Author Archives: george

SURFACE TO AIR By Gerard de Villiers

Surface to Air is Malko Linge novel by the prolific Gérard de Villiers. It concerns a carpet merchant from New York City whose family in the Pakistan has been killed by a U.S. drone strike. The carpet merchant wants revenge so he contacts jihadists. Then he shares his plan with the jihadists: he wants to shoot down Air Force One with President Obama in it. But, in order to pull off this scheme of revenge, the carpet merchant needs an Igla-S–a sophisticated Russian surface-to-air missile. Since many Russian weapons find their way onto the Black Market, the jihadists agree to acquire one.

Complications occur as the FBI decides to aid the carpet merchant’s mission in order to lure the jihadists into a trap. But, much of the mission will take place in Russia where the FBI is supposed to defer to the CIA. Bureaucratic infighting ensues. The CIA brings in their favorite contract agent, Malko Linge, who nearly dies as he’s ambushed by Russian elements. If you’re a fan of spy novels with action, you’ll find a lot to like with Surface to Air. For my reviews of other Malko novels, check out Checkpoint Charlie here, Chaos in Kabul here, Madmen of Benghazi here, and Revenge of the Kremlin here. GRADE: B

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #625: STIFF NEWS By Catherine Aird



I’ve always enjoyed Catherine Aird’s snarky mysteries. Stiff News (1998) is the 17th book in Aird’s Sloan and Crosby series, but you don’t have to have any previous knowledge of the books in this series to enjoy this clever mystery.

A letter received by an old woman’s son shortly after her death alerts Detective Inspector C. D. Sloan that another woman’s death by “natural causes” may actually be a murder. Sloan and Crosby begin an investigation of the odd events in a local nursing home catering to former members of a WWII regiment. Aird’s great strength as a mystery writer is her clever and witty characterizations.

You’ll wince at Aird’s uncompromising view of elderly residents of nursing homes. If you’re in the mood for mystery whose tentacles extend into the Past, Stiff News will amuse and entertain you. GRADE: A-

OUR FIRST COVID-19 SHOT

Last week, Patrick went on the State University of New York at Buffalo’s Covid-19 web site at 4 o’clock in the morning and signed Diane and me up for the vaccine shots…on February 24th.

I thought I might be able to arrange our Covid-19 shots earlier. Early last week, I spoke to the pharmacists at our local Rite Aid about the coronavirus vaccine. They told me, “We expect to get 30 doses next week.” I asked them to sign Diane and me up.

And, as luck would have it, the Rite Aid pharmacist called me on Monday–Martin Luther King Day–and asked, “Can you and your wife come in tomorrow at 1:00 P.M. for a Covid-19 shot.” “Yes we can,” was my response.

Diane and I got our shots, sat for 15 minutes to make sure there were no side effects (there weren’t), and went home happy. We’re scheduled for the second shot on February 16.

Are you having any luck getting a Covid-19 shot?

HAUNTING JULIA By Alan Ayckbourn

Haunting Julia is a one-act play that’s being offered online at the price of about $15. Alan Ayckbourn, the playwright, takes on the trio of roles in this 1994 work about a musical prodigy who died of an overdose. In this Stephen Joseph Theatre’s radio-play version, you have the option of Closed Captions or not. (You can read The Wall Street Journal review here.). If you want buy a ticket, go to Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, England
Listenable online only through Jan. 31, 2021, £12
To purchase “tickets,” go to sjt.uk.com

Alan Ayckbourn voices all three characters in Haunting Julia. Julia’s father is obsessed with his daughter’s death, finding it inextricable. Julia’s former boyfriend finally reveals some key information about the incident. And the psychic who may or may not have a link to Julia’s ghost, does provide context to Julia’s last day.

I’m a fan of ghost stories so Haunting Julia delighted me. Your mileage may vary. GRADE: B+

CULTURE WARLORDS: MY JOURNEY INTO THE DARK WEB OF WHITE SUPREMACY By Talia Lavin

Talia Lavin does something I would never do: she created multiple online identities and joined extremist organizations. Lavin’s exploration of dangerous right-wing groups predicts the Assault on the Capitol.

I was fascinated to learn how white supremacy groups operate online to recruit and fund-raise. Lavin exposes the strategies of Neo-Nazis, Christian extremists, and other hate groups.

It’s clear that we’re in for a protracted period of civil unrest. If you want to understand what we’re up against, read Culture Warlords. GRADE: A

Table of Contents:

Introduction — 1

  • On hating — 9
  • The Jews — 23
  • Boots on for the boogaloo — 46
  • Operation Ashlynn — 74
  • Adventures with incels — 99
  • That good old-time religion — 124
  • Tween racists, bad beanies, and the great casino chase — 155
  • Getting to the boom: on accelerationism and violence — 183
  • Antifa civil war — 203
  • We keep us safe — 217

Afterword — 237

Acknowledgements — 241

Endnotes — 243

Index — 255

NFL DIVISIONAL ROUND PLAYOFFS

Cleveland Browns might be the Cinderella team of the 2020 season. Their victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week was their first Playoff victory since January 1, 1995 when the Browns last won a playoff game, 20-13, over the New England Patriots. The Browns face last year’s Super Bowl Champions, the well rested Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are favored by 10 points. Go Browns!

