I am reading two books at the same time — one chapter from one and then one from the other. I guess you can consider both of them sf/fantasy novels. One, written by CJ Cherryh, leans more towards swords and sorcery science fiction with an underlay of the Welsh legends of Morgaine who later morphed into Morgan le Fey of King Arthur and Merlin fame

Morgan le Fay
— the other, by China Mieville, more a steampunk story about conflicts over language in a world far in the future.
embassytownart FINAL_1

Despite the vast differences between the stories and the styles of their authors, they have begun to intertwine in my mind into the semblance of a third story — Morgaine, her deadly (Vorpal?) sword Changeling in hand, rides madly across the cosmos toward that lonely, small, strange, steampunk planet at the edge of the universe where humans have taught the hugely competent and hugely huge indigenous people how to lie and then addict them like crack freaks to the sound of someone talking shit to them. Then these native lexemic junkies start killing each other and everything else until they are persuaded to enter a complex linguistic twelve-step program. Meanwhile, in Eddy Poe’s world, the Raven still cries “Nevermore Lenore.”

I cannot wait to get back to Bangkok where the bizarre is real life, the government an indolent autocracy, everyone lies and the sex is twenty dollars retail.

“One Punch” Sammy Santoro was one of the terrors of my youth as well as one of its dark heroes. (He beat the shit out of Richie Santaliquito twice and he and his gang was about to do the same to me and a friend for knowing Richie until “Chickie” Muscalino interceded on our behalf.) I have written about him HERE before (For some reason, it is my most popular post worldwide.) The last I had heard of him, he had an operation going using a “little person” to break into homes. I always wondered what had happened to him. For some reason, I thought he had died in the electric chair. Recently by chance, I found the following in a 1972 appellate court opinion in New York

“The indictment charged that Santoro and Tortora, along with Joseph Chiaverini, Gene Genaro and Nicholas Rattenni, lent money to Joseph Formiglia although they had reasonable grounds to believe that the money would be used by Formiglia to make extortionate loans. It further charged that they had used extortionate means to collect the money loaned to Formiglia.”

“The scheme began in November 1969 when Formiglia, a jeweler, borrowed $400 from Santoro, promising to pay $40 a week interest until the $400 principal was repaid. Shortly after this first loan was made Formiglia wanted additional money, but did not want to borrow it under his own name. Thus he conceived the idea of borrowing from Santoro on the pretext that he himself was relending the money at usurious rates. Beginning in early December 1969, Santoro made additional loans to Formiglia, amounting to approximately $11,000 by the middle of February 1970. Tortora frequently was present when these loans were made. Ratteni was present at two of the transactions.”

“By late February 1970, Santoro suspected that Formiglia was not actually relending the money. Chiaverini was delegated to go with Formiglia on his next collection date to visit his “customers.” When Formiglia protested that his customers might not like this arrangement, Santoro said, ‘We’ll go around and collect the f____’ money or we’ll break their heads if they don’t pay us.’”

“Formiglia feigned sickness on the collection date, but this merely confirmed Santoro’s suspicions that Formiglia’s customers were nonexistent and that the “loans” were only a pretense to cover Formiglia’s own borrowing. Santoro met with Formiglia and threatened to split Formiglia’s tongue or put a ‘bullet through [his] head’ unless the money was repaid.”

“A few days later Tortora went to the jewelry store where Formiglia worked and told him, ‘My man, you are in a lot of trouble . . . what are you going to do about these f______ loans.’ No arrangements for repayment were made, however. Later that day Santoro telephoned Formiglia, who said that he was going out of town, whereupon Santoro replied, ‘Have a good time because it’s your last trip.’ The next week Tortora went to Formiglia’s store and told him to show up at a meeting at Genaro’s fish market regarding repayment of the loans or Tortora would ‘drag [him] up by [his] head.’”

“Frightened by these threats, Formiglia called the Yonkers Sheriff’s office and was instructed to telephone Tortora and delay the meeting one day. The Sheriff’s office then recorded the conversation.”

