Silence !     Ian`s Reading Room 


I don't go anywhere without a book. I'm forever reading. From Mein Kampf to Dr. Suess. I tend to read the more popular books once all the hype dies down though. This enables me to form more personal objective opinions of the works. For example, I'm currently waiting for the hype over the Holy Bible to fizzle out before tackling it's many confusing themes. I've heard from a few sources that just about every bad thing imagineable occurs.  Really horrible stuff, rape, murder, adultery, lying, stealing, you name it it's all there. Enough about that one for now. 

And please, I am not anti-religious and I am certainly not a neo-nazi either. Just a guy who loves all kinds of books. I'm not a terkkie either but I happen to get a charge out of the original series.   

I recently tore through the Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons just to see what all the commotion was about. They kept me reading but I still couldn't fathom what everyone was doing backflips over. Since there are more books out there than ever today one must be discerning when contemplating a fresh book. As I mentioned on the welcome page, everyone with a laptop seems to be writing one these days ( including yours truly ). When I browse through the larger booksellers I can't help but ask myself ,How many books about The Beatles, The Titanic sinking or UFOs do we need? The other day I even saw an autobiography written by a porno princess ( to each their own I guess ). For centuries a book used to be a rare commodity and now everything is at your fingertips on this vast internet at the click of a mouse. A mouse? Where has the intimacy of the printed word gone? It also took centuries for the book to emerge from manuscript forms but are the book's days numbered ? I like to think not. Kindle and other screen formats like it are starting to take over. Madness I say. Our bains are turning into mush.


Fortunately in my hometown of Montréal there is still an old-fashioned bookstore that still encourages people to read good books and think. "The Word" is located 2 blocks away from the downtown campus of McGill University and although it specializes in scholarly works of literature and philosophy, what attracts me to the store is the 50 cent section which is located on a ledge outside the window of the store. I have pulled everything from a history of The DeHavilland Mosquito to Eric Idle's Monty Python Picks from that ledge. There are some catches though. First off ,You must go to the store in person. It's located at 469 Milton in the McGill student ghetto and doesn't have a sign so you might even miss it! The sign was stolen and then the new one that replaced it was not allowed by the language police. Incomprehensible to anyone who does not live in the Province of Québec ( or even people who do live here!). There's no computer either so you have to look for the book you want yourself. Or you could ask the owner Adrian King-Edwards who has been running this treasure trove for 35 years with his wife Luci. His filing system has the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. And bring cash because no bank cards or credit cards are accepted. There's not even a cash register! Just a wooden drawer. Adrian even has an old rotary phone that was probably in there during the days when it was a Chinese laudromat! ( before that it was a horse stable). Because the store was started out of passion for the written word and not in quest of the mighty dollar, the Word remains largely unchanged from the day it opened in 1975 and even the highly sought after philosophy and poetry books that are The Word's specialty can be had for a fair market price. And you never know what you will find out on the famous ledge.  

As the  anathema of these Kindle reading computers begin to take over ( I'm  still shaking my head and pulling my hair out over these things believe me )  I'm holding my own and sticking with the old fashioned book. Resistance might be futile but thus far decadent technology has failed toovercome me . Here is a smattering of some of my favourite reads that have spoken to me in remarkable ways . Some intriguing, some funny, some controversial but all good old fashioned books with covers, pages and words written by humans.

            DETECTIVES                             VIGILANTES

Narrative told from the voice of detective Carson Ryder in a film noir tone. Along with his partner Harry Nautilus he hunts down a psychotic serial killer who is on the loose in Mobile, Alabama leaving a trail of headless corpses and morbid clues etched onto them with ink stains. Gobs of the usual carnage that make up your typical serial killer story are to be found here but with a series of clever twists and turns which up the ante. Running out of daylight, Ryder confronts demons of the past and seeks expert advice from his brother Jeremy who is doing time for his own deranged monstrosities. Lots of intriguing characters from an alchoholic pathologist to Ryder`s loyal partner who has a certain disdain for athourity and a unique style of police work. I usually write off novels of this sort. However this one is a freakin`blast with lots more than just guts and gore.

WARNING : Complex, sophisticated storyline.

Jack Kerley Official Website



A mysterious organization known as " the clinic " starts knocking off former members of the British Special Air Service Regiment who served in Dhofar in the 1970s. An equally mysterious vigilante group known as " The Feathermen " avenge their "accidental" deaths and hunt down members of " The Clinic " over a 10 year period and eliminate them one by one. Purported to be factual with events and locations recounted by author Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the renowned explorer and ex-army officer, conforming to certain timelines and events. However there are many detractors including the SAS regiment itself. On the contrary, there are many who couldn`t imagine Sir Ranulph, a gentleman, soldier and adventurer inventing such a story. In addition the families of the soldiers involved actually co-operated with Fiennes in the writing of this fantastic story. You be the judge. I believe it to be true but with some artistic liberties taken. Nonetheless a great read if you can keep up with some of the technical jargon.

WARNING : Plenty of cloak & dagger violence.

