Books Read (#SFWApro)

THE LAST POLICEMAN by Ben Winters is a murder mystery set a year or so before an asteroid strikes Earth and wipes us all out (“Don’t pray to God, pray to Bruce Willis.”). When an insurance statistician is found hanging, it’s easy to assume he’s the latest in the string of suicides. The protagonist, of course, gets roundly ribbed for insisting it’s murder, but guess what—well, you probably won’t have to guess any more than I did. Winters does a great job showing us a world collapsing as people either kill themselves or run off to finish their bucket lists, and the story works well.
Like The Burglary, DALLAS 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis has a real The More Things Change quality to it with its picture of right-wingers convinced the president is a treasonous fiend in the pay of America’s enemies and serving a foreign un-American religion (anti-Catholicism was a big factor among anti-Kennedy voters). The book begins in 1960 with a look at the city’s segregationists, Commie-hunters and religious rightists, including HL Hunt and General Edwin Walker (who I knew from other sources tried to convert his troops to John Birch anticommunisms). It also includes civil rights activists trying to change things and the business owners who whatever their personal views didn’t want to do anything so extreme it would alienate business. A very good depiction of a fevered, nervous, remarkably familiar era, even if the anti-semitic, anti-Catholic elements are less prominent now.
CURSE OF FOUR by Kaitlin Kittredge is a novella in her “Black London” series, which seems to be a fairly standard urban fantasy setting. In this one, a punk rocker and ex-junkie turned sorcerer (sort of like John Constantine’s loser brother) gets dragged in on the police investigation into his ex-girlfriend’s ritual murder. Not as interesting as her Iron Codex books.
HOW PARIS BECAME PARIS: The Invention of the Modern City by Joan DeJean looks at the massive renovations Paris underwent in the 1600s, which she argues laid the groundwork for Baron Haussman’s more famous city design two centuries later, starting with the Pont Neuf. Where most bridges of the era were lined with houses, this one remained open, giving Parisian pedestrians a glorious waterfront view that turned the bridge into a popular public space (it also introduced the novel idea of having a sidewalk exclusively for pedestrian use). As subsequent monarchs added to the open space and walkable areas of the city, those developments generated novelties such as sidewalks, paving, shopping districts, public transportation, street-lights and public flirting. DeJean’s very dry (this feels more scholarly than for casual reading), but the material is interesting. And as always it’s fascinating to see how fashion and style were concerns through the centuries, not just the twentieth.
And one more comic-book entry: LOBSTER JOHNSON: Satan Smells a Rat collects several stories of the pulp-esque hero the Lobster dealing with Nazi spies, Japanese agents, mad scientists and mobsters. Not the best in the Hellboy mythos, but good fun.

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One response to “Books Read (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Apocalypses, Invasions and More: Books Read | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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