The Godfather of Kathmandu by John Burdett read by Stephen Hogan

“You know how Thais are: totally fair minded Buddhists until their personal income is threatened.”

For we farang,  the improbability of Thailand is as good as fiction. Where else would one find a dejected pot-smoking homicide detective and his long-haired assistant, a “Kathoey transsexual who has not yet scraped together the courage or the funds for the final op” ? How else could one be brought to believe in the existence of  sect of nuns who meditate on dead bodies —

 “four hours sleep per night, near starvation rations, no electricity, …they were not allowed real bodies anymore but the local hospitals provided them with photographs of cadavers … ” ?

Unless they were located in a wat in the far east of Thailand, near the border with Laos? What is more tragic than a spoiled, mantic, beautiful Chinese witch, whose  pharmaceutical grade cocoa, once tasted, is forever craved? Or  the story of Rosie, the Australian hairdresser, who only wanted enough money to buy a condo in Sydney and live a real life,

it was a one-off I was going to open a beauty salon, there’s a new development of Rose Bay, I wanted south-facing, I was going to be “Rosie of Rose Bay,”….

…and who is now the unfortunate guest of the woman’s prison at Thonburi, having failed to smuggle the condom nestling 100% pure heroin inside her vagina through customs.  A story is always many stories: and the best stories are localizable.



Gun Games by Faye Kellerman read by Mitchell Greenberg

Short, spoiled and operatic is the 14 year old Persian Jewess who charms Gabe, the poor little rich foundling now living with Peter and Rena Decker. Gabe is a little lovable, a little weird, and very horny. But he is also a musical prodigy, with the lean blonde wits of his assassin father — the unforgettable and immemorial Chris Donatti. Once upon a time, long long ago, Chris Donati also went to highschool in L.A., fell in love in L.A., got in trouble in L.A.

Today L.A. is full of  over-monied teenagers with guns, some suicidal, or maybe not. In between the clumsy  romantic gropings of Gabe and his sobbing Persian Jewess are  the good, old police investigations of Marge and Oliver, a little older, a little tired, a little weepy themselves. Are the high-school suicides really suicides? The whodunit falls by the wayside, unfortunately, and neither the fascinating Donatti nor his curious son can mobilize by this L.A. West Side story.

The Bone House by Brian Freeman read by Joe Barrett

There is something annoying, something unsettling, something demoralizing about a story in which  all the women are either murder victims,  embittered but useless mothers, faithful, ineffectual wives, or sexually charged students with dancers’ bodies. Annoying, too, is witnessing an entire small town turn against an innocent man and his brainy wife, both outsiders, neither one well-liked.  Into this remote and stupid Wisconsin town drives a detective from Naples, with one earring, spiky hair, a trust fund, (but no lap top), whose  actress mother taught him that “if someone was moving their lips in Los Angeles, they were probably lying.”  This assemblage of unpleasantness doesn’t stop one from wanting to find out who done it.

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block read by Tom Stechschulte

“Don’t make any major changes in the first year” … they say at AA. Matt Scudder has five or six weeks not to decide what he’s going to do about Jan, a girl he sees Saturday night and Sunday morning …

“Some people say not to make any major changes for the first five years… or even ten,” Jim, a fellow AA member, tells him.

After a meeting at St. Claire’s Hospital they walk home and Jim says:

“Something Buddha said as it happens: it is your dissatisfaction with what is that is the source of all your unhappiness..”

I said: “Buddha said that?”

“So I’m told, though I have to admit I wasn’t there to hear him. You seem surprised.”

“Well,” I said, “I never thought he had that much depth to him.”


“That’s what everybody calls him, and what he calls himself as far as that goes. Big guy. Must stand 6′ 6 . Shaves his head. Belly out to here. He’s a regular at the midnight meeting at the Moravian Church but he turns up other places as well. I think he’s a former outlaw biker and my guess is he’s done time but…”

The look on his face stopped me.

He said: “the Buddha. Sitting under the Bodhi tree, waiting for enlightenment.”

“Listen, it was a natural mistake. The only Buddha I know works at the Moravian Church.”

