Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June reading: Duel at Sea III

Frank Berg, wounded in the fight with a U-boat, transferred from the damaged ship Charles Maguffin to the destroyer escort Crowley.
Both Crowley and Berg required repair so he was given a ride to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where he underwent surgery to repair his gunshot leg.
After recuperation and contacting Anne Campbell again Berg was ordered to give an account of the action that had resulted in the death of crew members and the destruction of Maguffin.
Rather than being mustered out of the Navy Berg was given command of Excalibur, a lend-lease destroyer escort. His task was to acquire an Omega coding machine.
Berg familiarized himself with the ship, added crew members and set sail to Bermuda on a shakedown cruise.
Would his crew be combat ready by the time the shakedown was finished?

Frank Berg received an order for him to terminate the shakedown and join the convoy being assembled in Bermuda.
The crew of Excalibur had shore leave along with the ration of beer that had been promised. Scuttlebutt soon told them that the shakedown had been canceled and they were going on patrol.
Excalibur, Georgina and Crowley the escort ships of convoy BHX 32 ranged the boundaries of the three columns of ships doing their best to protect the ships and their precious cargo.
Even with sharp eyes and full attention one of the ships was hit by a torpedo. Rose O’Hanlon, a tanker filled with aviation gasoline, exploded sending flame and debris into the maritime sky. Few of the men sailing on O’Hanlon escaped the holocaust.
The fate of O’Hanlon weighed heavily on the rest of the convoy and the escort ships.
As the convoy neared the farthest limit of air protection the tension that had become routine with General Quarters called at dawn and dusk sent a wave of adrenaline-laced expectation into all the men in the convoy.
Would the revelation from the captain of Miniver Steel make Frank Berg’s job as captain of Excalibur even more difficult?

Frank Berg's task, set by Admiral Sheffield to retrieve an Omega device, was constantly on his mind.
When a U-boat made a surface attack on the convoy he thought his chance had finally come.
He ordered Hurtzfeld to take a boarding party to the surfaced sub.
Hurtzfeld thought it odd that only one man with a white flag was on the sub's bridge. It was even odder when he asked the officer why the captain wasn't on deck and why the hatch leading below was still sealed.
After receiving the okay from Captain Berg to blow the hatch if it wasn't opened in five minutes, Hurtzfeld began the countdown.
Finally the hatch opened. The rest of the crew including the captain exited the U-boat. Hurtzfeld and the submarine's captain went below.
Finding the scuttling charge, Hurtzfeld thought he disabled it by knocking the timing device off.
He picked up pieces of the Omega from the radio shack.
Back on deck the scuttling charges exploded.
Hurtzfeld and the German prisoners abandoned the sinking U-boat and returned to Excalibur.
Berg had space for only a third of the prisoners so the officers were transferred to Crowley.
Berg was mightily disgruntled when he looked at the trashed remains of the U-boat's Omega.
Moving on toward the convoy's destination Berg learned that the scuttled U-boat had two Omega's aboard.
Maybe, Berg thought, with U-boats having two of the coding devices his chances of finally capturing an intact one were good.
We'll have to read the final quarter of the book to find out whether Berg was successful.

The tension and at times the tedium of patrol was shattered by a torpedo hitting the starboard side of Excalibur.
Even though the torpedo seemed to be a dud it still required courage and skill to defuse what could be instantaneous death.
With the torpedo secured by welding it to the hull, Berg concentrated on getting the U-boat responsible to the surface.
Another disappointment as Berg discovered that the Omega had been used as part of an escape ruse by the U-boat.
Hoping for another chance at securing an Omega Frank Berg received a message that the last U-boat in the pack had an ace commander.
Berg knew that having an ace in command would make it even harder to force the U-boat to the surface.
After much maneuvering and a successful boarding, Berg finally had an Omega in his possession.
As A neared the British coast Ian Landers' mood was vastly improved by knowing that Berg's command was coming to an end and Excalibur would soon again be under his command.
Frank Berg received a message from Admiral Sheffield congratulating him on capturing an Omega. Berg reflected on Sheffield's enigmatic end to the message: what was the task that was right up his alley?