                                Social Commentary



An absurd micricosm of a disillusioned post-modern world where Elvis is worthy of academic study which is doomed by the misuse of technolog, artificial products and over population. The looking glass through which this is examined is a year in the life of Jack Gladney, a professor of German studies who can`t even speak a word of German who is also the head of a dysfunctional family struggling to survive the onslaught of the age of information. The central metaphor comes in the form of a " toxic event " which represence the omnipresence of impending death, the fear of which can be  entirely removed by a pharmacutical drug called Dylar. Many people have criticized the book perhaps because they identify too closely with Gladney`s character and the reality of our demented times. If you think sitting in a cage full of deadly Black Mamba snakes is the least bit funny  then this is the book for you.

WARNING : Shocking bathroom shooting scene



If you despise your job with a vengeance then you`re not alone.Meet Hank Chinanski, a drunken, womanizing, gambling postal worker who has to deal with idiot  co-workers, sub-moronic supervisors, vicious dogs and red tape as long as a toilet roll on a daily basis, not to mention the removal of the water fountain from the staff common room. One of the funniest novels I`ve read with no plot, no positive role models, no pride, no character development, no depth and plenty of vulgarity. It is more of an augmented autobiography as author Charles Bukowski himself worked for the US Postal service for 12 years before he told them where to shove their job and pounded out this brilliant work in a matter of 3 weeks. Written in 1971 it conveys the stark realities of working life that are still relavent to this day.

WARNING : Dirty old man at typewriter.



" We`ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged thing so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a whil, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces. I worry that, especially as the millenium edges near, psuedo science and superstition will seem year-by-year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnical or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmoc place and purpose, or whern fanatacism is bibbling up around us - then, habits and thought from ages past reach for the controls, the candle flame guffers, it`s little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir. "

- Dr Carl Sagan in The Demon Haunted World.

 Passionate yet stark and  prophetic. One of the last books written by Carl Sagan before his death in 1996. His omonous message is simple : If reason doesn`t prevail in the near future our race is doomed. Throughout this work Carl pleads with us to think critically about what constitute scientific methods and what does not, as he slams everything from alien abductions to witchcraft. Through his valid arguments using mathematical, historical, anthropological and moralistic tools Dr Sagan guides the reader toward the side of reason. Unfortunately the tone of the book seems to suggest that he was already resolved to the fact that we`re pretty much going to do ourselves in sooner or later without having to wait for a rogue meteor smashing into Earth or any other natural cause to do it for us regardless of any warnings issued by him or any other concerned scientist. Read this book and think, while there`s still time.   


                              HUMOUR / CRIME


One of the most hilarious desriptive passages that I have ever read comes from Michael Moorcock`s " The Chineese Agent". Moorcock has written about everything from social satire to science fiction and fantasy ( for which he is better known ).In this caper top British agent Jerry Cornell has to recover plans for a top secret military project known as Operation Glass. He comes up against Chineese master spy Kung Fu Tzu and his sidekick Choong. On this fearless mission to recover the top secret documents he also encounters femme fatale Lili Von Braun, the greatest female spy who ever lived, Chief Inspector Crapper of the yard as well as his hideous relatives who manage to get mixed up in all this madness.Winner of The Guardian fiction award this is yet another jewel I read in one sitting. The following passage is a description of Cornell`s uncle Edmund`s living arrangements. Laugh out loud hilarity.

" Uncle Edmund lay on his twitching matress in his dark, dank den watching two dung beatles working in the corner. He wondered what was keeping his nephew. He wondered dimly - all his mental processes were dim - and even this effort brought on a worse-than-usual fit of coughing. The lice moved uncomfortably as the creaking bed shook to Uncle Edmund`s cough. They had come with the matress Uncle Edmund found propped beside someone`s dustbin. They had expected nothing but the fires of the public incinerator, and then had come this last minute rescue, they had prepared to feast the first time Uncle edmund had laid himself down on his new acquisition. They had been disappointed. Even the lice could not bear to get close to Uncle Edmund. They huddled at the far end of the bed even now. At least, they thought the public incinerator would be quick."


          The Blind Watchmaker By Richard Dawkins


 "But of course any god capable of intellectually designing something as complex as the DNA/protein replicating machine must have been at least as complex and organized as the machine itself. Far more so if we suppose him additionally capable of such advenced functions as listening to prayers and forgiving sins. To explain the origins of the DNA/protein replicating machine by invoking a supernatural designer is to explain precisely nothing. For it leaves unexplained the origin of the designer. You have to say something like" God was always there ", and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well say " DNA " was always there " or " Life was always there ", and be done with it. "

 - Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker

Note from Ian :                                                                             

I've been acused of being the anti-christ because of this Richard Dawkins book review I wrote. Hey, didn't write the book, I'm only commenting on it. I think Rick makes some valid points here from the standpoint of a scientist and he backs them up and actually makes one think a bit. As for the George Carlin video, he's expressing his position on religion. OK, I admit he's being a bit forthright about it. A bit. But isn't this what the first ammendment of the constitution of the United States Of America is for ? Freedom to speak one's mind ?

