San Anselmo, CA, United States | Member Since 2006
You can have your Stone Barrington, thank you very much. Just the name says phony and contrived. I have tried a couple of those, plus the others, Ed Eagle, Hothouse Whatever, etc. This is Woods' first book, and, IMHO, his best. It is worth reading the Wikipedia paragraph about this book. Woods would eventually become one of our generation's most prolific authors, making his publishers and agents quite rich, I am sure. However, much of what he has written since Chiefs is forced, formulaic, and designed to sell like hotcakes. Fine. Chiefs, though, seems clearly autobiographical, to the degree that many of the best writers' early works often do. The multi-generational story of Will Lee and the town of Delano, Georgia grabs you very quickly, and, without the modern tricks of hyped-up violence and scary suspense, Mr. Woods holds you with a tale that is completely genuine and passionate. He loves his characters, and we know it. Will Lee himself is a wonderful protagonist: we are almost immediately on his side, and Mr. Woods develops Will Henry's life (his friends call him Will Henry, out of Southern affection. The only man who calls him "Lee" is the loose cannon Foxy Funderburk, who is insanely jealous that Will was chosen as the first chief of police in Delano rather than him.)
The other characters are also fully drawn: Will's wife and family, the banker Hugh Holmes, who gambled big on the new town and got rich very quickly. One of the first scenes is Will's accidental arrest of two drunk rednecks who have robbed Holmes' bank. They come careening around the bank in a huge old Packard, or something, while Will happens to be holding an old, rusty Colt .45 just given to him by the town doctor and council member Frank Mudter. The whole town (a thousand people) calls Will a hero, and he is off to the races, albeit in a slow, gentlemanly Southern way.
Mr. Woods was born and raised in Georgia, and it shows. He is extremely fond of almost everything about the South. He depicts the racial/slavery issues with deep compassion. He understands the life of people who may live in this country but have little in common, it would seem, with most of us middle-class regular guys and gals (gals? I'm becoming a Southerner!). He also handles the issue of alcohol (Georgia was a dry state at the time of this book) with great skill and delicacy. Basically, every single thing about this book is wonderful. If you want the best of Stuart Woods, start here.
If you want the best of Mark Hammer, you could well start here too. His voice is just so mellow, slow and easy, never pushed or hurried, warmly funny and also very loving towards the characters. He manages a Southern drawl with ease and great skill. You just have to listen to him to truly understand the richness of an audiobook. Reading with the eyes is fine, but a great performer like Mark Hammer adds a unique dimension to the work.
I just plain loved every little thang about this book, and I surely hope that y'all do, too.
The above is a quote from Robert B. Parker, a guy who should know. I am now in the process of reading all of Mr. Perry's novels, and I am sad to say that there are only a couple left. The man is remarkable, and again, Michael Kramer is the perfect voice for these amazing books. Mr. Perry is the opposite of formulaic. His creativity and inventiveness seem to know no bounds. This book starts with a killing, and takes almost the whole book to solve it. Through the book we get to know a number of people who are so much flesh and blood that we might actually know them in real life. The villains, however, are so scary that we are glad not to know them. Each time I listen to one of these, I just can't imagine how Mr. Perry is going to top this one, and yet, he does. At times here the suspense is literally unbearable. The plot quickens to the point where I had to put it down to make it last longer, if you understand. I was tempted to just sit and listen to the whole thing, but summoned up enough will power to let it be. Once again Mr. Perry writes with wit that is sometimes understated and sometimes just hilarious. He skewers a rich man who is also a monster, and also his sycophantic wife, and their lives of sheltered unreality. This man hires a killer to stalk the wife of the detective who dies at the beginning, and the contest between the two of them is a war of wills and wits. Emily is another extremely well drawn woman, something which Mr. Perry does easily while other male writers struggle with their inability to write nothing but cardboard women. At first I thought that The Butcher's Boy could not be topped. Now I know that Mr. Perry's talents are truly limitless. Enjoy yourselves. Mr. Perry cannot be beat.
Robert B. Parker was one of this country's most prolific authors, in league with Elmore Leonard. Like Leonard, he simply wanted to entertain us, and he succeeded almost every time out. Likewise, Michael Prichard was an amazingly prolific performer (and may still be). And Joe Mantegna is also an incredibly prolific and likable actor and narrator. Choosing between these two narrators is like trying to choose between the best apple pie and the best peach pie: very hard to do. In Sixkill, Parker again puts Spenser in his usual slot: a very tough guy on the outside with a very tender inside. The dialogue is, as always, witty and brief. You start chuckling right out of the gate. Mantegna seems to have a little more trouble with the repetitive "he said, she said" stuff than Prichard. I seem to notice that less when hearing Prichard. Mantegna, OTOH, is a face many of us know from movies and TV, and his voice is that of a friendly guy who might live next door to you, who happens to be one of the best storytellers anywhere. The plot of Sixkill is really just an excuse for Spenser to act, to play the tough guy when he wants to and the tender lover of Susan Silverman when he needs to. Not that the plot is trifling: it is clever and tugs at your heartstrings, in some ways. Sixkill is a huge Indian who once played great football, but then fell down a terrible slide. Spenser takes him on as a project, and between Spenser and the talk-about-tough-but-silent Hawk, they reclaim Sixkill in a way that is very humane and caring. Parker was a genius. Both Prichard and Mantegna make him sound wonderful. I have only tried to listen to one book narrated by David Dukes, and I hated it. Sit down with Parker and have a great time.
This is Mr. Perry's first book, originally published in 1982. Although it's a little dated (a full gas tank, 12 gallons, for $10!) that is the only flaw I can find. Michael Connelly, one heck of a writer himself, has written an introduction to the book, which accurately describes Perry's awesome talent and assuredness. Connelly uses the word "velocity" as a description of plots that delight us, and this is the perfect word for Perry's plot. There are only two main characters, the unnamed professional hitman, and the Justice Department agent Elizabeth Weiser, plus many other characters. Perry cleverly alternates chapters between these two characters to hold our interest, and this is a very successful suspense device. The book flies by. The hitman takes on the Las Vegas mafia families single-handedly, and you believe that he can manage it. He is no non-human superhero, though. He is believable in every way. Likewise, Elizabeth is also a real human being, in the field reluctantly for the first time, and simultaneously doubtful and self-confident. You just have to read Perry's work to see how smoothly he creates these characters. He also sees Las Vegas as what it is, or was thirty years ago. The narration is flawless. Mr. Kramer understands the writer, and has narrated all of Mr. Perry's books. He is fluid and entertaining. He builds the suspense for us. You can never guess the plot's twists and turns. You will at one moment fully suspect that someone with a gun will sneak in the door, and then Mr. Perry surprises you. Even Elizabeth is surprised and hoodwinked. This is a terrific book, and I am sure that I will eventually listen to all of Mr. Perry's books. Great entertainment!
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