March 11th 2019

Robin. Dave Itzkoff.

Robin. Dave Itzkoff. 2018. ISBN 9781627794244.  A detailed and fond look at the life of Robin Williams.   Reading this book feels like a page by page preview to tragedy. It is a heartfelt autobiography that allows us to revel in the many favorite Robin Williams moment.  The author has tried to be objective and truthful in all his work.   Clearly and concisely written it is worth the time to learn more about this wonderful comic.

March 5th 2019

John Rain Series . Barry Eisler

John Rain Series . Barry Eisler.  A series following the exploits of John Rain a Japanese-American living mostly in Japan ( Tokyo) . He is a US special forces, SOG type who was in Vietnam at 17 and went from there.  He becomes a gifted judoka and assassin , specializing in making death look natural.  He has his share of romantic episodes and through the series picks up a few associates/friends who come in and out of the stories.  A jazz and scotch lover the hero gives quite good descriptions of good bars and coffee shops in the carious cities he finds himself. Underlying the books are two themes, the chronic corruption of the Japanese govt/yakuza and the over reach of US surveillance power – NSA and CIA (which comes as results of the US being run by big business interests/corrupt politicians).  The author has a deeper vocabulary than most of these types of books and he allows the heroes some deep emotional entanglements and  times of mental angst. The pace moves well and they last about four hours.

January 6th 2019

Donald J Trump. A president like no other. Conrad Black.

Donald J Trump. A president like no other. Conrad Black. 2018. ISBN 9781621577881.  Well Black does take on unpopular biographies ( Nixon and now Trump).  He is always well spoken, careful and detailed in his language.  By following a chronological method – from Trump  ancestors roots and his own personal and business development, Black does put Trump into a context.   The strongest section for me was the detailing of how Trump was able to recognize a deep seated unhappiness in the populous and harness it into a steady base and build a swelling momentum prior to and during the race for the Presidency.  Black was one of the first to recognize this coming of the demagogue and was not surprised with the result.   With this chronology approach you can see how very long Trump has developed the attitudes he has and espouses.  Also you  are led to recognize the failures of the prior four presidents and their entourages which opened the door for  Trump coming on the scene.  Black has no time for the Democrats nor a do nothing partisan Senate and Congress.  He is acerbic toward the national press and  Washington commentators- so color Black well within Trump’s Republican/conservative aura.

This book will not make you like Trump any more then before and you will still cringe at his looseness with language and malapropisms.  However Black may let you be a little less terrified of Trump daily and perhaps recognize his negotiation tricks learned in New York and now being attempted internationally.  The book moves quite well , will occupy the East – West airflight and halfway back. Reading it is not time wasted.

December 18th 2018

Jake Needham books. Samuel Tay and Jack Shepherd series

Jake Needham books. Samuel Tay and Jack Shepherd.  Needham writes about crime in Asia . Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Macau.  Samuel Tay is a steady Hong King detective who like DCI Banks in England may be thought to be long in the tooth, but his doggedness and human appeal gets him to solve the nasty crimes that others can’t.  Jack Shepherd is lawyer/fixer who seems to get mixed up with less than sterling clients despite his reluctance to stay law abiding.  Both  series are replete with curious characters, numerous bad guys and sleazy neighbourhoods. However the author keeps the plots rolling and ensures that the readers interest remains high.  Recommended if you wish a change form US or British based detective stories. Needham is good with his location descriptions and will take you on a bit of a travel guide to Asia.

November 2nd 2018

Quick trip to the Republic of Ireland. Oct 22.2018

Quick trip to the Republic of Ireland. Oct 22. 2018. This was a pleasant and very enjoyable tour of parts of Ireland.  The weather was fantastic – blue skies and warm.

A complete trip description is on my wife’s blog . This is my short form.

Dublin was a hoot and we would like more time there. 

We went to Galway – which is the cultural center of Ireland – lots of music in the streets .

Great lunch in a cozy pub!

Then to the Coast – the cliffs of Moher .  We followed the WAW. Wild Atlantic Way – Highly recommend it

Limerick – which is cool and included a Medieval concert/banquet in a castle!

Quick stop in Adare. Very pretty 

Then off to Kerry . The Ring of Kerry is a do not miss  drive)   Great lunch with a view


Lovely country


Next Killarney.  

This is a pretty town – which for us includes a jaunty ride with great tales from our driver.

And another castle

Had to stop at Blarney – I was struck dumb after the stone kiss. My wife did not see much improvement however.