 This is one of several books by Richard Dawkins that give some reassurances that there is still some reason out there. As Carl Sagan points out in his book The Demon Haunted World, the warnings are everywhere.

A preacher of science rather than religion, with godless wit Dawkins champions nature and the non-random process of natural selection as postulated by Charles Darwin and over 100 years later the controversy rages on. Well, I think that this is something that we`re going to have to eventually come to terms with sooner or later. That nature itself is the metaphoric blind watchmaker that gradually formed order from the most vital building block of them all: DNA. When Copernicus challenged the Ptolemy theory of the universe by surmizing that the planets revolved around the sun rather than the other way around in his 1543 work On The Revolution Of Celestial Spheres the church pounced on him. When Italian astronomer Galelio Galilae Linceo tried to set the record straight in his Dialogue Of The Tides in 1632 the church put it on the Index Of Forbidden books and was not removed until 1835. Although fortunately we`ve come a long way since the days of Galileo, I`ll go out on a limb to say that Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker in much the same way tries to rationalize the mysteries and complexities of evolutionary design here on terra firma. God doesn`t enter into anything here as you can see by the rather scathing quote from the book I provided above. Dawkins forbids any theologin to tread on the firm ground of the structured, no holds barred arguments that he presents throughout this work.

What I would suggest to anyone interested in reading Dawkins is to read Darwins original Origin Of The Species first, then let Dawkins clarify with his forthright wit and tact as he guides the layperson through the maze of evolutionary design. Originally published in 1986, 20 years later in the introduction to the 2006 edition, Dawkins confesses that there was nothing that he wished to rescind on or change, but rather stated that he could easily write another 10 chapters ! In a nutshell Dawkins doesn`t make a case for Darwinism here, he exonerates it from all comers who dare challenge it !

I couldn't resist inserting this George Carlin video. A little bit more scathing and straight to the point ! 



And The Pythons !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



       Serial killers                                                          Rock'n'roll









I`ve always been intrigued by the mystery of the Whitechapel murders attributed to the individual acts of Jack The Ripper. Like Jesus Christ I`ve always believed that Jack The Ripper was a composite. Investigative author and historian Dr. Andrew Cook finally puts to rest all the theories. According to Cook`s convincing evidence the character of Jack The Ripper was invented by journalists to sell newspapers, and his East End London murder spree was actually the work of several unrelated killers.

Senior police officials who investigated the 1888 murders were convinced they were not the work of a single man. A letter boasting about the killings signed by a " Jack The Ripper " was forged by a journalist at the Star newspaper in an attempt to sustain sales that had been swollen by it`s salicious coverage of the crimes. This fed a panic that engulfed the Victorian capital and allowed copycat killers to get away with further musrders according to Dr.Cook in his  book which was the culmination of over 5 years of intense study of London`s most notorious serial killer.  


Rick Wakeman. Rock star, philanthropist and grumpy old man. Not his autobiography but a collection of anecdotes and exploits from the bizarre life of one of modern music`s most flamboyant and idiosyncratic icon. Refering to them as farcical events Rick tells us all about capers behind the Iron Curtain during the cold war, unmitigated drrinking episodes, encounters with the police and visiting a nuclear submarine. Apart from all the comedey there`s also compassion and targedy as Rick reveals his more poignant and thoughtful side in chapters with titles like "No Mr. Wakeman 6 Months To Live" and "Gone But Not Forgotten". 

Strap yourself into the ejection seat for tales from one of rock music`s most uncanny lives.

 Rick Wakeman`s Communications centre

                Famous Scottish Battles By Philip Warner

 A handbook of major battles fought between the Scottish and English which was first published in 1975 by Fontana Books ( I purchased my copy for 50 cents at the Word ) in which Philip Warner, who was a lecturer at The Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, not only reconstructs 16 of the most important battles from Stirling Bridge to Culloden but he also literally walks the reader through each individual battlefield location. Supporting his narratives of each battle are modern day ordnance maps with precise grid references which pinpoint each individual action. He also provides landmarks and accurate details of the topography and how it figured in their outcomes. A semi scholarly work, it would help the reader to have a grasp of English and Scottish history in order to better understand the chronological signifigance of each confrontation but this is not really necessary as the work invites further investigation.
The painting above is a rendition of The Battle Of Cullonden By David Morier and is used here by gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen ( I didn't really ask her but I didn't think she would mind ), a detail of which forms the cover of Warner's book. Painter David Morier wasn't present at the battle but actual soldiers and highland prisoners were used as models for his impression of the 1746 battle which now resides in The Royal Collection. Despite it's glaring inaccuracies ( one historian went as far to say that "just about nothing is accurate in this movie! ) and Hollywood appeal, Mel Gibson's film Braveheart captures the spirit of some of these famous battles described in Warner's informative book and is worth watching. Bear also in mind that Gibson defended himself as a director saying that the way the events were prtrayed in the film were more cinematically compelling. The battle scenes certainly are telling of the way armies fought back in the 13th century. 

