THE CARTEL By Don Winslow

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The Cartel is the sequel to Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog (2005). Both books show how the Mexican Drug cartels work. The body count is high. The drug lords are paranoid psychopaths who would rather shoot than act rationally. Treachery, violence, and fear appear on every page of these books. DEA agent Art Keller is Winslow’s Everyman. He tries his best to dismantle the cartels that ship billions of dollars of cocaine, crystal meth, heroin, and marijuana into the United States. But for every success Keller achieves, the insatiable demand for drugs in the U.S. causes new cartels to form. After reading over 1,000 pages of double-dealing and betrayals, I’m drug carteled out. But, if you want to understand why we’re losing the War on Drugs, Don Winslow’s grim novels will provide the answers. GRADE: B+

PAPER TOWNS By John Green

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paper towns soundtrack
I read John Green’s Paper Towns and saw the new movie based on it. Both are entertaining. Paper Towns tells the story of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Nat Wolff), a senior in high school who is in love with Margo Roth Spiegelman (played by British super-model Cara Delevingne). After a night of hijinks with Margo, Quentin thinks he’s finally close to the love of his life. But Margo disappears. Quentin cleverly follows the clues Margo leaves and decides to act on his impulses for the first time in his life. Any guy who’s had a crush on a girl will relate to this book and movie. The movie follows the book very closely. If you’re in the mood for a Young Adult coming of age story, both the book and the movie deliver. And the soundtrack’s pretty good, too. GRADE: B (for both)
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FORGOTTEN BOOKS #33: The Archer Files: The Complete Short Stories of Lew Archer, Private Investigator By Ross Macdonald & Edited by Tom Nolan

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Black Lizard just published The Archer Files: The Complete Short Stories of Lew Archer, Private Investigator. Many of you may own the Crippen & Landru edition (2007) of this book. This paperback version–592 pages–is a bargain for the price (AMAZON is selling it for $12.18). I’m more of a fan of the Lew Archer novels, but these short stories hold up well.

The Archer Files collects the stories from Macdonald’s 1955 paperback-original The Name Is Archer, the stories included in the Otto Penzler-edited 1977 volume Lew Archer: Private Investigator, and the three novellas presented in Crippen & Landru’s 2001 book Strangers in Town. The short stories in this volume provide a broad perspective on the development of Ross Macdonald as a writer. Nolan adds 13 “case notes” that provide additional insights in Macdonald’s writing process. Well worth reading!
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Find the woman
Death by water
The bearded lady
Strangers in town
Gone girl
The sinister habit
The suicide
Guilt-edged blonde
Wild goose chase
The angry man
Midnight blue
Sleeping dog — case notes. The 13th day
Heyday in the blood
Lady killer
Little woman
The Strome tragedy
Stolen woman
Death mask
Change of venue
Do your own time
Count of Montevista
100 pesos.

Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald & WHAT THERE IS TO SAY WE HAVE SAID: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell

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Letter writing is a dying art. When was the last time you actually wrote a letter (and mailed it–not emailed it)? The last letters I remember writing were to Bob Napier when he was editing MYSTERY & DETECTIVE MONTHLY, the late lamented letterzine. But that was over a decade ago. I read Meanwhile There Are Letters because I’m a fan of both Ross Macdonald and Eudora Welty. Their wit and intelligence shows on every page of this book. The topics vary, but I was most interested in Macdonald’s thoughts about writing detective fiction. Welty’s pithy comments led to read the other collection of her letters, this time with William Maxwell, her editor at The New Yorker. Maxwell and Welty discuss James Thurber, Katherine Anne Porter, J. D. Salinger, Isak Dinesen, William Faulkner, John Updike, Virginia Woolf, Walker Percy, For Madox Ford, John Cheever, and more writers. Just as letter writing is a Lost Art, letter reading is in danger of fading away, too. But, before it does you might want to indulge in reading these wonderful letters. GRADE: A

