Book Review
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Remote Control, a Dark and Lonely Place and Marilyn Monroe

"Remote Control" by Andy McNab (Corgi Books, $9.99)

I was surprised by how much I liked this book, first published in 1977. It started out as another high-action thriller, the kind of book I like to read at night to clear my mind after the research for my own writing that I often read during the day.

Then an 8-year-old girl named Kelly came onto the scene and everything changed. It is the relationship between Nick Stone, the professional government killer, and the girl he's forced to protect (and use) that dominates the book and makes me want to read the whole Nick Stone adventure series.

Kelly's family has been murdered. Nick has saved her. And now what? She is clearly a burden as he tries to unravel what has happened and save his own life. But gradually Nick changes. I will say no more. The plot needs to be experienced.

Underlying the story, perhaps based on McNab's true-life experience in British special forces, is the corruption that permeates the unholy alliance between arms merchants, the drug trade, terrorists of all stripes and the government agencies whose continued prominence and high budgets depend on a never-ending supply of really bad guys. There are hints of these connections blended into the storyline from the very beginning. Pay attention to them and your reading experience will be significantly enhanced.

-- Reviewed

by Lew Weinsten

"A Dark and Lonely Place" by Edna Buchanan (Simon and Schuster, $26 )

"This is the novel I have yearned to write for half my life," says Edna Buchanan in her preface to "A Dark and Lonely Place." She reaches into the days of the Florida frontier to relive the legend of John Ashley, his family story, his love and his unpredicted life as one of the most notorious turn-of-the-century characters in our state's colorful history. This pattern of a troubled life is skillfully matched against that of a modern-day Miami police detective, Sgt. John Ashley, who is challenged by similar circumstances.

The "historic" John Ashley was raised in a wholesome family environment, was extremely smart, honorable and just an overall good person. He had a childhood sweetheart, Laura, for whom he had an unending love. Together, they both envisioned a bright, fulfilling future together.

The "modern day" John Ashley has the same kind of background and personal characteristics with the exception that he meets the love of his life, Laura, while investigating a controversial murder in Miami. When the two meet, they instinctively know they belong together and had a past together.

Sometimes a life can take a dramatic turn from the intended or predicted path. The present-day John Ashley and Laura parallel the tragic lives of the historic John Ashley and his Laura -- stories that take place in the mercurial, steamy city of Miami and the violent and restless frontier of south Florida. The questions arise, how powerful is the past? Must the end always be the same for dangerous people in dangerous times? Or can their destinies be different? The answers are unexpected. A terrific read!

-- Reviewed by David and Nancy Beckwith

"Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters" by Marilyn Monroe (Harper Collins, Ltd., £ 9.49)

Marilyn Monroe, wife of playwright Arthur Miller and intimate of both President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, was in many ways a better-read person than all three of those men. The newly published "Fragments," available from its British publisher through amazon.com, is an eye-opener more startling than her luminous skin and remarkable figure. Marilyn's favorite writer, it turns out, was Lincoln Steffens, whose "The Shame of the Cities" exposed municipal corruption and whose work she promoted throughout her life, causing the studios to consider her a communist. The character in literaure she most identified with was Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie. "Fragments" reveals that a lifelong father figure for Marilyn was Abraham Lincoln. Another father figure was Clark Gable, to whom she delivered, in "The Misfits," written by Miller, that all-American truth, "You could blow up the whole world and all you'd ever feel is sorry for yourself!" (Gable died of a heart attack after filming.) Marilyn never got over her anguish at what director John Huston (plus her husband) forced her to do at the end of the movie, to act hysterical and ridiculous, over the top, in delivering lines to her "dear, sweet, dead men" that perhaps were some of the bravest Miller ever wrote:"You're only living when you can watch something die! Kill everything, that's all you want! Why don't you just kill yourselves and be happy?"

-- Reviewed by Mark Howell