Monday, September 15, 2008

charlie resnick books

by John Harvey

Haven't read these, but they might be right up my street. Just put Lonely Hearts, the first book in the series, in my stack.

Review in today's Washington Post:
The police procedural is a genre that, like the sonnet or the haiku, follows certain rules. You have the cop, the crime and the pursuit. You can be pretty sure that the cop will be skillful enough to ask the questions that will unveil the guilty party, that he will have a bit of romance in his off-hours and that he will be a stubbornly honest fellow who has frequent conflicts with inept or corrupt superiors. Ed McBain was one of the 20th-century masters of the form, just as Harvey is today, along with Michael Connelly and Ian Rankin, whose rumpled, stubborn, romantically challenged Harry Bosch and John Rebus were surely influenced by Resnick.

It's a form with limitations: predictability, for one thing. It's hard, within the form's boundaries, to rise to the level of more expansive stories like Dennis Lehane's "Mystic River" or Laura Lippman's "What the Dead Know." But the procedural endures because cops-and-robbers tales are as basic to our popular culture as Westerns once were, and Harvey, who turns 70 this year, writes them as well as anyone alive. If you enjoy police procedurals, this sad, powerful novel will surely give you pleasure.

complete review

Monday, September 8, 2008


How, pray tell, am I supposed to get anything done when husband brings home goodies like this from the library?

33 stories. Among the authors included:
  • Arthur Conan Doyle
  • R. Austin Freeman
  • G K Chesterton
  • Ronald Knox
  • Agatha Christie
  • Dorothy Sayers
  • Ngaio Marsh
  • Margery Allingham
  • Nicholas Blake
  • Julian Symons
  • P D James
  • Edmund Crispin
  • Ruth Rendell
  • Robert Barnard
  • Simon Brett
Edited by Patricia Craig
554 pages

Sunday, September 7, 2008

more baseball books

In addition to Ring Lardner's You Know Me Al and Bernard Malamud's The Natural (in my stack), Jonathan Yardley recommends the following baseball books:

The Man Who Brought Joy to Mudville (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, September 25, 2006, Page C01)
Veeck -- As in Wreck, The autobiography of Bill Veeck

A Deal With The Devil That Still Pays Dividends (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, August 11, 2005, Page C01)
The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop

Pitcher Jim Brosnan, Throwing a Perfect Game (By Jonathan Yardley, April 7, 2004, Page C01)
The Long Season by Jim Brosnan.

Also see Mark Harris's books.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

second reading

Jonathan Yardley's Second Reading column

An occasional series in which The Post's book critic reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past, appears periodically in the Washington Post.

Among books he's looked back at:

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Well-Insulated 'Little House' (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, November 8, 2007, Page C01)

The Extravagant Tale of Mr. Blandings' Dream House (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, July 18, 2007, Page C01)

Stevenson's 'Treasure Island': Still Avast Delight (Post, April 17, 2006, Page C01)

The Little People, Writ Large (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, January 31, 2006, Page C01) [Bleak House]

Hornblower, Still Under Full Sail (By Jonathan Yardley, December 26, 2005, Page C01)

The Writer Who Was Full of Grace (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, July 6, 2005, Page C01) [Flannery O'Connor]

Elizabeth Bowen's 'Heart' Doesn't Miss a Beat (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, August 27, 2005, Page C01)

Joseph Conrad's Dark 'Victory' (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, May 9, 2005, Page C01)

A Deal With The Devil That Still Pays Dividends (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, August 11, 2005, Page C01)

Josephine Tey, Sleuthing Into The Mystery of History (By Jonathan Yardley, March 12, 2003, Page C01)

Pitcher Jim Brosnan, Throwing a Perfect Game (By Jonathan Yardley, April 7, 2004, Page C01)

Du Maurier's 'Rebecca,' A Worthy 'Eyre' Apparent (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, March 16, 2004, Page C01)

A.J. Liebling's Delectable Political Jambalaya (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, January 20, 2004, Page C01)

These are just a few from 3 pages of links. I'm overwhelmed. Maybe I'll weed through later and make a list of the baseball books; there are several. This is obviously a great place to go for ideas on what to read next.

long live the serial comma

Coincidentally, just yesterday I gave an extra copy of this great book to a friend. Definitely worth reading or re-reading. Below are just excerpts, some chosen to vent my pet peeves; click on the title for the whole thing.

