Following up on a recommendation from spootyjim a few weeks ago, I’ve decided to incorporate regular book threads into our routine here at RVS.  Honestly, I think it will be good for me.  I spend far too much time online on politics and other time-wasters, and I miss reading books.  Maybe this will help motivate me to get going on some of the books on my queue.  It might be good for you too!

I figure we can start off by discussing some of the books we’ve all read in recent weeks (or months) and make some recommendations.  If it works out, perhaps we could begin a functioning book club and all read the same book and discuss it as we go?  We’re a pretty literate bunch who read good.  I think it make fun.

I’ll start off with the last book I finished.  It was The Mafia and the Machine: The Story of the Kansas City Mob.  I’ve lived in KC for almost my entire life (92% of it) and I confess that until I read this, I was almost totally ignorant about my cowtown’s wild, corrupt, and utterly fucking awesome history.  This nonfiction work reads like Wiseguys in its narrative of a largely forgotten time and place.

Here there was a powerful Mafia organization closely aligned with New York’s and the operations in Las Vegas (as seen in Casino) and an effective political machine on par with Tammany Hall.  The best explanation of the Union Station Massacre I’ve ever read is within it.  Side note: I never realized that KC is the only part of the country in which you had such a strong collaboration among the most notorious criminals of the time.  You had the worst crooks like the Mafia, of course, then there were the notable “gangsters” like Pretty Boy Floyd and Bonnie and Clyde and the Democratic Party all working together.

Had the Mafia had its way, the entire state of Missouri might have become a gigantic Las Vegas instead of the boring place we turned into (riverboat casinos aside).  In particular, I liked learning about how Harry S Truman sprung from this Wild West environment and its merciless Machine and yet preserved his integrity and avoided even a whiff of corruption in his White House.  I ended up respecting him more for it.

I loved this book so much, I’m planning to buy copies for some of my relatives here in town and maybe a couple for some of my colleagues who come to KC on business periodically.  Might pique their curiosity and get them to go and make a field trip to see some of the historic scenes described in the book.  If you’re interested in nonfiction books about organized crime and want to expand on what you know about the influence of organized crime on politics and beyond New York and Chicago, this is a fantastic read.

This week, I swear I’ll get started on one of the three other books on my queue.  There’s What the Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong, Win Bigly by Scott Adams, and An Inconvenient Deception by Somebody I can’t think of and I’m too lazy to look it up.

While I get going, does anyone have anything good to share?


  1. I’d mentioned I just finished “What the Hell Did I Just Read?” this week. I’m conflicted, on how I feel about it. It’s definitely a much tighter story than the first two, but it felt like it lost a lot of the hyper-kinetic pacing that endeared the previous novels to me.

    The book has as many dick and fart jokes as any reader would expect having made it this far in the series, and the fact that the main characters have to fight giant Lovecraftian maggots with a cannon that fires exploding dildoes is something that truly needs to be read to be believed.

    Unfortunately, I found the ending to the story arc to be deeply unsatisfying on my first pass through. It may grow on me in further readings, but as of right now I just can’t square things up in my mind.

    As to my first recommendation, the Monster Hunter International series by Larry Correia is one that I’ve had overwhelming success. I’ve had several friends that hadn’t read for fun in 15-20 years turn into avid readers strictly because of the eponymous first novel.

    The Premise: Monsters are real. They pose real, existential threats to humanity. So much so that the governments of the world- in secret- pay bounties to individuals and companies in the private sector that act as supernatural pest control agents.

    Enter Owen Pitt: Battle Accountant. One night Owen is working late at his accounting firm, and his supervisor decides he has a bone to pick with Owen. Literally. One werewolf boss fight later and Owen is recruited by the première group of Hunters – Monster Hunter International.

    The original book sunk its hooks pretty deeply in me for many reasons. Reason number one is that we’ve all had that one boss who was just an utter shit whose entire purpose in life is to grind you down unrelentingly. Who hasn’t fantasized about killing that boss? Living vicariously through Owen is the next best thing.

    Reason two is the fact that I love me some monster movies – the worse, the better. It’s a rare movie night when the offering rises as far up as being B-grade. The Evil Dead series is probably my all time favorite batch of movies, and Owen is a hero cut from the same cloth as Ashley J. Williams.

