Favorite is a relative term. I did a quick inventory and listed twenty-one books that I read in 2016 and found it hard to pick any standout “favorites.” I was not overly impressed with the majority of the books I did read. After evaluating the books on my list, I gave ten of them a negative rating. Of the remaining eleven with positive ratings, only four stood out as really favorable. To put it bluntly, I was disappointed in quite a few of them. Some I skimmed, some I stopped reading and discarded altogether. As I mentioned in Camille’s blog last week, if start reading a book and it fails to grab me, I stop reading it.
First up Angel’s Flight, by Michael Connelly. It’s a police procedural in his Harry Bosch series and was first published back in 1998. Connelly’s Bosch series follows an LAPD detective who works homicides, and this one features the murder of a prominent, African-American attorney who has made a career out of suing the police department. I actually read this book back when it first came out, and decided to read it again. I met Connelly at a conference in 2002 and asked him if the murdered attorney was based on the late Johnny Cochran. Connelly laughed and said that Cochran had asked the same question, but that the character was not based on him. The murder takes place on a trolley in Los Angeles called Angel’s Flight. I subsequently saw the trolley on a trip to LA. I began reading the Bosch books out of sequence, so rereading Angel’s Flight helped me put things into perspective. Although each book stands on its own as an excellent novel, Connelly has also layered the Bosch series with an intricate template of details that interconnects throughout all of them.
Another lawman story that piqued my interest was Bass Reeves, Frontier Marshal. It’s a fictional work based on a real American hero. The book has four long short stories featuring the legendary Black marshal who may have be en the inspiration for the Lone Ranger. Reeves was a former slave and became a marshal during the 1880’s. He was a physically powerful man and crack shot, surviving numerous gunfights. Charged with apprehending fugitives in a lawless section of Oklahoma known as the Indian Territories, Reeves frequently was paired with Indian deputies on his quests for justice. He was known for handing out silver dollars to those who helped him, rode a huge, powerful, gray stallion, and often used disguises to get closer to his quarry. Reeves always conducted himself in an exemplary manner and was a man of honor. He remains an inspiration to all of us who followed him into law enforcement. Four authors, Gary Phillips, Mel Odom, Andrew Salmon, and Derrick Ferguson spin some rip-roaring western adventures that feature this real life hero.
Next is the graphic novel, City of Tomorrow, written and illustrated by Howard Chaykin. I’ve been a fan of Chaykin’s unique art style for many years, and enjoy the incredible detail he packs into every page. He’s an excellent writer as well as an exceptional artist. This one was originally released as six separate, serialized comic books, which were later combined into a paperback book. The story is reminiscent of Michael Crichton’s Westworld (I’m talking about the original movie and not the overwrought HBO television series of the same name, which I didn’t enjoy at all.). I read City of Tomorrow on a plane heading back to Chicago from Las Vegas and it was very entertaining.
The last, and most impressive book I read last year was Killing the Rising Sun, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. This was the first I’d read in O’Reilly’s “Killing” series. I was immediately intrigued when I learned the book covered the Pacific Theater in World War II, the development of the atomic bomb, and the defeat of the Japanese. O’Reilly covered the topics in a both a detailed and objective manner. Both his father and mine were in the Navy during World War II, and both served in the Pacific. My dad was in the battle of Guadalcanal and although I remember many breakfasts with my father and his Navy buddies, I never fully realized what these brave men went through until I read this book. It’s a no-holds-barred approach to writing about the conflict, going into detail about the heroics, the hardships, and the atrocities of the greatest conflict of the Twentieth Century. It also examines President Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb to end the war, and has letters from three of our living presidents regarding their opinions of Truman’s decision. It’s a nonfiction historical that reads like a novel. I’d have to say it was the best book I read last year.
One of the great things about having a “to read” stack that is almost as high as the ceiling is that I have a lot to look forward to reading in this current year. I’ve already gotten started on my new list.