POPULAR ECONOMICS: WHAT THE ROLLING STONES, DOWNTON ABBEY, AND LEBON JAMES CAN TEACH YOU ABOUT ECONOMICS By John Tamny

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While the ongoing Greek financial crisis lurches toward another ineffectual bailout and China’s stock market bubble threatens to pop, I’m struck by the economic ignorance of politicians everywhere. The European Union is fatally flawed because a common currency–the euro–needs a centralized budget entity. But none of the EU countries wan to give up their financial power. Our economy is still struggling because politicians refuse to fund bills that would fix our roads and bridges (and create jobs) because of politics not economics. If politicians just read Popular Economics they’d have a much better idea of how the Economy works. If you want to understand what’s happening in the financial markets and how the world really works, start here. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
FOREWORD By Steve Forbes
INTRODUCTION
PART I: TAXES
1. Taxes are Nothing More than a Price Placed on Work
2. When We Tax Corporations, We Rob Them of Their Future
3. Government Spending Did Not Create the Internet, and Has Never Created a Job
4. It’s the Spending, Stupid: Budget Deficits Really Don’t Matter
5. Capital Gains Are the Elusive Jackpot That Drive Innovation
6. The Best Way to Spread the Wealth Around is to Abolish the Estate Tax
7. Wealth Inequality is Beautiful
8. Savers Are an Economy’s Most Valuable Benefactors
9. Job Creation Requires Perpetual Job Destruction
10. Conclusion: Bulldoze the U.S. Tax
PART II: REGULATION
11. Appalachian State Almost Never Beats Michigan, and Government Regulation Almost Never Works
12. Antitrust Laws: The Neutering of the Near-Term Excellent
13. Conclusion: Don’t Dismiss College Dropouts Delivering Alternative Weeklies
PART III: TRADE
14. “Trade Deficits” Are Our Rewards for Going to Work Each Day
15. Comparative Advantage: Could LeBron James Play in the NFL?
16. “Outsourcing” is Great for Workers, and as Old as the Pencil
17. “Energy Independence” Would be Economically Crippling: “Global Warming” is a Crippling Theory
18. Conclusion: Free Trade is the Path to Knowledge, Liberty, World Peace, and Big Raises
Part IV: MONEY
19. A Floating Foot, Minute, and Second Would Give You Ugly Houses, Burnt Wings, and Slow NFL Draft Picks
20. Do Not Be Fooled by Rising and Falling Computer, Flat Screen, and VHS Prices: They Are Not an Inflation or Deflation Signal
21. True Inflation is Currency Devaluation, and It is a Cruel Blast to the Past
22. If they Tell You They Predicted the “Financial Crisis,” They’re Lying
23. Conclusion: “Do-Nothing” Politicians Deserve a Special Place in Heaven
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
NOTES
INDEX

ROMEO & JULIET [Blu-ray]

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I bought this copy of Romeo & Juliet for $4.99 at BJ’s Warehouse (AMAZON has it for $5). A Blu-ray for under $5 is a bargain and this movie is one of my favorites. I’m not a Leonardo DiCaprio fan, but he’s very good in this film. I am a huge Claire Danes fan and she’s terrific as Juliet. Director Baz Luhrmann’s films are always a little wacky. The contemporary setting for Romeo & Juliet was an audacious risk, but he pulls it off. I loved this movie when it first came out in 1996. It’s even better on Blu-ray at this incredible price! GRADE: A

YOU NEVER CAN TELL By George Bernard Shaw

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Diane and I traveled to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada to see You Never Can Tell. This play is part of the yearly Shaw Festival that features Shaw’s plays (and this is one of them) as well as plays from the GBS time-period. Set in 1886 in the English seaside town, the comic antics start immediately. Dr. Valentine (played by Gray Powell), a dentist, falls madly in love with the fetching redhead, Gloria Clandon (played by Julia Course). But, of course, there are obstacles. Gloria’s mother, a famous writer, has been living apart from her husband for 18 years. But, guess who lives in this seaside town? Yes, Mrs. Clandon’s estranged husband. And the wisest waiter in the world: William (played to perfection by Peter Millard). There are plenty of silly antics including a wacky costume party that morphs into a legal proceeding. Shaw peppers his play with his “ideas” and sardonic wit. If you’re looking for an entertaining and enlightening vintage play, check out You Never Can Tell. GRADE: A

TRAINWRECK

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Amy Shumer is the Real Deal. Yes, she’s been getting a lot of hype with the run-up to the release of her first movie, Trainwreck but Amy has the talent. This movie is a conventional romantic comedy. Don’t expect any surprises. But Amy Shumer turns straw into comedic gold. Amy plays Amy, a New York City woman who drinks too much and smokes too much weed and sleeps around. She works for a men’s magazine called “S’Nuff” as a writer of articles like “You’re Not Gay, She’s Just Boring.” I really liked Colin Quinn as Amy’s dysfunctional father. Tilda Swinton nails it as Amy’s boss. And Bill Hader shows he’s got the Right Stuff to be Amy’s boyfriend despite plenty of trials and tribulations. If you’re looking for a funny summer movie that is slightly raunchy, Trainwreck fits the bill. GRADE: B+

ANT-MAN

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When I was reading Ant-Man comics as a kid, I realized Ant-Man was a “second tier” Marvel character. He didn’t have the powers of an Iron Man or Hulk or Thor. Ant-Man could shrink and command ants. That was about it. But there are charms in lesser heroes as this new Ant-Man movie demonstrates. Likable Paul Rudd plays likable Scott Lang, ex-convict. Scott gets recruited by an elderly Dr. Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) to put on the shrinking suit and save the world from complete collapse. Where the Avengers movies and Captain America movies have grand themes and super-villains, Ant-Man has to battle a Mad Scientist. I liked Evangeline Lilly as Pym’s daughter, Hope. Sure, there’s some silliness in this film, but if you’re a fan of The Incredible Shrinking Man, Fantastic Voyage, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids you’re going to enjoy Ant-Man. GRADE: A-