Friday, June 2, 2017

Movie World, May Digireads

Arthur Tageman stands at the bottom of the Megaworld corporate ladder. He doesn't appear to have any problems but that situation changes almost as soon as the story opens.
Receiving strange letters that consisted of the word "Probe" starts him on a quest to find who has written them. With only a postmark indicating Studio City Arthur finds men who are connected to the studio but have no apparent connection to the letters.
Arthur loves Winchell's Donut shops. And so does his friend Marsha. During his coffee break Marsha tells him that she's heard of something happening in Studio City, a bit of info that Arthur connects to the letter postmark.
Charles Searcy, Arthur's boss, uses him as a go-fer. During one errand Arthur can't make the delivery. While contacting one possible sender of the letters who lives in Studio City Arthur has his car broken into and the package stolen.
As Chapter Two closes Arthur is no closer either to finding the sender of the enigmatic letters or the meaning of "Probe."

Arthur finds himself wrapped in mystery: first there were the bizarre letters. Then there was Marsha being killed outside Winchell's. Adding to the enigma was another death: Julius the intended recipient of one of Charles' packages.
A partial solution to the mystery of the "probe" letters was solved by Maizie whose real name was Melanie. Finding that Arthur was trustworthy, Maizie revealed that she had written the letters. Arthur found out that she had two reasons for so doing: one to find out whether Arthur was trustworthy, and two to rule out the names she'd given him from her investigation.
From an interested bystander, Arthur had become an integral part of Maizie's investigation. At times he feels uncomfortable and at other times downright paranoic.
Arthur and Maizie are compatible in bed and that "reward" blunts the possibility of danger he sees Maizie react to at times.
What's in store for Arthur and Maizie now that they have joined forces? Will they find out the nature of the crimes at Megaworld? We'll have to read more to see if the answers are forthcoming.

Like most of us Arthur Tageman expected his life would be measured in coffee cups and donuts perhaps with a few ups and downs either financially or emotionally.
What he was unprepared for was having his world become a jumble of disparate threads tied to unseen problems. At first he experienced a degree of excitement at entering the world of sleuthing even if it was only a tangential relation that bound him to Maizie nee Melanie with both sexual and intellectual ties.
The bottom fell out of Arthur's world when Maizie was brutally murdered and he was the chief suspect.
All he could hope for was that his lawyer Gordon Pym discover exculpatory evidence that at first appeared to be tied to gang graffiti.
Three unlikely events added to the surreal world that Arthur now inhabited. First, his boss, Charles Searcy, changed from being under suspicion to tasking Arthur with uncovering the principals behind some kind of fraud affecting his department. The second bizarre twist came in the form of an agent wanting to sign Arthur to a contract in hopes of having his story turned into a movie. The third appeared to be a solicitation from the same people Maizie worked for.
Does Arthur's world ever get back to coffee cups and donuts? We'll have to read the last quarter of the story to find out the answer.

How much more will further disrupt Arthur's life?
Being recruited by the same agents Maizie worked with was one such disruption. The only positive aspect of getting involved with them was the hint they might be able to help with his murder charge.
All the ICE agents wanted was for Arthur to find any incriminating evidence on Megaworld's higher-ups.
Charles Searcy, Arthur's boss, gave him the user name and password to allow him to search for the possible culprit that was skimming from their department.
Charles' assignment dovetailed with the info the ICE agents wanted.
Having the gang logo scratched into his car paint added to the anger Arthur felt for Maizie's death.
And then he was shot at, but having chosen bullet resistant glass avoided becoming one of LA's shooting victims.
Because of the possibility the gang might be behind all of the violence Arthur had experienced his lawyer, Gordon Pym, suggested he move in with him temporarily.
At breakfast Arthur receives good news. And reading about it will make your day.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Comments on Goonie's Ghost, April

Carl Steadman visits Goonie's mother through he can provide little comfort and no details of her son's death.
Meeting Rick Chappie, a somewhat disgruntled social worker, Carl agrees to go to the antiwar march in San Francisco.
Pam and Angie live in Davis, a stop on the way to S.F. Rick and Carl add them to the bus for the trip.
On the way Carl argues with Angie who holds rigid views of the military. Pam and Rick tend to ignore Angie.
In S.F. the travelers find lodging with an elementary school teacher and her lawyer husband.
Carl gets involved in a kinky sexual encounter with his hostess and quickly removes himself from their bedroom.
Early the next day they all drive to the plaza at City Hall. The spectacle of so many peaceful people doesn't assuage Carl's thoughts of a rocket dropping into the crowd.