“Wearing a hidden tape recorder supplied by the Sheriff’s office, Formiglia met with Tortora the following day at the fish market. Tortora accused Formiglia of juggling the loans and suggested that to repay the loans Formiglia might have to rob a store. Tortora then telephoned Santoro and put Formiglia on the line. Santoro said that if Formiglia did not pay he would break Formiglia’s wife’s head and burn down his house. Tortora then told Formiglia that he better work out a deal to repay the money.”

“The next day Formiglia arranged to go to Santoro’s house, ostensibly to repay the loans. He brought with him money supplied by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. After Formiglia had been in the house a short while, investigators from the District Attorney’s Office entered and arrested Santoro with his hands on the money. Tortora was later arrested by the FBI.”

Sammy skipped out on the trial and disappeared. I could find no further record of him.

Note: Nicholas Rattenni or as he was also known, “Cockeyed Nick” was the head of the mob in Westchester County and a Capo in the Genovese family. He owned a garbage company and controlled refuse collection in the County as well as the construction trades. I used to caddy for him and some of his button men at a local golf club (They tipped well, so carrying their golf bags became a highly competitive and political competition among the caddies.). A few of the button men were friends of my family. Most of the button men I knew had fled to Florida and other places before the events described in the opinion took place.

The Martian by Andrew Weir, soon to be a major motion picture starring Matt Damon (a man who will always look barely post-pubescent), is a man-boy novel without the killing and explosions. It is about science, engineering and manly pluck. I found it fascinating and enjoyable — being a man-boy myself. Dick McCarthy, however, pointed out that despite the intensive descriptions of electronic monitors, space suits, airlocks and the like, the Robinson Caruso of Mars almost never glances out the window and tells us what the planet actually looks like. It is sort of like writing about a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon and describing in great detail the raft’s paddles and their uses but never mentioning what you saw when, not otherwise engaged with problems and vagaries of riverine locomotion, you looked up at the variegated walls of that magnificent chasm.

Pookie says “check it out.” 

El Dorado Hills is an almost place, almost a forest, almost a mountain, almost a city, almost a community and living here is almost a life.

Today, caesious skies above the Golden Hills filled up with rolling clouds promising cooling temperatures and a bit of rain. Too cold for swimming, I contented myself with a little Poe, some apples and a glass of cranberry juice. Later, after a nap, I pondered if I could do more to entertain myself. Unable to think of anything, I left Hans Pfaall in his balloon somewhere over the North Pole and waded into the problems of Morgaine the qujalan and Vanye her ilin, pursued by Thiye of Hjemur the Immortal Lord of Rahjemur, as they fled across Andur-Kursh in a desperate effort to close the Gates at Ivrel.

Later, HRM and I giggled and shouted our way to the orthodontist. Returning home feeling I had a satisfactory day so far, I took a second nap after which we enjoyed a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs accompanied by a bottle of Lone Buffalo Zinfandel given to us by Stevie and Norbert. I then puttered about on T&T, posted a few articles in my blogs and went to bed believing that I had accomplished more this day than I started out to do.

Unfortunately, my dreams raised a symbolic re-creation of something that I failed at in my past. I was only able to rescue part of it in my dream. After a brief period of dissatisfaction, I persuaded myself that I had done better in my dream than I had done in real life, so I woke up the next day in a good mood.

My life feels like I am swimming through a vat of maple syrup. It tastes good and the smell is delightful, but the going is slow and the blueberry pancakes are missing.

Although reading a book a day I believe generally is a good thing but somewhat obsessive, the two I read yesterday was clearly excessive, especially since they were not that interesting.

