Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat By The Door

The Spook Who Sat By The Door
Sam Greenlee

I think I first heard about The Spook Who Sat By The Door maybe twenty years ago, but this was the year I finally read this incredible book. The storyline is well known to the reader of leftist literature – Dan Freeman, a black man, joins the CIA in order to secretly learn the lessons of counter insurgency so as to build a guerilla army to fight for Black liberation. It’s an incredible, radical book and you can see why it was rejected by mainstream publishers. It is part thriller, part radical political manifesto. The writing is, I think its fair to say, work a day, but who cares.  The plot is propulsive and Freeman is a multileveled, complex “hero”. I can’t think of another work of fiction like it.


Review: Mosley’s Red Death

Walter Mosley

The second Easy Rawlins novel, filled with the detail of place and time that all fans of the series enjoy. (I reviewed the first one here). This one finds our protagonist tied up in a red scare witch hunt involving a Jewish socialist working in a Black church, a back to Africa group of well meaning swindlers, a bunch of murders, a fair amount of sex, and lots of drinking. If you like your crime novels shot through with some, but not a lot, of politics, and you enjoy a story deeply rooted in a time and place, the Easy Rawlins books can’t be beat.


Review: French’s Faithful Place

Faithful Place

Tana French

The third book in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series and the best one so far. Follows the story of a detective who returns, after twenty years away, to his dysfunctional family and neighborhood to investigate the death of his high school sweetheart. Like all of French’s books, the plot is strong, but it’s the characters and dialogue that keep you at it. I figured out the killer about half way through the book, but I didn’t care. I wanted to find out what happened to these people. I try not to equate too closely the experience of the Irish with the experience of my own ethnic group – the Irish American – but the similarities here between these hard scrabble shanty Irish and my own family were eerie. The family at the center of this book is much like my own extended kin, full of love and resentment; humor and booze. They tell a good story, sing a sad song, and really struck a nerve with me.

If you’re a fan of crime fiction, I’m sure you’d enjoy it. If you’re a certain kind of Irish American, you’ll see reflections of your own family in these pages, and my guess is, devour it.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Raymond’s He Died With His Eyes Open

Dude, WTF did I read?

He Died With His Eyes Open (Factory 1), Derek Raymond

The first book in the Factory series of so called “exestensialist noir” following the nameless detective who works in the unsolved crimes division and sees the deepest underbelly of British society.

In this book, he’s on the case of a downtrodden alcoholic who was bludgeoned to death. No one should care, but our man does, for reasons that are never entirely clear.

The books starts violent and dark and just gets more intense from there. This isn’t Agatha Christie. It presents an unrelentingly dark vision of society and is on the edge of experimental. Something I get more weary of in my old age.

At times, reading this feels like a fever dream. I “enjoyed” it well enough, but haven’t returned yet to read the others in the series. Your milage my vary depending on how much tolerance you have for unrelenting doom.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: Winslow’s Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog
Don Winslow

Wow, what a read. A top-notch crime writer does the research and takes the time to understand the modern origins of the drug war in Mexico, then tells that story through the lives of petty criminals, cartel bosses, DEA agents and regular people caught up in the drug war.

Its an ugly and complicated story, and in this book, Winslow only gets to the 1990s (the sequel The Cartel, takes us to the present day). Along the way we touch on Iran/Contra, NAFTA, the end days of the Italian mafia, the rise of the narco-cartels, and much more. Lots of people get killed, everyone gets corrupted. Its a depressing, but captivating ride. If you want a well written popular novel, and don’t mind a bit of gore, this is the book for you.