Waterford ( remember the crystal? ) was next – Needed deep pockets for this stuff.

Much happier.


Last stop in Ireland – Tramore

which included a song and drinks at Aggies pub, (300 year old mudwalled)

Great singer Richie Roberts

Local brew Beamish – like Guiness.

Then catch the ferry to Wales from Rosslare, Irish Ferries is surprisingly good – good food too!

We ended up in Cardiff– which is very scenic, compared to the devastation of Western Wales from English industrialization. 

Liked Cardiff castle. 


That evening a Welsh dinner and concert at the Millenium Hall. Fantastic.


Next day Bath my maternal  grandfather’s home. I have always liked this town.

Roman Baths

Georgian terraces

Of course Stonehenge – with its hordes of tourists – still pretty neat.

One of the pesky tourists spoiling the shot.

And we end up on London.  Whether we are there for a few days, a week or longer,  we just can not get enough of London. The Brits do tradition so well.

That evening we had a Thames cruise- recommend it


Lots of poking around still to do.

You do not go on this tour  for the cuisine.  If you seek out the fresh fish special (not deep fried) its usually superb. The full Irish breakfast can get tedious.  The Irish are so friendly, social and hospitable that it makes the trip. The Guinness is always fresh – damn fine. The country views are outstanding, and the cities are so walk-able and interesting.  If you have not been – bucket list item for sure.




October 22nd 2018

Nemesis. One man and the battle for Rio. Misha Glenny.

Nemesis. One man and the battle for Rio. Misha Glenny. 2015. ISBN 9781448181575. A sympathetic story about one man’s journey from working family man to eventually become head of one of the largest criminal favella syndicates in Rio. You read about the crushing poverty of the favella residents, the smothering corruption of the Brazilian public sector and the harsh justice dealt out by the warring criminal gangs/police. Contrast that with the very few criminal Dons like Nem who see their role as protectors of the poor, when the state does nothing. Its a strong light shone on Rio’s dark underbelly that its politicians just hope would go away.

October 15th 2018

Tiger Trap. America’s secret spy war with China. David Wise.

Tiger Trap. America’s secret spy war with China. David Wise. 2011. ISBN 9780547553108.   The US fixated on Russian spies and pretty much did not pay attention to the slow but huge penetrations by Chinese spies in America. They stole secrets from everywhere in the country, including the nuclear and defense programs. Read this this to find out about some of the biggest thefts most of which never lead to arrests and convictions. Learn why the Chinese are vastly different in their spying from Russia and the US.   Good useful read.

September 17th 2018

A Carnival of Losses. Notes nearing ninety. Donald Hall.

A Carnival of Losses. Notes nearing ninety. Donald Hall. 2018.  Hall is considered a notable US poet, author,  editor and critic. The book is exactly as noted,. He goes through his life and comments on various way points in it as well as poets/poetry he has known.  The prose is clear, lucid  plus he states it now takes him a long time to write anything at 89.  A very good introduction to decades of poets ( US mostly) plus he has written notable stories. His self deprecating approach is quite appealing as are his stories about his younger late wife.  I confess poetry has never taken with me and despite this interesting book, I feel I am a lost cause.

September 10th 2018

The Grantchester Mysteries. James Runcie

The Grantchester Mysteries. James Runcie. 2012- 2018. Six books in the series about Sidney Chambers a jazz loving vicar of a small Anglican parish, near Cambridge in England in the 50s. There was an enjoyable English  TV series Grantchester based on some of the books.  The vicar is single, handsome and unable to stay away from solving a variety of murders that occur near him.  The books ( or series of short chronological stories)  are populated with a variety of typically English characters who are delightfully eccentric including notably attractive femmes.  The author based the vicar on his father who was in the Church.  Quite delightful, and worth the read. One book would be good for a four hour flight.

September 3rd 2018

Scot Harvath series . Brad Thor.

Scot Harvath series . Brad Thor.  A 17 novel series about a black ops specialist Scot Harvath.  A bit more extreme then the Vince Flynn series but it is of a type of  rah rah US nationalism, manly servicemen,  Islamic fundamentalist fears and various state sanctioned worldwide conspiracies. The research can be a bit weak if you know the specific subject discussed. The idealism may get a bit in your way, but the action is fast and the books move right along. The later books are less detailed than the first and one could even think that the author reaches a point where he just says , time to wrap up and its over, which can make the ending disjointed.  That said each book is not a bad use of a 4 hour plane ride if wish a bit of escapism. The author is taking a run at Donald Trump in 2020.