Past Squares 7: A Look Back at This Kickass Reading Year (2021)

This is also today’s post for Life of B’s Past Squares!

Next: Chris Offutt, The Killing Hills

The old man walked the hill with a long stick, pushing aside mayapple and horseweed, seeking ginseng.

The Killing Hills, p. 1

Sentence of the Day: The Butcher’s Boy, p. 155

What is it about Las Vegas? It just seems to pull the best writing out of writers, especially writers of noir. Which Thomas Perry definitely is.

  • The dealer looked young, his carefully sculpted hair blond from the sun, but already he had the ageless look of detached competence they all seemed to have worn into them.

TBB Quote of the Day

After the hit man gets mugged in a dark alley in Denver (Denver! He kills the muggers of course. Thankfully, there are just two), existential despair:

He caught sight of himself in the other mirror, sitting naked on the bed. A small, whitish animal with a few tufts of hair. And hurt, too. As he watched, the injured face in the mirror contracted a little, seemed to clench and compress itself into a mask of despair. A sigh like a strangled squeak escaped from its throat. He said aloud to the face, “You sorry little bastard.”

The Butcher’s Boy, p. 39

Self does not know how Thomas Perry does it, but she feels empathy for this hit man — his alone-ness, his (of all things) vulnerability. The fact that he doesn’t have a name makes him more sympathetic, not less.

Stay tuned.

Elizabeth Waring in The Butcher’s Boy

When self was reading Michael Connelly’s great introduction to this novel, she was very excited to read that the plot actually has two main characters: the professional hit man, and a woman, Elizabeth Waring, the DOJ analyst who’s on his trail.

She is so happy that Elizabeth is introduced almost right away. It’s a very mundane scene: as a relatively new addition to the department, she has to hone her chops by reading over piles of reports to sniff out the details that seem “extra” suspicious. She consults with a colleague, who looks over her “possibles” and then picks out one — a very ordinary case — and says, why don’t you look into this one?

There is no reason on God’s earth why that agent should pick out that one case, but it’s pretty exciting when he tells Elizabeth, “Just a hunch.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2nd Michael Connelly Quote of the Day

Economy creates momentum. The story gathers speed and moves with an unalterable urgency. All characters, all action, relentlessly moving toward the same vanishing point on the horizon.

Michael Connolly’s Introduction to the 2003 Edition of Thomas Perry’s The Butcher’s Boy

Why has no one made this series into a movie? The chase is made for the big screen. Think The Terminator, only no robots and no time travel.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Michael Connelly

A book is like a car. It pulls up to the curb and the passenger door swings open to the reader. The engine revs. Do you want a ride?

Once you get in, the car takes off, the door slamming shut and the rubber burning in its wake. Behind the wheel the driver’s got to be highly skilled, heavy on the pedal, and most of all, oh man, most of all, somebody you want to be with. He’s got to drive near the edge of the cliff but never over. He’s got to turn sharply just as you think you know where you are going. He’s got to gun it on the final lap.

Introduction by Michael Connelly to the 2003 Edition of Thomas Perry’s The Butcher’s Boy

Self borrowed her copy from the library, and it is pretty beat up. Nevertheless.

She absolutely loved Eddie’s Boy. Which is what led her here, to the very first book of the series. What did she love so much about Eddie’s Boy? The main character was a professional hit man, married to a member of the British peerage. If that character description doesn’t grab you, self doesn’t know what will.

The Virus, London

Catherine’s husband and son are still alive, as of p. 46.

  • I stopped taking Theodore to nursery weeks ago. The idea of it made me shiver; putting him in a big room with thirty other children and adults who could have been anywhere, touched anything, be carrying it but not know. Anyone could have it.The End of Men, p. 46

The pandemic survival rate is 3.4%. Catherine and her husband “spend as much time as possible together . . . We sleep entwined like otters.”

p. 44, The End of Men

Anthony is still alive! As you all know (if you’ve been paying attention to this blog), Anthony is the nice husband of Catherine. Nice husbands — or any kind of husbands — are in short supply right now, as there is a virus that is killing off only men.

Catherine tell us, on p. 44:

  • Anthony hasn’t gone to work all week. I wouldn’t let him.

If self were married to Anthony, she wouldn’t let him out either! The man is too good: he decorates Christmas trees and smiles touchingly at his wife while at it. Self feels like yelling at Catherine: Woman, you must keep him alive, at all costs!

Meanwhile, Catherine shops for food:

  • I go out to get food, briefly and carefully as late as possible in the quiet of nighttime, touching no one, standing near no one . . . interpreting the smallest cough as a sign that it is here.

Catherine is self. Self, too, interpret the smallest cough as a sign that “it” is here. So does the friend she sees most often.

The other day, we were watching “Respect” in the Century 20 and self had a coughing fit. She tried her best to squelch it, but no, the coughs erupted. Self’s friend first twitched, then crossed her legs, then leaned as far away from self as possible. Not surprising: she’s had cancer and her immune system never recovered. Self is amazed this woman can go out and about at all. If self were her friend and was recovering from cancer while simultaneously trying to hide from a pandemic, she’d spend all her time at home, under a blanket.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Whistleblower Amanda

No one is listening to me. I’m beginning to think I’m going mad.

The End of Men, p. 36

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