    I could probably go on and on, but I’m running out of steam. If anyone wants to give it a whirl, the first hit is free (on Kindle):

  2. Ah Larrys books.. i really need to read them some time. between him John Ringo and Tom Kratman, Baen books has done well with a very male oriented books.

    I am currently reading Larry Nivens Ringworld series, and then on to the fleet or worlds series that Edward M. Lerner co authored with Larry Niven.

    recommend any of John Keagens books

  3. Ringworld has been on my to-read list forever, but I just never seem to get around to it. I cut my teeth on old school sci-fi, and while it’s not my primary genre for reading I like a good space opera every now and then.

    The only thing I’ve ever read by Tom Kratman was his novella “Big Boys Don’t Cry” a couple of years ago when it was nominated for a Hugo. I remember liking it, but I don’t remember anything more specific than that.

    I know that a lot of people like John Ringo’s books, but the only thing I’ve ever read of his were his Monster Hunter Memoirs novels that he “wrote” with Larry Correia. I can’t speak for any of his other works, but if the Memoirs novels are representative of his writing style I can’t see myself ever forking over money for any of his other books.

  4. The Last Centurion. The Looking Glass series , Troy Rising Series, and best of all Empire of Man series. by Mr Ringo ..

    Kratman.. oh hes one messed up cat…
    Kratman is a political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. The mechanism of his defection was enlisting into the Army in 1974 at age 17, which deeply distressed his high school (Boston Latin, founded 1635) as they thought he had “higher and better things” ahead of him. He served two years as an enlisted grunt with the 101st Airborne and one and a half with the 193rd Infantry Brigade in Panama, getting 2 years of collegedone in the process (when he wasn’t in the field he was taking courses). At that point the Army gave Kratman a scholarship and sent him off to Boston College to finish his degree and obtain a commission. Tom graduated, cum laude, in 1980 and returned to the Army as an infantry officer. Tom served another three year tour in Panama, then more schooling at Benning, then 4+ years with the 24th Infantry Division near Savannah, Georgia. Fun times then ceased for a while while he did two years in Recruiting Command.
    Saddam Hussein (PBUH) saved Tom from this by invading Kuwait. He has been told that he was the only captain to actually escape from USAREC for the war. Tom arranged a transfer to Special Operations Command and went through the active part of the campaign attached to 5th Special Forces. He continued slurping at the Army trough until it became painfully clear that the bottom had dropped out of the militantly and violently aggressive anti-communism market and that he was not going to like the rather PC direction the Army (which was, arguably, the only thing he ever selflessly loved) was heading in.

    Among other things, Tom earned a Combat Infantry Badge and the Ranger Tab.

    Tom got out in 92 and went to law school. He hated it but was far too pig headed to quit. He became a lawyer in 95 and quickly realized that what he had felt about law school was but a pale shadow of true hate. Stayed in the Reserves and took every tour he could to avoid practicing law. And when the reserves had nothing interesting there was MPRI (“white collar mercenaries R us”).

    Saddam Hussein (PBUH) once again stepped to the fore and saved Tom from the continued practice of law. In February of 2003 the Army called him up to participate in the invasion of Iraq. Still, God has a sense of humor. While awaiting a flight over Tom was informed he had a 100% blockage in his right coronary artery (imagine his chagrin) and wasn’t going anywhere fun anytime soon. Instead, he spent eight months stuck at Fort Bragg, then a few in the DC area, before finally being sent on to be on the faculty of the Army War College as Director, Rule of Law, for the US Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. Keep in mind that divine sense of humor previously mentioned.

    Tom retired in 2006, bored out of his gourd and finally ready to admit his love affair with the Army was over. He’s returned to Virginia and, instead of practicing law, writes full time for Baen. (That means, NO, don’t ask for legal advice because there’s no more confidentiality with him. He’s outa da bidnez.) His books published to date include A State of Disobedience, A Desert Called Peace, and Carnifex, with a sequel to the last two, The Lotus Eaters, due out in Spring, 2010. His collaborations with John Ringo include Watch on the Rhine, Yellow Eyes, and, coming in October, 2009, The Tuloriad.

    Tom’s married to a (really beautiful) girl from rural western Panama. Yolanda and he have 3 children and 3 grandchildren. Here’s a Photo of Daughter Sarah and a NEW photo of Tom’s daughter, Julia, and three grandkids. Yoli and Tom make their home in Blacksburg, VA.

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