              A Bridge Too Far - Cornelius Ryan


" On the narrow corridor that would carry the armoured drive, there were 5 major bridges to take, they had to be seized intact by aerial assault. It was the fifth, the crucial bridge over the lower rhine, at a place called Arnhem, 64 miles behind the German lines, that woried Lt General Frederick Browning, deputy commander,  First Allied Army, Pointing at he Arnhem bridge on the map he asked : 'How long will it take the armour to reach us?' Field Marshal Montgomery replied briskly, 'two days'. Still looking at the map Browning answered, ' We can hold it for four. ' But then he added, ' but sir I think we might be going a bridge too far."

-the final conference at Montgomery's headquarters on Operation Market Garden, September 10, 1944 as recalled by participants. The passage comes from Lt General Frederick Browning's memiors, Arnhem.


 A masterful account of the failed attempt of the Allies to march into the Fatherland and end the war in Europe by the end of 1944. Ooperation Market Garden, launched on the morning of September, 17, 1944. was the largest airborne operation attempted during the Second World war. A combination of miscalculations of the dispositions of German units, over optimistic planner's failure to heed to warnings from Dutch intrlligence reports as well as their own generals, most notably General Stainslaw Sorobowski, commander of the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade, Operation Market Garden created a textbook case of how a mammoth military operation could go horribly wrong. The audacious plan required the taking of Multiple bridges that were located as far as 64 miles behind German lines and holding them until Field Marshal Montgomery's XXX Corps could arrive in just two days smashing their way through German lines. the most important objective was to outflank the Seifried Line which meant taking the bridge outsid the towm of Arnhem th most northerly of all bridges. The operation depended on split second timing  and almost from the onset the operation was doomed . The British communications were not functioning as the should have   and the british commander, Gerneral Robert Urquahart in an effort to reach his commanders in the field found himself pinned down in the attic of a house that was surrounded by Germans for the crucial first 30 hours of the operation. Although a small force of paratroopers from the british 1st Airborne Division managed to couragously hold the bridge they were forced to evacuate on September 25.


 Not a run of the mill military history. I had to keep reminding myself that this book was not fiction. Journalist/historian Cornelius Ryan's articulate narrative features interviews from both sides including the Dutch resistance and civilians who were afected by the battle and where they were when this book was completed in 1974. Contemporary field reports, after battle reports, memiors and letters were consulted and numerous interviews were conducted with survivors from both sides.  activities of all major units are touched on with a bit more focus on thesmall unit of B ritish paratroops under Lt Col John Frost who held Arnhem bridge to the very end.


 The Paras hold Arnmem bridge

Refered to as a mini-Stalingrad in the book Operation Market Garden  was one of the most costly battles in history with allied casualties exceeding 17,000, roughly one third greater thanthe losses suffered during the invasion of Normady. Prior to the release of Ryan's book military histories written by American and British authors downplayed the dismal failure of Market Garden and sometimes only mentioned it in passing. Even the mastermind of the operation Field Marshal Mongomery himself declared it a " partial success" and some thought that he should have been sacked for this monumental disaster. In any case this is one of the most important books to emerge about any World War Two battle setting the record straight some three decades after the fact.


In June 1977 a movie with an all star cast was released based on Ryan's book. It was not filmed in Arnhem but in a town named Deventer some 35 miles north of Arnhem.. One of the reasons for this was that the modern surroundings of Arnhem did not look like a 1944 Dutch city. A considerable amount of cinematographic licence was employed but even so it remained remarkably accurate and was arguably one of the best historical dramas ever produced. Several British generals and a colonel who took part in the battle served as cosultants but I highly recommend reading the book before viewing the film. One thing that I observed was that Sean Connery who played general Roy Urquhart actually bore an uncanny resemblance to him as he appeared as he appeared at the time of the operation in 1944. Also below is a still  from the bridge battle from the film. Notice the similarity to artist David Shepher's rendering at the top of this section.Both the book and the film are essential for anyone who wants to understand this colossal military oversight.


       An American love Story                       Progrock for Beginners



A man shows his love for a woman by eating a Boeing 747 that crash landed in his corn field in Superior Nebraska. A representative from the "Book Of Records" catches wind of the feat and creates a media circus in small town America. Hearts and records are broken in this romantically charming book that shows that love cannot be quantified. This line perhaps sums it all up : " We chase wild dreams and long for all that eludes us, when the greatest joys are within our grasp, if we can only recognize them." I don't usually go for love stories but this one hits the nail on the head and brought out the romantic in me.





 Discover Progrock


 While by no stretch a scholarly work, The Strawberry Bricks Guide To Progressive Rock provides valuable insights and evaluations of a much maligned genre of popular music that dominated the music charts for a brief period during the first half of the 1970s.

The author, Charles Snider, explains that by virtue of musical proficiency and technological advancements how progressive rock fits into the big picture of the rock music phenomenom. How musicians with formal training appropriated elements from traditional musical disciplines and molded them into complex hybrid rock stylings that were accompanied by thoughtful and profound lyrics that drew from lierature, philosophy and science. The development of music   technology is also explored and how it consolidated the virtuosity of young players, particularily of the keyboard variety that provided symphonic backdrops for groups like Genesis,Yes and ELP. He also comments on the socio-political impact of German bands who were taking psychedelia and electronic music to uncharted plateaus. The fans are not forgotten either. Snider reflects on how a  trip to the record store back in the seventies turned into an adventure ; albums would be discussed, dissected and scrutinized by a generation of fans who did so with a high degree of passion and often the new discovery would come by word of mouth.