The anti-war march to Kezar Stadium surprises Carl. There are more suits and ties in the crowd than he thought would be protesting.
The stadium crowd is intent on chants, the possibility of stars like Joan Baez performing, and getting stoned.
Angie persists in needling Carl but she has second thoughts about her treatment of him when she finds out how close he was to Goonie.
The group has had enough of the antics of the crowd in the stadium and they leave to find the streets are just as crowded as Kezar.
After leaving the crowd the group finds a restaurant that appeals to all. Even though they enjoy the food there is more tension between Carl and Angie.
The undercurrent championed by Morton is that if you didn't go to college you aren't up to snuff and would be hard-pressed to contribute to sparkling conversation.

Unknown to Carl the party that all are going to represents a microcosm of the city: members of the elite (docs and lawyers), rowdy toughs that have little use for anybody, homosexuals and a liberal attitude shared by almost all of the invitees.
Society matrons find Carl attractive. He is singled out to talk about the war and the protest, neither of which is an attractive subject for him.
What happens as the party progresses, and Carl is accosted by those seeming to want to know how he engaged in and reacted to the war, is one flashback after another to My Trang.
Carl is haunted by Goonie's death and the events that took place in My Trang.
We'll have to finish the last quarter of the book to get the answers to both of those very important aspects of Carl's Vietnam experience.

Carl thought coming to the party could go either way: be a good beer bust or end up in a brawl.
The first part of his party assessment worked out nicely. The second was no surprise as some of the rowdy toughs started in on Carl pinning him so the others could punch him out.
As Rick and Angie broke into the crowd that was giving Carl a working over, he was able to get loose and damage the main antagonist.
Shortly after, Angie provided Carl with some needed first aid. The drinks Angie had consumed put her in a romantic mood. She and Carl enjoyed a sexual encounter in one of the spare bedrooms.
Returning to the party Carl wondered what the point was of putting his life on the line to protect the values the party goers had espoused.
Outside, Carl and Angie escape the noise of the party but Carl can't escape the action at My Trang. He doesn't think Angie can understand what his time in The Nam was all abut. She tries but her revulsion at his description of My Trang wins out.
Later Carl confronts Morton to tell him that if he continues to seek public office Carl will reveal what took place at the Chicken Factory.
Rather than ride back to David, Carl opts for the YMCA to sort out his thoughts as Rick, Angie and Pam drive off.



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Comments on "Akasha" for March

Denise Parker dreams a disturbing dream. She confides in her friend and co-worker Carol. With nothing resolved they have to prepare for work at their ad agency.
At work in the Transamerica Pyramid, Denise tries to invent a new advertising campaign for one of the agency's premier clients.
As she is immersed in thought, George Moffatt re-enters her life, but she is cool toward him since she's in a relationship with Roc.
The dream is still bothersome and George suggested a therapist who specializes in dream therapy.
After a session with the therapist, Denise goes home and regresses to what appears to be a life as a boy in ancient Egypt.
Wanting to know more about Egypt, Denise goes to a library to research the period in which her dream or past life took place.
Not finding the answers she expected, her sister Jeananne calls and convinces Denise to attend a lecture that may shed some light on her dream.
One big question resulting from reading the first quarter of the book is: who is Algapesh and what does he or she want from Denise? We'll have to read on to find the answer.