Making amends is step 8 of the 12 step program, and Jack Ellery is making amends when he ends up dead. His gay, persnickety, over-responsible sponsor has Jack’s list of amendees. He tells Matt Scudder that maybe he should “look into” whether somebody on the list is a killer. Matt Scudder does.

Dry, sidewalk humor full of alcohol and hotel rooms and pre-digital middle aged uncoupled city men. But also, that wry twist of fate that takes Order and Organization and runs over it.

This time, the Order is the Big Book and its steps: specifically step 8. How rules make themselves flesh, and how that flesh moves it’s rules around life and institutes life in their image.

Calibre by Ken Bruen read by Gerard Doyle

He’d read up on noir and called it Nora.

Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me hard boils the story from the start: London as the small bad city with its own 87th precinct: Brant, who cuts a bit off the top of every drug bust, makes himself loved by women, plays laid back surfer dude cop but functions as the magus and manipulates everybody’s fate; Macdonald: the aged bully with the mean little soul and the overblown self-estimate; Porter Nash: the gay cop; W.P.C. Falls the bitch black psychopathic girlcop with the knuckle dusters in her purse; P.C. Lane: tall and lanky nerd cop who carries an umbrella and wears an “expression of friendliness, the very worst thing for a cop,”; Chief Inspector Roberts & more.
A silly accountant whose whore lives across the street decides to play Miss Manners with an edge, and finds he enjoys killing people who behave badly in public.

Slick with references that both emulate and parody the grittiest American fiction (Robert B. Parker, Karin Fossom, Ed McBain, Andrew Vachss, Elmore Leonard, Newton Thornberg, Mankell, Willeford, Joe Lansdale); this text is black with humor (“He’d read up on noir and called it Nora.”) and gorgeous with distemporal language (The drinks came and he hoped she wouldn’t say Bottoms Up. “Bottoms up” she said.”) Read it and smirk.

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane read by Jonathan Davis (with a limping Boston accent)

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First create a pattern. A pattern creates an expectation. Then, disappoint the expectation.  So Lehane gives us a prostitute who turns into a decoy who turns into a very pretty woman who wants to take her detective-investigator boss to a hotel room, and does. But  she is his wife.

Lehane’s title is from a Rolling Stones song, and his investigator is aging. He does piecemeal work for a 100 year old security firm that doesn’t advertise and into which he doesn’t fit. The investigator has a chip on his shoulder called   class struggle.

The investigator used to be bad and rich; now  he and his wife are good, but in debt. They miss being bad. They have a daughter.

6/1:23  “After my daughter was born I considered buying a shotgun to ward off suitors 14 years or so up the road. Now a I listen to these girls babble and imagined Gabby one day talking with the same banality and ignorance of the English language I considered buying a shot gun to blow my own fuckin head off.”

Firewatch by Nelson DeMille read by Scott Brick

Yes, we know that it is very important for there to be a gun on the table and a timer, clicking down, on the first page of the story. Someone is murdered, and by the end of the story someone else is found culpable. Someone is training, and by the end of the story there is a mission that takes advantage of this training, flawlessly. Some  gun nuts   make themselves into a group, which by the end of the story, activates a perfect plan to deceive and betray mankind, more or less.

Scott Brick has lost his whine and tells this story straight from the hip. de Mille tries to do the same old trick with the suspect and the detective  jerking each other off…. but it doesn’t really work. What does work are the emotional configurations between husband, wife, cop and friend, subject and country….

Try it.

DOLL by Ed McBain read by

Ed McBain’s DOLL  (Pouty D, drag the O, tongue heavy on the

L.)  is bedtime reading.

The warped, lusty, utterly female voice of this slut-goddess kicks you in
the groin, cuffs you to the radiator, and feeds you sex and ham sandwiches. You, or rather Steve Carella, who rarely gets tangled up with beautiful women who are not his wife.
“You belong to me, D-o-l-l” she says to Steve Carella. And you do. Or want to. As does Steve Carella, detective and good guy of the 87th precinct.
Because this dom, this pungent and powerful crook, and girlfriend of crook, tortures him,
addicts him to heroine and milks him for information. Incredible unequalled performance by a doll.