A tour through time that chronologically examines important albums forms the main body of the work. I felt that the selection was rather conservative but this is nonetheless compensated for with an extensive bibliography and discography.

While much of the book will be  nothing new to afficionados Snider offers a comprehensive invitation to an oft misunderstood genre that mainstream critics loved to hate. And for those who are still in doubt Céline Dion doesn't look like she's going to disappear anytime soon.


              The End Is Nigh                     beyond the unknown


 One thing is certain - one day our familiar world will end. It's just a matter of when & how.....

Bill McGuire, Benfield Grieg professor of geophysical hazards at University College, London examines the most plausible methods by which our blue dot will expire. While he is more concerned with physical causes I think that this is enough to trigger some degree of concern to anyone inhabiting the planet Earth without getting into outlandish conspiracy theories and junk science which are,  of course,   more fun.

Volcanic eruptions, flooding, violent storms, greenhouse effect, overpopulation, exploitation of natural resources and ( my favourite ) asteroid or comet collisions are presented in  light-hearted tones for the layperson to grasp and comprehend without getting too involved with scientific jargon. He also throws in scare terms like cosmic winter, volcanic super-erruption and hazard point,  just to keep us in check,  reminding us not to take mother nature too much for for granted. McGuire muses about  the way  we shrug off 50,000 people killed in a Venuzuelan mudslide and how our fascination with a local football win or developments in a popular soap opera take precedence over much more consequential events such as these until they occur in our own nieghbourhoods.  The book offers the warning, Danger : Nature at work and the recent earthquake and resulting tsunami in northeastern Japan and it's socio-economic impact is an example of what mother nature has cooking.

Perhaps the most frightening geophysical phenomena he discusses is how an unpredictable  volcanic super erruption and the ensueing volcanic winter will do us all in with it's horrible aftermath no matter where we are relative to it's occurence. Unlike a rogue meteor that will at least give us some time to prepare for, and try and prevent it's impact, a volcanic super-erruption is the ultimate end game.

In order to give us some perspective of how we fit into the whole cosmic picture at t-plus 4.6 billion years the first chapter entitled : A Very Short Introduction to the Earth offers a play-by-play rundown of the evolution of the Earth, the physical threats that have affected it and those that await us perhaps more sooner than later.

Cuddle up with a loved one and read Bill McGuire's indespensible pocket guide to the end of existence secure in the knowledge that you are 750 times more likely to die as a result of a high impact low frequency geo-hazard while on the way to purchase the winning  6/49 ticket than actually winning the jackpot prize.

Bill McGuire : Mr Doomsday







 My favourite Stephen King novel. The most common complaint here is about is the ambiguious ending that offers little closure. But this is more than a traditional horror story and If the reader takes the novel literally then they are missing most of what the it is all about. Just like the car everything that happens in the story is mysterious. King is more concerned with exploring our fears of the mysteries of the unknown extending beyond our world and universe. Unlike the '58 Chrysler named Christine in  King's  previous ghost car story the Buick here acts as more of a metaphor rather than a character. In this multi-themed story the Buick  wreaks havoc without even moving!! Which makes it even more spooky.

After it's mysterious arrival at a western Pennsylvania filling station where the driver vanishes it is impounded by Troop "D" of the Pennsylvania State Police where it is kept in a disused shed next to the police barracks. It is not a normal car and displays numerous paranormal anomalies most notably the fact that it is not even a car at all but just a non-functional facsimile! Well, as far as a car is concerned anyway.

Told through campfire-style recollections by characters that have come into contact with the Buick's supernatural powers describe all kinds of gory events, each of which is even more bizarre and inexplicable as the preceeding one. Each perplexing episode is announced by a otherworldly light display that the characters have dubbed "lightquakes". People are killed and mutated creatures emerge from it's abyss or conduit to another dimension and whenever the Buick is tampered with shit happens.

Many themes are explored and a clever device King uses to keep the story in perspective is the contrast between simple small-town America and something that's so cosmic and transdimensional that it is beyond our comprehension. The book is also easy to visualize because of King's graphic descriptives and will always leave you awake pondering no matter where you decide to leave off for the night. Although there are references and connections to other Stephen King novels it doesn't matter if you have never read anything by him, Just be prepared for something more than just a scary story here. A sort of personification of the things that we will never understand no matter how hard we try. 

A novel that would make a great movie which has been rumoured to be in the making since 2009. 

