Friday, May 02, 2008
Good Recent Reads
Despite my last post about learning from bad books, I’ve been reading good books lately. I just finished two worth mentioning. The first is Texas Wind by James Reasoner. This book was originally published by Manor Books in 1980 but that tiny publisher faded rapidly into obscurity. It was reissued in 2004 by PointBlank, an imprint of Wildside. I picked this up because I know the author personally, but when I started it I could hardly put it down. It’s short, 142 pages, and a wonderful read with a very modern series of twists and turns. It’s definitely from the hard-boiled genre, but the hero detective, Cody, is no stereotype. He doesn’t booze it up and he collects books and western art of the likes of Frederic Remington. He’s a bit softer edged than the average hard-boiled detective but he’s one tough fellow and I’d love to see him in more adventures. Only the fact that it was published by such a small press originally must have kept this from becoming a series.
A while back I read Dust Devils, also by James Reasoner. It’s a similar noir thriller with even more twists that was written in 2007 and also published by PointBlank. It’s also very good and I highly recommend it, but I think I liked Texas Wind a bit better. And in an odd bit of synchronicity, Travis Erwin posted about the real Texas “wind” on the same day as I finished the book.
The second good book I read recently, finishing it on Wednesday, was The Last Guardian by David Gemmell. This is fourth in a series called “The Stones of Power,” and so you might want to start with the first one, which is called Ghost King. This is actually a pretty far ranging series, though, so you could easily start with book 3, Wolf in Shadow, which is the first to feature the character of Jon Shannow, a kind of futuristic gunfighter who reminds me a fair amount of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane. Shannow is a tormented character, a man of God and of violence who fights to rid evil from the land after the “Fall,” an event that destroyed Earth’s current civilization. I like the Shannow character quite a bit and am currently reading the fifth book in the series, Bloodstone, which also features Shannow.
One point of interest, in these books the “Stones of Power” are stones called Sipstrassi and they are in some ways similar to the Milkstones from my Taleran series. They are also capable of opening gates between worlds, for example, and of working magic. They are generally much more powerful than my milkstones, however. Although the Taleran series was published in book form well after the first “Stones of Power” book came out, Swords of Talera was written quite a bit earlier and the milkstones are a completely independent construction, not related at all to or influenced by the Sipstrassi stones. I didn’t discover or read the first “Stones of Power” book until the late 1990s while “Swords” was written in 1986. It’s weird, though, that two independent constructions could show such interesting similarities.
In wild, student-request news, I received an email from a student who missed the first week and a half of class, then missed two of three in-class chances to get extra credit, and missed close to half the total classes in a course where class participation is counted, telling me how surprised she was that she got a “B” when she was expecting an “A.” Since she blew off the first week and a half she missed a test and I had to literally force her to write me an explanation as to why she missed before I’d give her a make-up. She finally admitted in writing that she had no reason. She just hadn’t come. But she’s surprised she didn’t get an “A.” Sadly enough, I’m not surprised by her surprise.