Denise accompanies her sister to the lecture by Elizabeth Scott. There she meets Sam Abbott. Denise’s sister appears to be fully committed to Scott’s philosophy. That commitment horrifies Denise’s mother who tries to convince Denise to dissuade her sister from such a relationship.
Denise regresses or dreams she is a knight in Medieval Germany. One of the hermit witches who knows much about Denise warns that the kingdom is at risk unless the count sacrifices his son.
At work D
enise gets the bad news that Morrison, Sr. has died and his son Morrison, Jr. has not only put the advertising campaign Denise is responsible for on hold but is considering rethinking his connection with Denise’s agency.
Denise meets Brenda Searles, a librarian who is strangely connected to Morrison, Jr. Brenda invites Denise to a meeting of the Assembly of the Goddess. She has powers of perception that both attract and repel Denise.
A third regression takes Denise to ancient India where she and her brother meet Siddhartha and Lotus. Alopa (Denise’s past life name) is forced to confront her sexual relationship with one of the males in her village. She also has to wonder whether she has latent homosexual tendencies.
Work progresses with another campaign and a party for agency members to make new and renew connections. Sam Abbott is also at the party. Brenda Searles tells Denise that she should avoid Sam and at the same time invites her to a celebration to be held by the Goddess disciples. Denise doesn’t agree until Sam appears to be suffering from a curse Brenda has set on him.
At work Denise and Garth vie for enough points to convince Wally and upper management that one of them should be advanced to a vice presidency.

Denise experiences more past lives. Her sessions with Dr. Zebra haven't reached a conclusion about the meaning of all the lives she's experienced.
There are links among the various people in Denise's life. Are they all a result of karma?
Denise gets a new client and she researches possible advertising possibilities.
Another party is upcoming. It will be thrown by her high school flame recently making a comeback in Denise's life. Many of the people she thinks are connected by karma with attend.
Dense has an interview with Mary Elizabeth. It provides more questions than answers. She is told that she has been chosen to rectify the balance between the light and the darkness represented by Algapesh.
Denise experiences another past life after her meeting with Mary Elizabeth. The meaning of who she was and what she did remains a mystery.

Denise diagrams all the people in her life. Even with rearrangement she cannot see what they all have in common, except for her.
Denise has to get away from the office. The place she goes to is remembered from childhood. It's near Land's End and appears to be exactly right.
As she relaxes she relives another past life. On regaining her present life she has to save herself from falling off the cliff that threatens to give way sending her to the rocks below.
Shaken, Denise returns to work. What she thought would be an antidote to the constant stress of the job, her inability to make sense of her past lives, and the unknown of the second party turns out to be nearly the end of her life.
The party becomes more than a gathering to facilitate meeting and greeting. Denise finds the answer to all the questions that have had no answers before the party. Like Denise, we, too, have had the answers to our questions presented in a most dramatic way. We are left with the question: will Denise find peace and happiness with those answers?


Monday, February 27, 2017

February Digireads comments on "Ishmael's Quest"

After years on the beach, Ishmael lands the second-in-command berth on the ship Pilgrim, a hide ship that needs to be converted to a whaler.
The master, Captain Strunk and the syndicate backing the voyage to hunt Moby Dick have chosen Ishmael since he was the only survivor of the ship Pequod, which was destroyed by the great white whale.
Nantuckers want nothing to do with signing aboard Pilgrim so the crew is catch-as-catch-can, and Ishmael hopes such a happenstance is not an omen of bad tidings to come.
Pilgrim leaves Nantucket with a chief harpooner that has never struck a whale, an educated landlubber who's never been to sea and a captain who will not man a boat to chase leviathan.
Even the successful killing of a right whale does not bring more than a temporary respite to Ishmael's dark thoughts about finding Moby Dick and confronting the rogue whale.
Will Pilgrim withstand all the rigors of sailing after its quarry? Will Captain Strunk forgo demon rum to perform his duty? Will Baha's secret be revealed? Pilgrim sails on as these questions are yet to be answered.,