      Some First reads Of 2012 - The Year The World Will Ebd



 Perhaps a better title for this engaging book written by longtime friend and jazz journalist Gene Lees would have been " My friend Oscar". He colours it with Oscar's achievements, flaws, inconsistencies and humour as well as the discrimination he faced while growing up in Little Burgundy which followed him for most of his career including the notorious 1951 haircut incident in Hamilton Ont that made nationwide headlines in Canada. We are also introduced to his many collaborators from Ella Fitzgerald to Count Basie as well as his deep friendship with his long-time bassman Ray Brown. Attention is also given to his longtime manager Norman Granz who arguably did more for jazz than any human being that ever lived managing dozens of top flight artists.  We hear about his detractors and critics who often considered him to be too unoriginal and over-recorded.  Praises from his peers such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie quickly dispell these notions. A trained musician Lees is also qualified to provide technical background  when necessary. The book is malso loaded with interviews from peers and family members that give first hand accounts of events throughout Peterson's life including the man himself. Although not an "authorized " biography it is by far one of the most intimate. I've only read the first edition nthat covers Oscar's life up until 1988 there is an updated edition published in 2000 that continues on. Despite many omissions, one must bear in mind that it would be virtually impossible to cover everything in the life of such a prolific artist.




Howard Stern Private Parts 


I don't know why it took me so long to read Howard's first book. Maybe I just wanted all the  hype to blow over that accompanied it when it came out in 1992. I found it for 50 cents at the word  on the bargain shelf. It was either that or The Miracle Worker by William Gibson. I've been a fan of Howard since he first started stiring up shit on his syndicated radio show back in the 80s as well as his television show a few years later. It isn't really as bad as the press made it out to be when it became the fastest selling book in history at the time of it's release. It is the story of a guy who had a childhood ambition which was to to be the top radio personality the planet has known. Stern took a lot of shitty jobs rolled with the punches, wouldn't let anything stand in his way and succeeded. It's about a man and his dream and how he realized it. If all the confessions he makes about his infatuation with lesbians, masterbation or the insults he throws at people who deserve them or stories about guys shoving various objects up their rear ends easily offends you well then I guess you should stay away from this book. It's actually one of my favourite biographies. Forthright, honest and hilarious to boot. I think The Miracle Worker would have bored me to the point of wanting to slit my throat with a butter knife.




 Like many books this one came to me via a fellow bookworm. What I found really entertaining about this crime novel ( not my usual fare ) was that it was set entirely in the downtown area of Montréal . Even though a map was provided at the beginning it was uneccessary for me.  Also, it was refreshing to read a crime novel that was not set in the deep south or centered around an LAPD or NYPD investigation.

The story focusses on an forensic anthropologist Temprance Brennan who is working with the Montréal police helping them to solve murders using her expertise in analysing bones of corpses in order to help determine the cause of death. She is called to a location where utility workers have discovered a foul smelling dismembered corpse and immediately acquires a hunch that it might be the work of a serial killer.  The police detectives are skeptical and don't think her theory jibes and one officer in particular is constantly riding her ass.

Eventually she goes on a devil-may-care freelance investigation in order to gather proof of her serial killer theory. As a result of these lone wolf forays the plot thickens and other people are drawn into the danger net. The cliché "hunter becomes the hunted" theme develops but author Kathy Reichs ( a forensic anthropologist in real life ) saves this from being more-than-predictible by injecting humour and sarcastic figures of speech paticularily when referring to the detectives. By the last 100 pages Brennan finds herself deep above her head, having stumbled into something much more complex than your everyday serial killer and finally the cops on the case sit up and take notice. One character that has been overlooked by the critics reviews that I read was "Birdie ", Brennan's pet cat who offers a contrast in the story. While Brennan is experiencing nightmares and psychological fear Birdie obvliviously continues on with his normal life as a cat, cleaning himself, sleeping, eating etc. and at one point I was even wondering if he would become caught up in the horrific scenario that was  created by Brennan's amatuer slueth work without consulting the cops.

While it is not as gory of some novels of the genre Reichs offers a glmpse into some of the technical  aspects of foresic science drawing on her professional experience. The reader gets the impression that a lot of the story is autobigraphical in nature. Don't expect a whimsical Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum novel here folks. Reichs is also not afraid to use rough tough police jargon throughout and at times I couldn't even believe that this was a woman writing this. It won the Crime Writers Of Canada Arthur Ellis Award in 1997 for Best First Novel. Check out her website and find out more about my new discovery.


American special forces at war ! Unlike Bravo Two Zero the book that kicked of the spate of accounts of special forces in action behind enemy lines this one seems to be one of the more credible. Although it was not  approved or endorsed officially by the US Army Special Operations Command it passed through two security reviews to make sure nothing of a sensitive nature was contained in it's pages that might compromise future operations. The story follows the build up ,preparations and exucution of a green Berets A-Team mission that cumilated with a battle with superior Iraqi  forces that included armour near the small village of Debecka. Being outnumbered 150 to 26 the Green Berets prevailed despite unexpected threats and obstacles and changed US tactical doctrine forever. Here's an excerpt from an early chapter when the team was working up in Fort Pickett, Virginia. This sort of rough tough soldier talk dominates most of the book. No egos here just a highly professional elite military unit getting the job done their way.

