On The Bookstand...

I'm reading a number of books at the moment - I find I usually have several on the go at any one time. But you know how it is; a hardcover or TPB can be awkward unless you're someone who carries luggage everywhere, and since I don't, I find the inside pocket of my coat is the right size for a small paperback.

So whether at home, on a bus or plane, in bed or in the bathroom (but you didn't need to know that) my reading needs are covered.

On the list at the moment:

The Manchurian Candidate (Richard Condon, 1959):

A cracking political thriller from the author of Prizzi's Honor. Subsequently filmed in 1962 by John Frankenheimer and starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh, it tells the story of Sgt Raymond Shaw, Korean War hero and Medal of Honor winner, who is, unknown to him, a Soviet sleeper agent and assassin intended to change the course of US political life, and Ben Marco, Shaw's CO, wracked with recurring nightmares of events that put the lie to everything he knows about what happened in the war.

Having seen the movie countless times before discovering Condon's novel, I was impressed by how faithfully Frankenheimer stayed with the story. In reading the novel I can easily visualise Laurence Harvey as Shaw, with Angela Lansbury as his scheming mother and James Gregory as the ambitious but inept Vice-Presidential hopeful Johnny Iselin. Sinatra was excellent as Marco, even if at odds with Condon's description of the man, but no less effective for all that.

The edition of the paperback I have has Denzel Washington as Marco and Meryl Streep (looking uncannily like Hillary Clinton) as Eleanor Shaw, on the cover, from the 2004 Paramount remake. I would amend the IMDB reviewer's comments by saying "A competent,if [pointless remake]"

Captain America (Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting) Omnibus Edition:

Collecting the work of writer Ed Brubaker (one of the best writers in comic books today) and artist Steve Epting, this tome (700+ pages) collects the first 25 issues of Captain America as written and drawn by this creative team. As a DC rather than a Marvel, I picked up Civil War and Captain America #25 on spec and was, in a very real sense, stunned.

So much so that I decided that the price was worth the gamble for the hardback edition.

It's f**king excellent. If you're not necessarily a fan of Captain America but remember his exploits from the day, buy this. Brubaker (the most consistently-good writer of comic books today, to my mind) tells an excellent story, more than ably complemented by Epting's artwork.

I've been following Daredevil on a regular monthly basis and can see myself moving more towards the House of Ideas in coming months if this is the quality of writing to be found...

Gas City (Loren D. Estleman, 2007):

Set in a fictional milieu, this is a departure for Estleman, whose stories take place identifiably either in Detroit or the Old West. Gas City tells the story of Frank russell, police chief in a city where organised crime means just that: crime is organised in a ten-block square section of the city and policed by the Mob.

Russell's been paid to turn a blind eye, but when his wife of many years dies, he finds himself re-evaluating his life, ideals and priorities.

Fallout ensues, told in Estleman's inimitable style.

To any hard-boiled PI fans out there, I highly recommend the Amos Walker series - one of the absolute best since Chandler.

The Big Clock (Kenneth Fearing, 1946):

George Stroud is an editor at the publishing company run by Earl Janoth. When Janoth, incensed that his mistress has been having an affair with another man, he kills her in a fit of pique, then assigns Stroud, his best reporter, to find out who the other man is, ostensibly to pin the killing on him.

However, Stroud is the other man, and finds himself in the position of tracking down George Stroud.

The story was filmed twice, with Charles Laughton and Ray Milland in 1948, and in 1987 as 'No Way Out' with Gene Hackman and Kevin Costner, a version that added a political element.

The book's a bit of work, but I'll get through it eventually.

Ab$urdistan (Gary Shteyngart, 2007): Misha is the son of the 1238th-richest man in Russia, a 325lb American trapped in a Russian's body, who yearns for a new life in the Bronx with his Latina girlfriend, but whose hopes are put on hold following the killing, by his father, of an Oklahoma businessman.

I bought this book based on the prologue, which cracked me up. I had to put it to one side when I bought the Captain America omnibus, so I haven't gotten too far into it, but I'm encouraged to continue, so I shall.

Lawless (Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, 2007): Tracy Lawless is an ex-soldier with a past, who escapes the Army to discover what became of his kid brother, Ricky, by infiltrating his gang on the eve of a major score. He becomes involved with Mallory, a dark-haired beauty who also had a history with Ricky.

A noir story in every sense, Brubaker's story is ably captured by Phillips's art, depicting that part of the city you don't want to go in daylight, let alone the night, where most of the action takes place. The book collects episodes 6-10 of Brubaker's 'Criminal' series, and is published (on this side of the Atlantic anyway) by Titan.

Honourable mentions include Jumper by Stephen Gould and Lady Yesterday by Loren D.Estleman - a man could do worse.

Until next time,

Incredible, out.