What are you reading..?

karma

No, Twitter didn’t ask, but I’m glad you did.

If somebody would grant me a second life, I’d devote it entirely to reading (promise). No writing, no art, no photography, just devouring the work of others.

Although it’s against my monogamist nature,  I’m usually reading two books at once, and sometimes three (like right now). Having to review books is both a blessing and a curse. No time to savor, ponder. or even re-read my favorites. Just a constant surge…plowing through the piles that perpetually grow taller, no “The End” in sight. (Or is that no insight?) It’s a bookworm’s version of the myth of Sisyphus.

So there’s my gripe.

Last year I read Criminal Paradise by Steven M. Thomas and, thus,  was anxious to get my hands on his new novel, Criminal Karma (Ballantine Books). Although both jackets are in the same style (with minor color variation), they were designed by two different artists—Carl D. Galian and Marc Cohen, respectively. Both covers are evocative, but I suppose Galian gets the nod for the original. Yeah, there’s that visual cliche (palm trees on each) but how the hell do you get around it when the novels are steeped in Southern California myth and milieu. 

thomas_covers

Funny, but when I lived in Manhattan, I had no urge to read novels set in the city. In fact, I sought out mysteries set in San Francisco and L.A. And I’m still doing that here in my adopted city of San Diego. Give me those freakin pond fronds, the ocean breeze, sand in my socks, and big mellow-yellow moon-spew and I’m happy as clam in Okeechobee. (Oh, yeah, and pass the Tequila while we’re at it.)

Anyhow, the immensely likeable Rob Rivers is back in Karma, his larcenous eyes glomin for gold or—in this case—a diamond necklace that just might keep him happy for a year or two. But then i doubt it.

The story opens on Highway 60 to Palm Springs, and I found myself comfortably stretched out in the backseat of Rob’s Seville STS.

Thomas gives me pretty much everything I’m looking for in a summer read: suspense, wit, and a plot that cruises along this beautiful coast. Criminal Karma is good for the soul.

***

vice

I’d planned to wait for Karma to pass before I dove head-first into Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice (The Penguin Press), but I watched the publisher’s promo vid online with Pynchon his own self  doing the hard-boiled narration and, uh, well, Doc….I’m hooked—ya got any drugs for this? Sorry Bo, ain’t no cure for sisyphusitus
..
Then of course there’s that groovy tiki-tacky (pre-Wiki) surf shop on the cover (designed by Tal Goretsky and Darren Haggar)  with neon type, a star-filled Disneyland sky…white caps on the glittery Pacific and, yesiree…those goddam palms swaying in the breeze-bye.

Wowie-zowie, dude, I just had to take a leaf back into my psychedelic past. Opening sentence: She came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to.

And I’m walkin right behind this chick thinking I’ve heard a screaming across the sky. It just might be Millie, my old lady, circa 1968. So I’m hopelessly lost, in love, feeling that old hash-magic, with giddy twinges of paranoia.

Inherent Vice is a trip!

NOTE: The title sucks…it ain’t 60s, it ain’t noir, it ain’t hard-boiled, and even the irony  is undercooked. But then,  titles were never T.P.’s strong point. (Exception: Gravity’s Rainbow). His strong point, however, just happens to be all the other words.

***

kelby3

I always add some vegetables to a plate  piled high with fiction. In this case it’s The Digital Photography Book, Volume 3 (Peachpit Press).

Scott Kelby is back! OK, he never went away, but I’d like to know how the hell he finds time to write all these books. That’s the one secret he has yet to reveal. (What’s the shortcut key for that, Scott?)  Volume 3 in his how-to Digital Photography series is another winner. And let me suggest you grab all three volumes (a boxed edition is available). That way you’ll learn pretty much everything you need to know about taking good pro  photos, sans all the technical explanations that nobody needs nor cares about.  A great guide for amateurs and serious shooters alike. Heck, this pro never even looked at the plastic stand that comes with the Nikon Speedlight. Thanks to this book I discovered the bottom of the stand is threaded so you can attach it to a light stand or tripod.

Kelby cuts to the chase with wit and a steady cam.

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