The Crook Factory

American Author Ernest Hemingway aboard his Ya...

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I have finally gotten around to reading The Crook Factory by Dan Simmons about Ernest Hemingway’s efforts in Cuba during WW2 to find Nazi spies and capture or destroy German U-boats. I had been looking forward to reading this book for a long time and it did not disappoint. For the Hemingway fan, this book brings him to life like no other biography that I have read. I have read almost all of Hemingway’s books and I feel a special connection to him since we were both born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, probably in the same hospital.

In the Author’s Note at the back of the book, Simmons claims that 95% of the book is fact, not fiction. Interestingly, he notes that J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI had advance information about the imminent attack on Pearl Harbor, but did nothing about it because of interagency rivalries. Just like 9-11,  60 years later, the FBI had prior warning but did nothing. How little changes.

Please see Coincidences | Dan Simmons | Quality books | Song of Kali | Phases of Gravity | The Shining

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Song of Kali

Kolkata on the Hooghly

Kolkata on the Hooghly (Photo credit: seaview99)

Song of Kali by Dan Simmons is his first book. The genre is horror rather than science fiction and most of it is set in the slums of Calcutta. Comparable books would be The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre also set in Calcutta and Shantaram by Gregory Roberts set in Bombay. Of the three accounts of life in the slums of big-city India, the Calcutta of Song of Kali is the most horrific, being a fictional account. I have never visited India, and I expect that I never will. In my life’s travels, the closest I ever came to a third world experience of poverty was in Fiji. I prefer my Western comforts in uncrowded places. I am embarrassed to be relatively wealthy when everyone around me is poorer. I could not be comfortable in the US as a member of the 1%.

Song of Kali was a difficult read for me. There is a respite at the end as husband and wife find a new life in a small Colorado town. Simmons was born in 1948 in Peoria, Illinois, and apparently he spent part of his youth growing up in Chicago. I have found Chicago references in several of his books as well as actual and fictional references to other places in Illinois. I too grew up in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Please Quality books | Phases of Gravity | The Shining | Trigger

The Shining

The Overlook Hotel (Timberline Lodge).

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The Shining was the first Stephen King book that I read, and I read it after I saw the movie version. I was so taken by the movie that I attended a celebrity golf tournament in Montecito, California, so that I could ask Scatman Crothers, who played the cook in the movie, where the movie was filmed. He answered London, England, for the interiors, but I wanted to know about the exterior shots. I didn’t have a chance to repeat my question, but I found the answer today in Phases of Gravity by Dan Simmons. The exteriors were filmed at Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood National Forest near Portland, Oregon.

Please see 11/22/63 | Quality books | Dan Simmons | Trigger

Quality books

Phases of Gravity

Phases of Gravity

There is something special about a book, and there is something very special about a quality printed book. The type is dark and sharp and the acid-free paper has a special feel to it. I have a growing library of books that is gradually taking over the house. When I have a choice and can afford the better book, I will always buy the quality choice. I favor books from these four suppliers: Franklin Library (no longer in business), Easton Press, the Folio Society and Subterranean Press. This post was inspired by the receipt yesterday of  Phases of Gravity by Dan Simmons from Subterranean Press. Originally published in 1989, the book was republished in 2011.

It is possible to buy directly from the publishers, except for Franklin Library. However, I also shop for bargains at Amazon and eBay. Just search for the preferred publisher and prepare to be surprised at the results. I particularly enjoy classics like Anthony Trollope and Joseph Conrad from the Folio Society, and Joe Lansdale, Dan Simmons and Cage Baker from Subterranean Press.

Please see Dan Simmons | Trigger