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Book Review

November 17, 2018 - November 23, 2018

Lee Child has delivered another winner

 Jeff Ayers

While Jack Reacher is exploring the United States, he stumbles on a rural area in New Hampshire and spots a sign with a name that’s familiar to him — the town where his father was born.

Reacher decides to take a detour from his plan to investigate his dad’s life. His plan goes awry when he visits the city clerk’s office and the local library. He also talks to folks who have lived in the tiny town their entire lives. According to the evidence, no one with the last name of Reacher ever lived there.

While Reacher searches for answers in “Past Tense,” two young people from Canada run into a bit of bad luck when their car breaks down. Since the area is isolated and they are lacking in funds, they are in a bind. Patty and her boyfriend, Shorty, are happy when a local offers to help them with their car and puts them in a newly renovated motel. It soon becomes terrifying when they realize their knight in shining armor is lying and has taken them prisoner.

The two stories eventually collide in a surprising way, and the last third of the novel is tense and exciting. Patty and Shorty’s story invokes elements of “Psycho” mixed with some Stephen King. The novel starts more slowly than typical Lee Child narratives, but once “Past Tense” gets past the opening, Child kicks the story into high gear. (AP)

November 10, 2018 - November 16, 2018

Stephen King raises the bar with ‘Elevation’

Rob Merrill

After more than four decades of banging out best- sellers, Stephen King still has the power to surprise his beloved “constant readers.”

Consider “Elevation,” which the book jacket calls a novel, but which clocks in under 150 pages and takes about 90 minutes to read.

Guess how you feel when it’s over?

Happy! Maybe even ... hopeful?

Those aren’t emotions typically ascribed to King books, which often feature gallons of blood (Hello, Carrie!), killer cars or things that go much more than bump in the night.

The biggest evil in “Elevation” is closed-mindedness, as a few townsfolk in Castle Rock, Maine, don’t look too kindly on the same-sex couple that has opened a vegetarian Mexican joint on the main drag.

Enter Scott Carey, the hero of King’s slim story. We learn by page three that Scott is “losing weight,” as he tells his retired friend, Doctor Bob. According to the scale, the pounds are sliding off at an alarming rate, but anyone looking at Scott sees the same overweight man they always have. Most mysteriously, he can’t even make the needle on the scale move higher. As King writes, “whatever he wore or carried that was supposed to weigh him down ... didn’t.”

Scott isn’t the type to head to a hospital for a battery of tests. He feels better as the pounds come off, his energy rises and he commits to making a difference in his community. The plot turns on one act of kindness that changes the fate of a few characters and makes it possible for Scott to orchestrate what he begins to call “Zero Day.”

“Elevation” follows “Gwendy’s Button Box” in the King canon, another short story set in Castle Rock that he co-wrote last year with Richard Chizmar. Both stories are now part of a King-verse that contains “Castle Rock,” the series on Hulu that brings together many of King’s most famous characters for a variety of tales.

It all adds up to plenty more plot fodder for a storyteller still at the top of his game. “Elevation” is a magical tale that entertains and manages to say a little something about the state of our culture in 2018. (AP)

November 3, 2018 - November 9, 2018

‘Hardship Posting V5’ goes forth

Lang Reid

Stu Lloyd has done it again.  Dragged his mentor Colonel Ken Oathe, he of the walrus mustache and lascivious ways, back to the keyboard and has compiled another ball-buster “Hardship Posting”, the 5th in the series according to author Lloyd.

The fact that Lloyd’s abacus lost its 4th ball may explain why this newly released book is the 5th series with no 4th.  With the alacrity Lloyd managed to produce this book (15 years and counting), expect the 4th “chat na don bai bai” (poorly translated from bar room Thai) as “in the next life, sometime in the afternoon”, referring to the date of repayment of loans by the LBFM (read the book for further elucidation.)

The book is a hefty tome, approaching 450 pages, so will keep you reading for quite a while, though Lloyd does want you to skip through it to whet your appetite for any forthcoming “Hardship Posting 4”.  Being the speed writer that he is, all readers over 85 should give it away as by that time they will be lifeless, having returned home in the hold of the QAINTASS aluminium tube and headed for a grassy patch outside Mooney Ponds.

The format of the book is to give Colonel Ken his say on any appropriate (and non appropriate) subject and follow that up with anecdotes from previous readers.  It is the short and pissy items (Oops pithy) that keep the Colonel going and also bestows upon V5 the appellation of a “bog book”, a pick up and read while putting out and read. Symbiotic really.

Another extra feature in “Hardship Posting V5” are a dozen cartoons penned by the Pattaya Mail’s resident funny man Mike Baird, hiding behind the acronym MJB. Mike has a keen eye for the vagaries of the expat life, which for many is Viagaries of expat life. Principal amongst these is a warm beer on the forecourt of the closest 7-11 (take your pick - there’s one on every street corner). The visual is a great addition to the printed word.

Lloyd has sectioned his book into 18‘stories’, or rather chapters, with the intro on each being from the mustachioed Colonel himself. Subjects covered (or uncovered) include Airline and Flying, Bribery and Corruption (though there’s none of that here), Language and Miscommunication (described as Lust in Translation), Embassy and Diplomatic (Enema of the state) plus another 14 whose calculator has enough batteries to figure it out.

Lloyd mentions that despite the misogyny that might be construed from some of his contributors, he has received items from a Thai katoey, a Filipina brothel worker, an Indonesian bar girl and some guy called Bridget, at that time serving time in the Bangkok Hilton prison.

I enjoyed reading this book which happily gives a loud raspberry to all the PC nonsense and its concomitant offspring such as #metoo. Colonel Ken suggests #youtwo as being more appropriate (or #youthree on a good night).

“Hardship Posting 5” will be available through the usual literary outlets and if you like a laugh, then go get it.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Lee Child has delivered another winner

Stephen King raises the bar with ‘Elevation’

‘Hardship Posting V5’ goes forth