Pilgrim calls at St. Helena. Captain Strunk exhibits his penchant for calling on islands to reprovision and, at the same time, removes any temptation for the crew to jump ship.
Ned Hanford, ever curious, seeks the lodging Napoleon Bonaparte used during his exile. Unknown to him he's broken a cardinal ship's rule: only the captain can give permission for sight seeing. He receives five lashes for his infraction.
Ishmael has discovered one of Baha's secrets and knowing that she is female becomes attracted to her. He struggles with his feelings because to show them would put her in danger from the crew.
Pilgrim sails on and calls at the port of Colombo. The crew is given a four-hour liberty. Hanford and McDonough do not return within the four-hour curfew and Hanford has to pay the price with another more severe punishment. Strunk gives McDonough a pass because punishing an officer would diminish the crew's respect for his authority and could, in his eyes, lead to mutiny.
Once clear of Colombo Pilgrim sails for the frigid water of the Antarctic. A whale is spotted and two boats are launched to give chase. The whale destroys Ishmael's boat and McDonough's boat is lost in rescuing Ishmael and his crew.
Captain Strunk decides the ship will call at Van Dieman's Land, again another island to prevent any potential ship jumping.

Pilgrim drops anchor in Hobarton. The crew is given shore leave and Ishmael seeks a replacement carpenter.
Nesbitt plots a sexual encounter with Ned Hanford. It does not happen.
Ishmael and Baha have a sexual encounter that does happen.
After leaving Hobarton Nesbitt tells Hanford that Baha is a woman. Hanford doesn't believe him. Baha tells Hanford the truth.
Nesbitt is revealed as the informer about McDonough and Hanford being tardy on the return from Colombo. They punish him by keelhauling.
Pilgrim receives the lone survivor from Rachel, the ship that rescued Ishmael after Pequod was sunk by Moby Dick.
Pilgrim sails into the horse latitudes and is becalmed for days. The crew mans the boats to tow the ship, but little headway is made.
Another ship, Winslow, comes to Pilgrim's aid with much needed water.
At last the ship has the possibility of tracking Moby Dick in the Philippine Sea.

At last Pilgrim sights Moby Dick. The crew is not prepared to be the hunted as the rogue whale speeds toward the ship. A pod of females and young save Pilgrim from the same fate as Pequod.
Pilgrim sights another whaler, Junior, after its encounter with Moby Dick. Captain Strunk visits Junior's captain. Junior's crew crosses to have a gam with Pilgrim's crew.
Ishmael hides Baha in the captain's cabin but to no avail as Nesbitt presents evidence to Junior's crew that a woman is on board. Junior's crew is intent on finding the woman.
After successfully removing the threat to Baha Pilgrim finds itself amidst another storm.
As the storm abates Moby Dick is sighted again. He is wary so the ship is forced to continue
to track the rogue whale.
Finally the ship is in position to lower the boats with the crew eager to engage in what they think will be the ultimate battle with Moby Dick.
One reader stated that the final fifty pages of the novel were as good as it gets for adventure and excitement.

I hope as you read those fifty pages you agree with his assessment.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Celestial Moon: January Digireads comments

An early morning earthquake, two competitive tong bosses, an aunt and uncle murdered and a kidnapping. San Francisco is awash in Chinatown crime.
Peter Dawes is at loose ends with a new office and no clients. Captain Breen, the corrupt police chief, provides Dawes with a commission to find out what he can about the problems with the tongs in Chinatown. Breen tells Dawes that any intelligence he can ferret out about Oyster Mike Hagerty would only add to his compensation.
Ai Shun, the girl kidnapped from her fiance and the marriage she anticipated is sent to New York City where she entrances the painter Albert Pinkham Ryder.
Will all these disparate elements affect Peter Dawes? We'll have to read on to find out.

Murder most foul as the Bard of Avon would say of the death of a thousand cuts discovered in San Francisco's Chinatown.
The murder did not alleviate the depressed spirit of Ai Shun's fiance. He sent an all points bulletin to Chinatowns near and far to try to recover her. The bulletin was to have unexpected results.
Albert Pinkham Ryder's painting of Ai Shun was stolen by Albert's unwanted servant Junjie.
Albert's brother William retains a Pinkerton operative to find Junjie. The Pinkerton deduces that Junjie has fled New York City and the operative follows the chinaman west.
Meanwhile, Dawes returns to Susanville to mediate a dispute between Hake Madden and Steele the gun drummer regarding a pair of pistols.
Outside of Susanville, the Tulelakers have it in for Dawes for killing their kin during the shootout at Soot Kilgore's place.
What will be the outcome of all these story elements? Again we'll have to read on to find out.

