Category Archives: Book Reviews

Noir, or The Case of the Books

It’s been awhile since I wrote any type of book review or author discussion here.  As you know, lately I’ve been focusing on amusing posts and photography that reflect my daily life. Reading is part of my daily life, and my negligence on writing about the best-of-the-best books that make my reading list is, well, not giving you the full aspect of my daily life and what I call A Year of Change.

I discovered a (new to me) author, Bobby Underwood, who writes some of the best noir-type books that I’ve come across in years. If you think of authors James Ellroy, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, films such as The Glass Key, I Wake Up Screaming, and Call Northside 777, and actors and actresses such as Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Richard Widmark, Lana Turner, Lizbeth Scott, and Humphrey Bogart, you will see that Bobby Underwood’s books and characters follow the similar path of the cynical hard-boiled and rather damaged characters that when combined, help define the excellence of this genre.

So far, I’ve read four of Bobby Underwood’s books: Where Flamingos Fly, Beautiful Detour, Glass Alibi, and Slow Hot Wind.  Each captured my attention and kept it, each filled with action and well-developed characters. His writing style is so right-on the mark that the reader could presume they were written in the 1940s or 1950s.  In fact, these are more recently-written works, and it takes uncommon talent to capture the feel and language of this genus.

Each of these books are just the right length to read in an evening or two, or if you’re like me, you can read one during your long lunch break. What I especially like is that there is no vulgarity (those pesky four-letter words I deplore are thankfully absent), and any sexually-charged scenes are written so well using metaphors and entendre, that it adds to the sophistication of the stories.  The books’ titles are right on the mark, cleverly created.  And the book covers!  They are eye-catching.

Bobby Underwood is a prolific writer, and his books are readily available through Amazon.  I recommend you pick up one or two or all of his books.

You can read my reviews on my Goodreads site; more will be added as I finish his books on my “To Read List”:
Review of Beautiful Detour
Review of Slow Hot Wind and Glass Alibi
Review of Where Flamingos Fly

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.

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BOOK REVIEW: How You Can Keep Fit

Several months ago, I wrote about a couple remarkable books that The March King, John Philip Sousa, wrote. Those were extraordinary finds that I stumbled upon by chance. “The Fifth String” and “The Conspirators” are admirable works to add to Sousa’s talents.

To continue: I am a big old movies devotee and an Old Hollywood fan, too. I particularly like to study filmmaking techniques from the late nineteenth century through the early 1960s. And along the way, I enjoy discovering the lives of actors and actresses, particularly to see if they did anything beyond the, “I’m ready for my close up, Mister DeMille.”

Some time ago, I read that Rudolph Valentino wrote, and that some of his books were published. My curiosity was piqued. Really? He wrote? And what did The Sheik write? I was on a mission to find them, and I discovered some of them are extant.

Unmistakably, he was a fitness leader of sorts. His “How You Can Keep Fit” book was published in 1923 and filled with pages of health and exercise tips, and of him half-dressed and posing for the exercises he advocated. He wrote that to be fit as an actor made his acting and stamina the best that could be. After all, he said it would be embarrassing to have a stand-in do what he should be able to in acting and performing stunts. Acting was a strenuous job with riding horses for hours in the hot California sun, for example. He was thinking of not only of his pride in his work, but his fans, too. He gave them what they really wanted – a man who was a man’s man.

 

Moreover, he wrote about the importance of eating only when one was hungry, to not drink icy cold water (it’s bad for the body), and to exercise every day. He wrote amusingly about his growing up years in Italy, when he was the conventional boy: running, riding horses, swimming, climbing fences and trees, and tearing his clothes, much to the consternation of his mother. He was an active boy!

As he grew older, he maintained his exercise routines, and thus, we have his fitness book, so that you, too, can be fit.

The exercises he champions can be followed by just about anyone, even today. He warns against overdoing anything ; moderation is key to a healthy life.

Finding this book was exciting for me. It gives another perspective into the life of one of Old Hollywood’s most popular actors, but more importantly, it gives a look into the psyche of the American public in the 1920s. The public ate up just about anything public figures took the time to create, and this book shows that not all of it was garbage back then.

 

 

“How You Can Keep Fit”

Author: Rudolph Valentino
Published: 1923
Publisher: MacFadden
Pages: 77

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


BOOK REVIEW: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

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Think time management and lifestyle readjustment are relatively new phenomena? Think great-grandpa had it all together? Well, it’s time to rethink all that.

The title of this book caught my eye. A clever play on words – how many books have we seen or read where “How to Live on . . .” meant money management? – this book is not about budgeting your money, but rather, about sensibly managing your time and refocusing your lifestyle to actually live, not merely exist in a lackluster being. It was first published in 1908, and my further research shows that it was a best seller in England and the United States.

And as this year is a year of big changes for me, I was all in!

It’s a short book – the Kindle version is a mere 64 pages – and stuffed with slap-you-awake advice on how you are wasting your life and how to live each hour and not to just think about what you want to do, but doing it.

The author has many good suggestions that can apply to today’s mad-rush modern world. After all, you cannot waste tomorrow’s time in advance, unlike money and debt. He emphasizes that work (that is, work outside the home, such as at the office, factory, et cetera) should not define one’s total day. In fact, work is just a portion of one’s day where events should happen before and afterwards. There should be no thinking about what one wants to do, nor should there be such rigidity in one’s life where it hinders expanding one’s social outlets and intellectual growth.

He further recommends reading good books, particularly ones that stimulate the mind. He states that a goal of reading “X” amount of books is missing the point, but reading, reflecting upon, and intelligently discussing these books leads to a greater mind, so to speak. He also lists several books to immerse oneself in, too, which I put on my own “to read” list.

A favorite passage of mine:

“There is no magic method of beginning. If a man standing on the edge of a swimming-bath and wanting to jump into the cold water should ask you, ‘How do I begin to jump?’ you would merely reply, ‘Just jump. Take hold of your nerves and jump.'”

Though written in a somewhat stuffy style common at the turn of the 20th century, once you read a couple of pages, it flows nicely.

I recommend picking up this book; it’s available at no cost on Kindle via Amazon.


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