A 'Little Book' Bursting With The Write Ideas
By Jonathan Yardley

Saturday, September 6, 2008; C01

An occasional series in which The Post's book critic reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past.

"In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last," as in "red, white, and blue," this second comma being "often referred to as the 'serial' comma," except in newspaper offices, where it is often referred to as the "space-eating" comma.

"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."

Thus in Strunk's hands "the question as to whether" mercifully becomes simply "whether" and "he is a man who" becomes "he." Then follows the stricture to which almost no one pays attention: "An expression that is especially debilitating is the fact that. It should be revised out of every sentence in which it occurs." Expunge "owing to the fact that" and use "since," ditto for "I was unaware of the fact that," because "I was unaware that" is so much better. I am pleased (and relieved) that a search of The Post's electronic library for "Yardley" and "the fact that" yields, on its first page, no appearance in my own prose of "the fact that" but several in quotations from books under review, including ones by William Styron, Toni Morrison and Joan Didion.

The point isn't that I'm a grammatical paragon but that even the best writers can fall into sloppy habits. The price of being a Strunkaholic is eternal vigilance, for it is easy to let participial phrases dangle (my favorite, from Strunk, is, "Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap"), to use "disinterested" when you mean "uninterested," to ignore the difference between "farther" ("distance") and "further" ("time or quantity"), to use "less" when you mean "fewer," to use a plural verb with "none," which "takes the singular verb," to confuse "that" and "which."

It was, of course, an advertisement that nailed the coffin on proper usage -- "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" -- and, as White says in his essay, "the language of advertising enjoys an enormous circulation," hardly to the betterment of us all. This isn't to argue that the language shouldn't change. To the contrary, many new words that enter common usage from unlikely sources are useful and uniquely describe specific meanings; think, for example, of "geek" and "dis" and "spam," all of which I use with pleasure because they are, quite simply, good words. I shudder to think, though, of what Strunk and White would say about "author" and "reference" used as verbs, of "presently" used as a synonym for "currently" or "now," of "interface," a word with a specific technological meaning, used as a synonym for "meet," as in: "Let's interface in the conference room at noon." Perhaps the day is not far off when it will become a synonym for "kiss," as in: "Interface me, baby!"

Et cetera. The language takes a daily beating, often from people who, as both Strunk and White point out, are more interested in appearing elegant and erudite than in actually being so, people who believe that pompous, inaccurate language is evidence of deep thought and noble purpose. The truth is the opposite. As White writes: "Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able." As both Strunk and White were aware, this is hard advice to follow, for it is much more difficult to be concise than to be verbose. Consider, if you will, the Gettysburg Address on the one hand and the rhetoric of William Jefferson Clinton (or, to be bipartisan, George W. Bush) on the other. It is the difference between eloquence and bloviation, but as Warren Gamaliel Harding well knew, bloviation is a presidential prerogative.

"The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White is available in a hardcover edition with an additional introduction by Roger Angell (Allyn & Bacon, $15.95). Strunk's original version, minus the additions by White and Angell, is available in several paperback editions and is free online at There is also an edition with illustrations by Maira Kalman (Penguin paperback, $15).

Jonathan Yardley's e-mail address is

Thursday, September 4, 2008

winspear, winton

I read a modern mystery, and sampled another.

Read Jacqueline Winspear's An Incomplete Revenge. It was okay. I probably won't try any of her others. Good points: not graphic or vulgar, set between the wars, feminism but not the aggressive strain. Bad points: the gypsy vibe didn't do much for me, and once again I wasn't invested in the characters. I should have read the first Maisie Dobbs book first, but it was recalled to the library before I had a chance. Perhaps I'd be more attached to the main character if I had done things properly.

I sampled Dirt Music by Tim Winton. Certainly a skilled writer, but not my cup of tea. Rough and tumble characters in wild Australia.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

book swap

Just found out about this.

Paperback Swap

Post books you no longer want, make a wish list of books you'd like to receive, and swap. Not just paperbacks, but hardcovers, too. No money exchanged. Get credits, good for books, when you send (by mail) a book to another swapper. Over 2 million books are currently listed.