Peter Dawes returns to Susanville on what he thinks will be a straightforward mediation between Hake Madden and Steele, the gun drummer. What Dawes experiences in a life or death situation is far removed from his original task.
Meanwhile, Dennis Kearney hatches a plot against the house servants of both Dawes and Maudie Simpson to show the rest of the city what could happen to their Chinese servants.
The election for mayor shows how the movers and shakers feel about the proposed constitution barring Chinese immigrants.
Albert Ryder finds that Bingwhen Choi has the painting of Ai Shun. Contemporaneously his brother Albert finds Ai Shun.
The story is headed for a conclusion that might well fit the description of a mystery shielded by an enigma all wrapped in a conundrum.

Albert Ryder shows he's more than just a painter with his successful location and rescue of Ai Shun.
Meanwhile, Changpu Chang has a nefarious plan for Peter Dawes at the same time that Bingwen Choi calls upon Oyster Mike Hagerty to ensure protection for Dawes.
William Ryder accompanies Ai Shun to San Francisco after having saved her from Junjie in Council Bluffs. They are on their way to conclude the bargain with Choi and retrieve Albert's painting.
In a dense fog Dawes is attacked and wounded by knife wielding assailants. He is saved by men who tell him he can thank Oyster Mike.
Ai Shun is returned to Choi and the painting is returned to William Ryder.
Dawes tells Maudie Simpson that his client list has dropped to zero once again. She says she may have something for him.
Before she can retain his services one of Dawes' past clients gives Dawes a commission that will require him to go to Bodie, which coincidentally is the title of the next Peter Dawes investigation.


Friday, December 30, 2016

December Digireads comments on Murder on the California Zephyr

In the prolog we meet an assassin with a "contract," but all we know about the contract is that "the game's afoot" as Sherlock would say.
A trip on the California Zephyr will be won by one of the crews that work in Ammunition Supply, one of the departments in Herlong, a defense outpost in the northern California desert.
As the men on the ammunition crews work to get the most "tonnage" to win the trip the Zephyr leaves Chicago with three passengers that have some connection with Herlong. What that connection is remains to be seen.

A gaggle of Herlong characters look forward to and finally board the Zephyr. Mark has been relieved of having to kill Dude Shibeley as he and Dude's wife board the Zephyr.
Harry Witmore, the assassin, uses his false FBI credential to send a message he hopes will allow his confederates to mount a diversion that will give him the chance to execute his contract on Smith/Wiggington.
And then there's the revenge that Shorty Cummings wants to take on Jones.
Will any of the killings take place on the train? We'll have to read on for the answer(s).

Some of the mystery surrounding Whitmore has been resolved, but not in the way he foresaw.
Mark Sheffield appears to have fulfilled Helen's desire to be rid of her husband.
The ongoing needling that Shorty lays on Wine is relentless. As he torments Wine for his use of "improved Spanish" Shorty plots to get his revenge on Jones for the death of Shorty's cousin at the hands of a Jones' relative.
Smith/Wiggington appears to have been relieved of the threat on his life. His view of the threat might be a reinforcement of the adage that "it seems too good to be true."
Are there more twists to the story? We'll have to finish the last quarter of the book for the answer.

Shorty's plot to take revenge on Brett Jones takes an unexpected twist.
Ballard, the conductor, is beset with one problem after another. It may well turn out to be the worst trip he's ever taken on the Zephyr.
Elaine Higgins retains her secret and begins to enjoy the train ride. She will be surprised and not pleasantly when the train arrives in Sacramento.
Ben Cranna, Mr. C.Z., is appalled and amused by the events that have caused Ballard so much heartburn.
The Herlong crews enjoy the scenery, the food and the ride. They appear to be the clientele the operators had in mind when they amalgamated their routes to form the California Zephyr.
This trip on the Zephyr will be one that all the riders will remember, some more enjoyably than others.