    " Eric, our guys have been shooting real well, I said, " and if we get into a larger force of infantry, I am not running ! As long as we have enough ammo I don't care if half the Iraqi army is out there, I am going to keep killing themuntil we get to the point where you think we are at risk of being killed or captured, and then you can break contact and pull us back. Till then, I think we ought to pile them up." From this conversation came a policy decision for our team -  that we would stand fast whenever possible and never run from a fight unless we could clearly not win it. The policy turned into a sort of motto: ' Nine One Don't Run'."

Little did they know at the time, this mindset would win them one of the most extraordinary battles fought by special forces anywhere. 

                  Sound Advice from Dr Ozzy

" Given the swimming pools of booze I've guzzled over the years - not to mention the cocain, morphine, sleeping pills, cough syrup, LSD, Rophnol... you name it there's no plausible medical reason why I should still be alive. Maybe DNA has something to do with it." - Dr. Ozzy 


 What would a website be without The Price of Darkness. Ozzy himself advises his " patients " to take this book with a grain of salt. But the funny thing is that in addition to some wacked out diagnostics he actually gives some wise advice. After all he's a living medical miracle and made more stupid mistakes in his life that defies the imagination. He used to smoke cigars like cigarettes, rats in US Army labs have seen fewer chemicals, he's been clinically dead twice and has more metal screws in him than a piece of IKEA furniture. Scientists from Harvard University have even mapped out his entire human genome to find out why he's still alive.

In some ways he knows more about being a doctor than doctors do. Here's a sampling from the man who's been through it all and more 

Dear Dr. Ozzy,                                                                                 My doctor has told me that i have high Cholesterol. Does that mean that I should stop taking Cocaine?

Hang on a fucking minute ; Don't you think thatn you're puttingthe cart before the horse a bit here? I suppose you're thinking that that because the cholesteral gives you a higher risk of heart attack, the coke might send you over the edge. But you shouldn't be doing cocaine, full stop - nevermind if you've got high cholesterol, low blood sugar a gammy leg or arunny nose. It's like a forty-pack-a-day smoker asking if he should get out of the city and get some fresh air. Where's the logic man? Here's the thing with the coke : you can drop dead from it instantly, 'cos you're buying it on the fucking street so you never know what the fuck's gonna be in it. It also messes with your head, makes you say stupid things, and can land you in prison. Here's my advice : If you keep taking the coke - forget about the cholesterol - chances are that you will kill yourself before anything else can."

 Dear Dr. Ozzy,                                                                                Is it true that humans only use 10% of their brains, or is this one of those stupid myths ?

I fucking hope that's not the case, 'cos I've only got about 10 % of my brain left . By your definition, I'm only running on about 1% these days. Actually... that explains a lot. "

 Also highly recommended is Ozzy's unbelievable autobiography


  The Truth Behind My Favourite Thriller Novel


This is more for those who have already read Frederick Forsyth's 1973 novel The Odessa File. For the uninformed, in a nutshell :

Freelance reporter Peter Miller goes Nazi hunting after reading  an  elderly Jewish man's  diarythat  was recovered by a detective friend from the Hamburg Police department.  In the diary the old man describes surviving the horrors of the Riga concentration camp. The man has committed suicide because he knows  that the camp commandant, Eduard Roschmann, infamously known as  '' The Butcher Of Riga '' is still alive and well and feels that there is no justice in modern Germany ca. 1963.  Miller investigates and  discovers a shadowy organisation known as the ODESSA. Among it's other sinister activities the organisation vows  to rise out of the ashes and continue on where Hitler left off. One of these ''activities '' was aiding former members of the feared SS to acquire new identities and hide from the authorities. Eduard Roschman was one such man who has started an  business front that is vital to The ODESSA's agenda. Eventually with the aid of '' the agents of Israel '' Miller infiltrates the ODESSA. Three of their agents have previously met their deaths by the wrath of the ODESSA,  but this does not deter Miller. As the story progresses we get the impression that  Miller has an alterior motive besides  that of avenging the wrongdoings of a Nazi concentration camp commander. Several underlying sub-plots develop and the story reaches a revelatory  climax. I'll offer a word of warning though.  As in many Forsyth novels it drags a bit  for the first 100 pages or so but the background information that Forsyth provides is vital to the later stages of this masterful thriller / suspense novel. An excellent film adaptation was released in 1974 and you can read about my evaluation for that on my TV and movie guide page here.

Ian's TV & Movie Guide

 Praise For The Odessa File

 " Much more complex than Jackal...Intruigingly packed with relentless reporting, a protaganist peopelled by an unstoppable force as suicidal as a lemming, and a time-factored chase ticking off to an explosive climax. "   -  Cleveland Press

" In the hands of Forsyth, the documentary thriller achieves it's most sophisticated form... thetotal effect is...stunning... a brilliant entertainment."  - Guardian

Publisher's Note

As in Mr. Forsyth's first novel, The Day Of The Jackal, many characters in The Odessa File are real people. Some will be immediately recognized to the reader ; others may puzzle the reader as to whether they are real or fictional, and the publishers do not wish to elucidate further because it is in this ability to perplex the reader as to how much is true and how much is false that much of the gap of the story lies.




