Friday, November 21, 2014

The Book Shelf: Part 2 of 4

The Book Shelf: Part 2 of 4

Just in time for Christmas, here’s a brief look at some of the books I have read over the last while:

The Gods of Guilt -- Author Michael Connelly revisits Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer, in this one. There is a murder victim, who was a prostitute; she also was a former client of Haller’s whom he had tried hard to get out of her line of work. Obviously, it didn’t work. If you read The Lincoln Lawyer (2005) and enjoyed it, you’ll like this one. (Kindle)

His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir -- If you are a sports fan and a reader, you no doubt will have read Dan Jenkins, either in Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest or Playboy, or between the covers of one of his numerous books. Now we have His Ownself, written in Jenkins’ take-no-prisoners style. This is writing the way it used to be, before political correctness smothered a lot of it. Go along with Jenkins on a great ride as he revisits his long and terrific career. But as you read along, you get the feeling that the author is laughing at life, like he knows he has pulled a fast one. Reading this is kind of like watching George Clooney and Brad Pitt in the movie Oceans 11. No one should have as much fun as they do; no one should have as much fun as Jenkins did during his career. (Kindle)

Hockey Card Stories: True Tales from Your Favourite Players -- This is a neat book, but it's not one to be read in one or two sittings. Rather, it's to be enjoyed over a month or six weeks. Author Ken Reid, a card collector who is an anchor with Rogers Sportsnet when he isn't counting cards, has selected a number of hockey cards and tells their stories through conversations with the pictured players. There are some terrific stories here, too. For example, Bryan Maxwell, now an assistant coach with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, has three cards but his picture is on only one of them. (A note to the author: Despite what you might find on the Internet, Butch Goring’s famous helmet was a ‘SPAPS’, not a ‘SNAPS’. Yes, I had one.) (Kindle)

Kid Dynamite: The Gerry James Story -- Gerry James is the greatest Canadian athlete whom few people remember, and that’s unfortunate. Playing for football’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers and hockey’s Toronto Maple Leafs during the same years, James was Bo Jackson before Bo Jackson. James was one of the greatest players in CFL history, twice winning the Schenley Award as the league’s top Canadian. He won scoring championships and Grey Cups; he was one of best and toughest running backs of his day. As a hockey player, he played like, well, a football player. In southern Saskatchewan, he is best known as a senior hockey player, as well as a junior hockey owner, general manager and coach. He also is an enigma, something that is most evident in author Ron Smith’s work. Reading this book, you are left to wonder if James, a contradictarian if ever there was one, knows himself, and if he doesn’t, is there any chance of Smith figuring him out. This book is worth reading, if for no other reason than to understand just what a terrific athlete James was. Unfortunately, there is a bit too much of the author in this book. As well, this book, like so many others today, could have used a good editor. Darth Vadar? Schultz, as in Charles M. Schulz? Sidney Crosbie? Wayne Gretsky? . . . If you’re wondering where the nickname, Kid Dynamite, came from, James’ father Eddie (Dynamite) James was a terrific footballer in his own right. (Kindle)

The King of Sports: Football’s Impact on America -- Author Gregg Easterbrook takes off the gloves as he takes on mostly the NCAA and the NFL, pointing out in no uncertain terms just how it is that football at those levels rules the roost. This just may get you looking at football and all of its money in a different light. (Kindle)

The Lost 10 Point Night: Searching for my Hockey Hero . . . Jim Harrison: When he was a child and first became a hockey fan, David Ward, the author of this little gem, became entranced with Jim Harrison. Almost 40 years later, Ward tracked down Harrison, along with a number of former junior, NHL and WHA teammates, and is able to tell the story of a boy/man and his hockey hero. Harrison is a great story, too, because he has beefs with a team or two, the NHLPA, Alan Eagleson and a few others, and he isn’t the least bit leery about voicing his opinion. This book won‘t get much publicity against some of the big boys that appear before Christmas, but it‘s a wonderful read. (Kindle)

My Cross to Bear -- Give this a read and you’ll wonder how it is that Gregg Allman, he of Allman Brothers Band fame, is still alive. From all the booze and all the drugs and all the wives (six at last count) and all the other women, not to mention the liver transplant, he should have been dead a long time ago. Still, this book, written with Alan Light, provides honest insight into Allman and his music career. You may recall that he once was married to Cher. “I was really glad that she never asked me what I thought of her singing,” he writes, “because I’m sorry, but she’s not a very good singer.” No, that marriage didn’t last either. (William Morrow, 390 pages, soft cover, Cdn$17.99, US$15.99)

Never Go Back -- Someone, and I can’t remember who it was, told me a long time ago to be wary of purchasing a book if the author’s name is larger than the title. Author Lee Child is there with Never Go Back, the latest book in his Jack Reacher series. Oh, it’s as readable and as much escapism as any of the earlier works, but there’s something missing here. Perhaps it’s the introduction of the teenager who may or may not be his daughter, who may or may not show up in a future book. I don’t know. Or maybe I just can’t get it out of my head that Hollywood selected Tom Cruise, all 5-foot-8 of him, to play Reacher, who goes 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, in that movie. Included is a Reacher short story (High Heat) that is quite good. (Dell, soft cover, 607 pages, Cdn$11.99, US$9.99)

99: Gretzky: His Game, His Story -- Keeping in mind that author Al Strachan and former NHL star Wayne Gretzky are good friends, this still is a good read. In fact, it may be worth reading just for the prickly Strachan’s many pokes at NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. There isn’t anything terribly shocking here, but there are a whole lot of Gretzky-related anecdotes that haven’t previously seen the light of day. (Kindle)


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