Thursday, April 28, 2005

Laughing Hurts!

Kevin’s Corner

Back in the land of the living thanks to antibiotics. Well, sort of living, at least. Strep throat can really do a number on you especially when one does not know one has it. Apparently, there is some new strain of Strep that does not make your throat hurt nor does it show up as white patches in the back of the throat. Instead, confirmation comes by way of the old swab at the back of the throat. As my doctor puts it, this is not good for patients who have “a heightened gag reflex.” There has to be a better way to test the patient.

Enough about that. If you are looking for a quirky mystery, I have just the book in mind for you. This recent release titled “Watch Your Back!” by Donald E. Westlake was my first exposure to his wild world. The novel combines humor with off the wall characters and a madcap caper to pleasantly entertain readers.

Watch Your Back! A Dortmunder Novel
By Donald E. Westlake
Mysterious Press
April 2005
ISBN # 0-89296-802-8
310 Pages
$24.95 US
$33.95 Canada

John Dortmunder and crew are not happy they can’t meet in the backroom of the O.J. Bar & Grill as usual. Everyone around knows they meet there to plan their jobs, but they can’t because outsiders have taken over. Outsiders that, beyond their strange taste in clothes, have the regulars quaking in fear and the barman, Rollo, scanning the want ads. The outsiders have to be dealt with and Dortmunder has to figure out a way.

He also has to figure out a way to deal with a proposition from Arnie Albright. Arnie is their usual fence and has just returned from having his attitude adjusted on an island resort. While it could be questioned whether the intervention worked, there is no mistaking the genius of Arnie’s proposed target.

While on the island resort, he met an incredibly rich and obnoxious man by the name of Preston Fareweather. Mr. Fareweather, beyond being obscenely rich and a pitiful human being (even Arnie thinks he is a jerk) is hiding from his five angry ex-wives and their process servers. Instead of being at home in New York in his penthouse apartment dealing with the problems he has created, he is on the island laying waste to the various gold digging trollops who decide to spend time with him. Arnie proposes Dortmunder and crew should take down Fareweather’s penthouse and for steering them the work, he wants thirty percent.

It’s a great deal and despite being almost too good to be true, one that Dortmunder and crew can’t resist. So, they split their time with planning the job and working on how to handle the problem at the O. J. While Dortmunder may feel that everything is under control, before long it is very clear that things aren’t, if they ever really were. Madcap hijinks ensue as both storylines gradually weave together with a definite sense of poetic justice.

Fans of Donald E. Westlake no doubt know and appreciate what is in store in this entertaining read. For those who don’t care for a strong amount of humor, to the point of madcap variety at times, this read is definitely not appropriate. For everyone else, this is an enjoyable and entertaining novel that will have you chuckling from start to finish.

A big thank you to Renee Supriano of the Time Warner Book Group for providing a review copy. It is appreciated!

More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note at with your comments, observations, and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005

Thursday, April 14, 2005

One Door Closes.....

Kevin’s Corner

Well, it has been an interesting couple of weeks to say the least. They say that when one door closes another opens. That idea, along with a maintenance free air conditioner, a lifetime warranty, compassionate conservatism, and a few other things was something I never really believed in.

But, I could be wrong.

I truly hope I am. I’m not quite ready to make any announcement yet, but hopefully, what has been discussed by e-mail will actually happen. When I am surer of things, hopefully by the end of the month if not sooner, I will announce the details.

In the meantime and probably for now on, I intend to post a review here from time to time. No, this blog is not going to be exclusively reviews. I still intend to ramble on as I have been and comment about other things in the world today. But, reviews will appear here occasionally and I think that works along with everything else.

First up is Jeffrey Cohen’s book “A Farewell To Legs.” You may have heard about Jeff, as he is heavily involved in the Mystery Morgue review site as well as a few other things. Jeff may be half a country away from me but we share a major thing in common. No, it isn’t the fact we are both over forty and worry about premature balding or the fact that our wives get annoyed at times with our sense of humor. We are both stay at home Dads.

Contrary to what you would see on daytime talk shows we are two guys that not only are fully involved with our kids, but know how to use major household appliances. That’s right, we know how to cook and clean and do it very well. Something that comes through in his fiction writing and something that I really appreciate. Jeff writes with the voice of experience and his writing brings back fond, and not so very fond at all, memories of my own experiences. If you haven’t read any of his stuff, you really need to take a look.

A Farewell To Legs: An Aaron Tucker Mystery
By Jeffrey Cohen
Bancroft Press
ISBN # 1-890862-29-0

In this sequel to “For Whom The Minivan Rolls,” Aaron Tucker is once again called on to investigate a death. Louis Gibson, head of a right wing conservative group that stridently preached family values has been found dead in the bed of his mistress, Cheri Bratton. His wife, who was the dream of every guy she knew in high school when she was known as Stephanie Jacobs is still an attractive knockout twenty-five years later. Now known as Stephanie Jacobs Gibson, the new widow gets the news of her husband’s death at the twenty-five year High School Reunion. What better setting for an alibi is there than being in front of your old classmates when you find out?

Because of his previous history covered in the first book, Stephanie gets it in her head just hours after the murder to have Aaron investigate the crime and write about it for the editor she knows of a large and prestigious publication. After confirming with the editor how much the publication will pay, freelance writer Aaron Tucker reluctantly aggress and begins digging into the case.

At the same time, he deals with other storylines involving his activities as a stay at home Dad, the joys and perils of pet ownership when kids are involved, stink bombs at school, embezzlement and politics. Some of it is a very nasty business indeed and combined with the murder case, makes him a target. Before long, Aaron begins to wonder which party is just furious with him and which wants him removed permanently.

Everyone that was in the first book makes a repeat appearance here and very little new ground is covered in terms of character development. What also isn’t covered is a detailed description of the first book. Unlike many sequels, this sequel can be safely read and enjoyed out of order with the first book. In short, one can safely read this book and go back later and hunt down the first book.

While not nearly as funny as the first book, this novel provides another very enjoyable read. For fellow stay at home Dads, Jeffrey Cohen writes with the clear authority of someone who has lived in the trenches. His characters, regardless of occupation are real people and come alive for the reader in every sense of the word. That fact, coupled with his creation of another mystery within a mystery that features a few sudden twists at the end, make this novel another very worthwhile read from him.

So, there you have it. Another author to consider and one that I think you will enjoy. More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note at with your comments, observations, and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005