Can the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the third straight time? Vegas thinks so because they’ve made the Saints 3-point favorites. The two oldest QBs in the Playoffs face each other. Can Tom Brady work his magic again in the Playoffs? Go Saints!

Who do you think will win these games?

BALTIMORE RAVENS VS. BUFFALO BILLS

The Baltimore Ravens flew into town today ready to take on the Buffalo Bills in a Divisional game. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, a gifted athlete, presents NFL defenses with migraine headaches with his running ability. Jackson can take over a game–and has several times this season. Just ask the Cleveland Browns and the Tennessee Titans.

The Bills will have to bring their “A” game if they have any hope of staying with the Ravens’ potent running attack. Vegas says the Bills are 2 1/2 point favorites, but the game might be closer than that.

In the early game, Los Angeles Rams vs. Green Bay Packers, the Packers are 7-point favorites. I think Green Bay will win by more than that because the Rams have two injured quarterbacks. Who do you think will win today?

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #624: STAR KING by Jack Vance

Matthew Hughes, who writes faux-Jack Vance novels and short stories has completed a “sequel” to Vance’s famous Demon Princes series. Hughes’ sequel should be published later in 2021, so I decided to reread the Demon Princes series starting with the first volume, Star King (aka, The Star King) first published in 1963. Five criminals organize a raid on the city of Mount Pleasant. Many of the citizens are killed, the rest are sold into slavery. Kirth Gersen and his grandfather are among the few survivors. They migrate to Earth where Gersen’s grandfather trains Kirth to become a skilled assassin whose mission is to avenge the deaths of his family and friends.

Tales of vengeance are a dime a dozen, but Jack Vance’s series features the solving of mysteries which make his series unique. Kirth Gersen has to find each of the five villains before he can extract his revenge. So questions of identity and strategy play large roles in Gersen’s searches of hidden meanings and sinister patterns.

If you’re looking for a series of tales with clever twists and unexpected actions, Demon Princes displays some of Jack Vance’s best writing. GRADE: B+ (for Star King)

HITS OF THE 70s [3-CD Set]

Hits of the 70s comes in a nice hinged tin box with a booklet that provides some information on the songs and the artists. I did not know that Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell” hit Number One in 1979. And, I did not know that Mark Lindsey, lead singer and sax player for Paul Revere and the Raiders, also hit Number One in 1970 with “Arizona.” Paul Revere and the Raiders also hit Number One in 1971 with “Indian Reservation.”

Rare Earth did not hit Number One with their rendition of “Get Ready” in 1970–their hit only reached Number Four despite heavy airplay on FM rock radio stations. Once again, there seems to be no rime or reason for the selections of these songs from the Seventies (unless you can discern some pattern). I like Edwin Starr’s “War” and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown.” I’m not so keen on Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “Jackie Blue.” Another mixed-bag of songs. Do you see any favorites here? GRADE: B

Tracklist 

A1Edwin StarrWar
A2StoriesBrother Louie
A3BadfingerCome And Get It
A4The Chi-LitesOh Girl
A5Gallery (2)Nice To Be With You
A6Hamilton, Joe Frank & ReynoldsFallin’ In Love (Again)
A7The MiraclesTears Of A Clown
A8Rare EarthGet Ready
A9Paul Revere & The RaidersIndian Reservation
A10Harold Melvin And The Blue NotesIf You Don’t Know Me By Now
B1The SweetBallroom Blitz
B2BadfingerDay After Day
B3Brewer And ShipleyOne Toke Over The Line
B4The Grass RootsTemptation Eyes
B5Hamilton, Joe Frank & ReynoldsDon’t Pull Your Love
B6Mark LindsayArizona
B7The Ozark Mountain DaredevilsJackie Blue
B8Freda PayneBand Of Gold
B9PilotMagic
B10B.J. ThomasRaindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head
C1Anita WardRing My Bell
C2Harold Melvin And The Blue NotesThe Love I Lost
C3Todd RundgrenHello It’s Me
C4Mickey Finn’s T. RexBang A Gong (Get It On)
C5HeatwaveBoogie Nights
C6Atlanta Rhythm SectionSo Into You
C7The Chi-LitesHave You Seen Her
C8Maxine NightingaleRight Back Where We Started From
C9Walter EganMagnet And Steel
C10The SweetFox On The Run