Richard Russo fans think about his books like Yogi Berra thinks about pizza. You don't buy Russo for the drama, the sex & violence, or the crisp pace. You get them for the character development, the subtlety, and the insight into life. All of those are abundantly present in "Cape Magic". The characters aren't quite as colorful as those in "Nobody's Fool", but they are consistent with the setting of the novel. This book is probably more like "Straight Man", but there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Although the characters weren't as fully developed as in his earlier novels, I found the fast forward time skips interesting. By explaining the death of the protagonist's mother in retrospect following the hiatus, Russo leaves room for the reader to sort out the impact. Overall, it was somewhat different from Russo's earlier works, but still excellent.
Ralph Peters' non-fiction works have all been excellent, but his earlier fiction efforts were good--not great. I chose to download this book just because of the novelty of the setting. I didn't think that even Ralph, who was an MI officer, could capture the peculiar nature of Fort Huachuca. I was wrong. His descriptions of the locales, the attitudes, and the pressures of transient student life are amazing. His characters are credible (both from a literary sense and a real-world sense) and entertaining. He did a near-perfect job of pulling all of the elements of the complicated plot together in the end. I hope that Ralph Peters will continue in his dual-track writing career.
I really like to hear Willie Nelson sing. I've enjoyed several of his movie roles. I had hoped that that would mean that I would like his book as well. It was not to be. The book is an odd conglomeration of self-absorbed ego, bad jokes, strange politics, self-serving commercial endorsements (ex: biodiesel fuel, for which he owns a production company), and cracker aphorisms. The book was so bad that it spoiled his music for me. The reader was OK, but not a professional. He sounded good in comparison with Willie himself, who (painfully) read part of the introduction and a bit at the end. Yikes!
What a disappointment! I have enjoyed every W.E.B. Griffin book that I have read or listened to. I anticipated this one greatly. Once I started trying to listen to this recording, though, I was really put off by the lousy production. The writing was probably excellent, and the narration was good--when the producer let you hear it. The wretched, loud, and unnecessary music at the beginning of chapters was awful. To add to the distraction, there were sound effects (ships horns, etc.) that were just silly. What's next? Maybe a scratch-and-sniff card that you send out to add to the experience? Good writers like Griffin don't need to have their stuff turned into audio comic books.
Robinson appears to be suffering from the Ludlum syndrome. He's trying to "top" his excellent earlier works by being more far fetched and imaginative. The trouble is that he has lost touch with reality. His hero swiftly and easily seizes control of the U.S. government, then in two weeks manages an evacuation of the East coast. Even if we had all of the omitted parts of this dreadfully abridged work, it's difficult to imagine that he could have made it credible. It's a shame. Robinson's first four best sellers were superb. Nothing recedes like success.
Joe Mantegna reads Parker's works just as Parker wrote them. Parker writes in a style consistent with his characters. The minimalistic, almost simplistic, style that he uses in the Spenser novels is completely congruent with the characters. It's part of the charm. It's not the way that LeCarre writes, but both Parker and LeCarre are masters of their genre. "Bad Business" probably isn't Parker's best Spenser novel, but it's still quite good considering that he has written so many, and has taken his hero through so much already. I suspect that Parker is rather tired of writing about Spenser, but he continues to publish another one occasionally so that people like me can enjoy an easy listening experience while driving or working out at the gym.
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