be on the lookout for book two.

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The Winner

Recently I responded to a Twitter question posed by Goodreads to name well known authors you’ve never read. I said “David Baldacci, James Patterson and Clive Cussler.” A lady left me a comment saying I should try The Winner by Baldacci. So being the nice guy that I am, I replied I would keep an eye out for it, even though I had no intention of actually doing it. But wouldn’t you know, the next time I went to Goodwill on a book run there it was, almost jumping off the shelf at me, a very nice hardcover copy. I felt obligated, so I bought it. The story revolves around LuAnn, a young, dirt poor Georgia woman who lives in a trailer with a no account boyfriend and their infant daughter. She is selected by a man named Jackson to win the rigged National Lottery, something Jackson has done eleven times before with other people who were down and out. Initially LuAnn’s conscience told her to refuse the offer, which, unbeknownst to her at the time, would have been a fatal decision, but then her boyfriend gets himself murdered by a drug dealer and LuAnn is a suspect, so she decides to take the money and run. Part of the deal is she must leave the country and never return. But after ten years of constantly moving around Europe, she comes back to the US and buys a large estate in rural Virginia. When Jackson finds out what LuAnn has done he is not happy. This is a problem for her, because in addition to being very smart, Jackson is also a sadistic killer and a master of disguise. There is a lot to like in this book. The pacing is very good, it never drags, not even once. The dialogue is well done, very natural. There is action, suspense, intrigue, murder and even a little romance. The story doesn’t completely defy belief, but it stretches it almost to the limit. It’s escapism, pure and simple. It felt similar to a Nelson DeMille book I read a couple of months ago. The good guys are not perfect, but they are fearless and resourceful in the face of danger. Their wits save them in the end, and the bad guy gets his just desserts. Exactly as it should be.

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The Best of Edward Abbey

This book features selections of Edward Abbeys’ writing chosen by Abbey himself, and it’s an odd mix if you ask me, which you didn’t, yet here we are. To begin with, there are solo chapters from some of his novels, which seemed strange. I thought the writing was good, but with no context for what the story was about it felt like an exercise in reading for reading’s sake. There is poetry he wrote which I didn’t read because I hate poetry. The best parts of the book are the essays he wrote during his time as a ranger in Arches National Park and from another time he worked as a fire lookout in a National Forest whose name escapes me. That’s the Edward Abbey that most appeals to me. His descriptive abilities are really good. His words put you right there in the desert mountains with him, or a deep canyon, or on a float trip down a roiling river. His writings give some insight into the personality of the man, one that could hardly be called conventional. His fondness for solitude was not healthy for his five marriages, nor was his propensity for infidelity. He loved the Desert Southwest and did not want to see it altered from its natural state for any reason. All progress was bad. Some consider Abbey the father of eco-terorism, but when he recounts some of the illegal things he did he seems more vandal than terrorist; pulling up survey markers or temporarily disabling heavy equipment for example. Oddly, for a staunch environmentalist, he was not above chucking his empty beer cans into Lake Powell. He was very much anti-immigration, so that got him branded as a racist. He was a lover of women and not afraid to write about it so some labeled him a misogynist. My overall impression of this book is that about half of it is worth reading. But at the same time, if I run across a good copy of Desert Solitaire in the near future I plan to buy it and read it again.

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Six Rookies In The Starting Line Up

Seven years of rebuilding since winning it all in 2015 and this is where we are. Only two teams in all of MLB have a worse record. Our stars* have been traded away for prospects. Our three veterans say they look forward to “building relationships” with the youngsters. That’s nice. It’s why we buy tickets. This team toiled in futility for thirty years between championships. Things look to be setting up nicely for 2045.

Also, RIP Vin Scully.

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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

This is my third LeCarre novel featuring George Smiley but it’s the first where Smiley plays a significant role in the story. There is a Russian mole in the British intelligence service known by those who live in that world as The Circus. Smiley has agreed to come out of retirement from The Circus to help identify the traitor, who is believed to occupy a position at the highest levels. As usual the book is beautifully written. The more I read LeCarre the more impressed I am with his talent. The storyline was a bit challenging, but in the end Smiley gets his man. And I’m glad I got the chance to know Smiley better. He’s an interesting character. But the person I’m really curious about is the mysterious Ann, Smiley’s estranged wife who is apparently a serial adulteress. This lady must have one whiz-bang of a backstory and I want to know what it is. A fair number of Smiley’s associates at The Circus seem to be infatuated with her. She had the audacity to shag one of them who plays a key role in this particular drama, although Ann herself is only spoken of. I don’t know if it’s her looks (she’s no spring chicken) or her hutzpah that wins people over, and even Smiley seems willing to overlook her transgressions up to a point. He pines for her constantly in his loneliness. It’s kind of sad really. Well anyway, perhaps there is a book in the series that answers my questions. Probably one of the earlier ones. So the search will go on. As for this book it is very good overall but not quite up to the excellence of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Apparently it’s not easy to follow one masterpiece with another. Who knew?

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