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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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Reading list, 2006 to date

Early this year I started keeping a list of the books I've read. Whenever possible, I give my own rating on 5 stars and a short synopsis so that I can remember what the book was about when I look back on it later. I have another pile of books upstairs I've read recently but haven't logged yet, but I will soon. Most of this is light mystery fiction, but the stuff that's really good and stands out for me are books by Lawrence Block, Dennis Lehane, old Robert B. Parker, and Donald E. Westlake. All that stuff is top-drawer. Also the book of 9 short stories by J.D. Salinger was really excellent.

1. James Frey, A Million Little Pieces, 2003, 4.5 stars.

2. Lawrence Block, The Burglar On The Prowl, 2004, 3.5 stars.

3. Bill Pronzini (ed.), The Mammoth Book Of Private Eye Stories, 1988, 4.5 stars.

4. Lawrence Block, Hit Man, 1998, 5 stars.

5. Joyce Carol Oates, I Am No One You Know (Short Stories), 2004, 4 stars.

6. Lawrence Block, Enough Rope (Collected Stories), 2002, 5 stars.

7. Lawrence Block, All The Flowers Are Dying, 2005, 4.5 stars.

8. Otto Penzler (ed.), Murder Is My Racquet (Short Stories), 2005, 3 stars.

9. Robert B. Parker, Night Passage (A Jesse Stone Novel), 1997, 4 stars.

10. John Harvey, Ash & Bone, 2005, 3.5 stars.

11. Robert B. Parker, Ceremony (A Spenser Novel), 1982. 4.5 stars, Spenser is hired to find a rich couple's daughter who has started hooking in Boston's red light district. Great violence and action with Hawk and Spenser.

12. Robert B. Parker, The Godwulf Manuscript (The First Spenser Novel), 1973, 4 stars.

13. Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island, 2003, 4.5 stars. Gripping psychological thriller that takes place in 1954 on a fortified penal colony for the criminally insane located on Shutter Island in the Boston Harbor; fantastic plot twists related to schizophrenia and its related delusions

14. Robert B. Parker, A Catskill Eagle, 1985, 4 stars. Early in his relationship with Susan, Spenser discovers that she and Hawk are both in serious trouble in a town in southern California. Spenser breaks Hawk out of jail and then rescues Susan from a partly unwished-for abduction.

15. Robert B. Parker, Valediction, 1984, 4.5 stars. Spenser rescues a young woman who he is informed to have been abducted by a religious sect called The Bullies.

16. James Frey, My Friend Leonard, 2005, 2.5 stars. The sequel to AMLP, this book picks up when Frey leaves rehab at Hazelden and follows his first few years of staying clean and sober. Moves slowly, largely a boring read, but the ending is touching (although it would be more so if we were made to care more about Frey's relationship with Leonard, which doesn't go into as much depth or poignancy as the reader might like to see).

17. Andrea Camilleri, The Voice of the Violin, 1997, 3.5 stars. An Inspector Montalbano mystery. My first exposure, and while the book was not disagreeable to read, I won't seek out another title in the future.

18. José Saramago, Blindness, 1995, 4 stars. An epidemic of "white blindness" takes over the world, forces society to descend into true chaos, and then, as suddenly and mysteriously as it first appeared, it resolves in the general population.

19. Dennis Lehane, A Drink Before the War, 1994, 4.5 stars. An absolutely fantastic mystery thriller, Lehane's debut novel, with great violence and excellent character development. With this, I consider Bob Parker's torch passed on.

20. Donald E. Westlake, Thieves' Dozen, 2004, 5 stars. 11 superb short stories featuring the burglar Dortmunder and his criminal crew. These stories are full of suspense at almost getting caught, or at least narrowly escaping bungling of each crime. Extremely well-written.

21. Donald E. Westlake, Don't Ask, 1993, 4.5 stars. A Dortmunder novel involving a sacred relic in the form of a femur being fought over between the two fictional Eastern European countries of Tsergovia and Votskojek. Prominently features the enormous character Tiny, who is of the same extraction as one of these two countries.

22. Maureen Jennings, Let Loose The Dogs, 2003, 3.5 stars. A very good historical mystery that takes place in late 19th-century Toronto and features Detective William Murdoch. Murdoch investigates a murder for which his estranged and abusive father has been convicted, and successfully clears his name and saves him from hanging.

23. Steve Hockensmith, Holmes On The Range, 2006, 4.5 stars. An excellent novel featuring Big Red and Old Reg Amlingmeyer, two cowboy brothers who get involved in a mystery on the corrupt Bar VR ranch in late 19th-century Montana. Excellent plot, dialogue, and character development.

24. Robert B. Parker, Wilderness, 1979, 2.5 stars. Outside Parker's series novels, this book features a man named Newman who, with his black ex-Marine sidekick Chris Hood, tries (ultimately successfully) to gun down Adolph Karl, a black gangster who murdered a prostitute while Newman witnessed it from under cover by accident. Relatively weak plot-wise, not very suspenseful, and a cheap knockoff of the relationship between Spenser and Hawk.

25. John Steinbeck, Cannery Row,

26. John Steinbeck, The Winter Of Our Discontent,

27. J.D. Salinger, 9 Stories, 5 stars

28. Laurence Leamer, Fantastic! The Story of Arnold Schwarzenegger, 3 stars. Interesting factual account of his life to date, good background and objective material on his earlier years.

29. Tami Hoag, Kill The Messenger, 2004, 4 stars.

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iamom July 13th, 2006
I just don't have enough good things to say about Dennis Lehane. Mystic Rive, upon which the movie was based, is awesome, but Shutter Island was also fantastic. And Lawrence Block is a serious master of the thriller and crime fiction novel. His Hit Man series is great.

blue_by_you July 13th, 2006
My Ken loves Lawrence Block and Lehane. You might enjoy his other favorite, Stephen White, who has written books like "Cold Case" and "Manner of Death".

I wonder if your enjoyment of Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" was daunted at all by the controversy surrounding it?

iamom July 13th, 2006
My enjoyment was marred fairly significantly. In the main, I was pissed that he lied to get the book published. Apparently he had submitted it as a work of fiction numerous times and had it rejected each time.

I did think it was well-written though, and I wrote some about it at the time if you're interested:


I remember being touched by his struggles, but after learning about parts of the book being fictionalized he lost a lot of credibility in my eyes. I wonder just how badly he was addicted now, and how much of the story in general was hyped up for dramatic license.

Thanks for that other reco, too -- I'll check it out.

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