Ian's Not

There was no organization known as the ODESSA that helped nazis on the run ; there was certainly no such organisation in existence in 1963 during which the novel is set. I decided to research it and reached dead ends everywhere I looked. There were individuals, small cells and the Catholic Church that would provide everything from false passports to money to aid their passage to Argentina and other South American countries via Spain and Prtugal. You have to ask yourself  why such a secret organisation would use an acronym that would literally give itself away to authorities. ODESSA stands for '' Organisation der ehemalingen SS Aangehoren ''  or in the English language Organisation Of Former SS Members. Somehow I don't think these clowns would not be too crazy about advertising their exclusive club. I mean, we're not talking about the Rotary Club here. Former Gestapo Captain Erich Pieble stated, " I always say the ODESSA was an invention of an Englishman ( he's obviously referring to Forsyth  ). I would have been lucky if someone would have helped me, but there was no Odessa''. Former SS officer  Reinhold Kops also denied the existence of the ODESSA in his 1987 memiors. At one point shortly after the war it was thought that there was a secret '' get out of Germany fast ''  group formed by ex SS Sturmbahnfuhrer ( Colonel ) Otto Skozeny but was debunked by the fact that his every move was being kept undersurveilance by the allied occupying forces.

SS Captain Eduard Roschmann was actually a real person who was  the commandant of Riga concentration camp during 1943. He only acquired the sinister nickname ''  Butcher Of Riga ' after the release of Forsyth's novel in 1972. Roschmann was assigned to the German Security Service or '' Sicherheitsdeint '' or SD. Numerous warrants for his arrest were issued between 1948 and 1977 . Roschmann eventually fled to from Argentina to neighbouring Paraguay as a result of the novel. Simon Weisenthal, the famous Nazi hunter used the novel and film adaptation to feret him out of hiding in the former and with this he was successful. Roschmann allegedly died on August 8, 19777 but there are some doubts as to whether the body was that of the notorious nazi. Missing toes and an ID from one of Roschmann's former prisoners seemed to confirm that it was indeed Roschmann but Weisenthal  was skeptical and refused to belive that it was actually Roschmann. His fake Argentinian passport is seen above while Simon Weisenthal is seen below in a 1993 photo. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 95 . Forsyth actually first heard about the ODESSA from a July 1967 article in The Suday Times which had dubious sources including reputed nazi hunter Simon Weisenthal Sorry to ruin anything but Forsyth's story remains a classic, true or not.        

                                 Lives Of Real People

   Without A Doubt

Marcia Clark


 I have to admit that I didn't really bother with the OJ circus while it was happening back in '94 - 95.  I picked up Marcia's book out of curiosity recently ( Feb 013 ) after reading Vicent Bugliosi's analytical Outrage : 5 Reasons Why OJ  Simpson Got Away With Murder. Everyone knew that OJ was as guilty as the proverbial cat with it's paw in the goldfish bowl. Just like watching the movie Titanic, you knew what the the outcome would be here. But unlike the books written by the other clowns from the defense and OJ himself ( before the closing arguments if you can believe it! ) this one was not as much about the trial as it was about Marcia Clark herself and her honest conviction to uphold justice and how the odds were stacked against her from the start of this outrageous dog & pony show.

She describes her roller- coaster ride with a relentless media circus, corrupt defence, dim-minded jury , a spineless judge, conflicts within her prosecution team as well as  her own mistakes and shortcomings and the personal toll it took on her. Through all the agonizing Marcia  also manages to  inject sarcastic wit & humour and uses the "F" word whenever she feels like it. Even though some critics acuse her of crying a river, she pretty much nails it. Considering all the nonsense written about this travesty of the American legal system, Marcia's version is the most heartfelt and honest. I think she deserved every penny of the $4.2 million book deal she recieved for writing  what I consider to be the final word about this botched trial. If you have to read anything about this sham then Without A Doubt pretty much covers all of it.        

  Areas Of My Expertise

 John Hodgeman

 Here are some " Jokes That have Never Produced Laughter" from John Hodgman`s 2005 book "The Areas of My Expertise". He warns not to tell these jokes at dinner parties, as part of a pep up speach to co workers or in wedding toasts.
A duck goes into a pharmacy. He says to the pharmacist, " I need some ointment for my beak. It is very chapped. " The pharmacist says, " We have nothing for ducks here."
A priest, a rabbi and a nonreligious person are flying across the Atlantic Ocean, all for different reasons. There is engine trouble, and one of the wings catches fire. The plane starts to go down. Luckily, there are
enough parachutes for everyone. Evacuation is orderly.
A man goes into a bar. He has a dog with him. The dog is wearing an eye patch. He says to the bartender, " Ask me about my dog." Unfortunately, the bartender does not hear him, because he went deaf in one ear as a child. Heserves a woman at the other end of the bar. When he comes around to the man and his dog again, the man orders an imported beer. He forgets what he was going to say about the dog.

What I love about Jon Hodgson's book  is that it is 100% fucking bullshit.  John Hodgson is the anti-intellectual. There's no story, no theme, no sense, no truth, no class, no humour, no substantiated research no fuck all. Therefore one of the best books I've ever read.

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