Tad Williams: Sleeping Late on Judgement Day

Williams, one of my favorite fantasy authors (His Otherland series is one of the best in the genre), has leapt on to the bandwagon of the current rage among some readers of fantasy for amusing demon hunter stories. His Johnny Dollar series has been enjoyable. Dollar, a wisecracking angel fed up with the heavenly bureaucracy, often finds himself at odds with both his employers and the Adversary. In this issue, our hero sets out to rescue from Hell his girlfriend, a demon with the improbable name of Countess Cazmira of the Cold Hands. Anyone falling in love with a demon especially one with eternally cold hands seems to me to have a lot of unresolved issues.

Richard Stiller: Cold Warriors

Stiller who wrote two pretty good novels in the Foreworld Saga series tries his hand at a rogue CIA operatives thriller. Although it was able to capture my interest, the plot holes, incredible coincidences and poor editing were annoying. The author accurately described several obscure neighborhoods in current day San Francisco, so I assume he lives nearby or is in hiding.

Andrew Ball: The Contractors

The day before, I finished Ball’s debut novel in an another Heaven/Demon war series. It is a young reader type novel and not half bad. Here, a skinny six-foot tall alien from another dimension who looks like a fashion deprived toad, hires a bunch of totally unqualified amateur assassin magicians and sets them loose on an unsuspecting world in an effort to prevent an invasion from still another dimension by Hitler wannabes who look like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers with facial hair. And, yes people actually write this stuff —— and others read it. Some even think it is not half bad.

John Conroe: Forced Ascent

This the sixth or seventh novel in yet another Heaven/Demon war series, did not excite me as much as some of the earlier stories in the series. Most of these novels are like video games, the hero or heroine continue to acquire additional powers each time they smite their enemies. I no longer remember what actually happened in the book.

Declan Burke: Crime Always Pays

One of my favorite crime authors and current man crush writes a sequel to one of his better books, The Big O. That book ends with the face of one of the main protagonists of the sequel clamped in the jaws of a wolf. It does not get too much better from there.

Andrea Camilleri: Angelica’s Smile

Montalbano in love (or lust) but not with whom you think. And, no we do not discover Montalba is gay, although like most manly men there is the ever-present seed of doubt.

Chad Leito: The New Rome.

Leito claims he is a full-time e-book author specializing in post apocalyptic stuff. His PR photograph makes him look a bit over sixteen years old. He seems to suffer a similar problem of a lot of authors, an inability to actually finish the novel. In his case, he seems to be unable to finish more than the first two novels in whatever series he is writing. In his first series called “The Academy” he had gotten through sophomore year in a post apocalyptic university. As best as I could make out the original society collapsed because poor dental hygiene turned everyone’s gums black so they stopped smiling and sent all the kids off to this school where most of them die horrible violent deaths.

In his newest series (also only two books long) he thankfully spends only about one sentence on what it was like before. You know, there was before and now there is this. What this is, is New Rome. A replica of old Rome except New Rome is actually London. There is no indication of what current Rome is called, but Paris is still Paris. Since there is Rome, then there must be emperors, togas and gladiators. And with gladiators,then there is a big to-do about the significance of thumbs and lots of blood on the sand (Lions provided by Monsanto).

Pookie says, “Check them out.”

I have finally ventured beyond the café about a block from my apartment that marked the limit of my world since arriving here in BKK. I travelled all the way to the health club to resume the exercise regime that had been suspended during the almost four months I spent in the US.

I left the apartment with the Little Masseuse well before six am. It was still dark. As we passed Nana Plaza, the sidewalks were filled with Ladies of the Night trolling for customers. Whether they were trolling for the last trick of the evening or the first of the new day, I have no idea. Perhaps there is something about their occupation or constitutions that allows them to work around the clock without sleeping.

You can always tell the Ladyboys from the others because they were usually so much better dressed and made up. While most of the women at that time in the morning sported looks of various degrees of dishevelment, the Ladyboys paraded about without a hair out-of-place or a wrinkle on their tight tiny dresses.

Several bars were open spilling their noise and golden light into the street where it mingled with the blue-grey light of dawn and the police sirens. I do not know why they were open at that hour. The police require bars in Bangkok to close at midnight or one o’clock in the morning. Perhaps they had closed and just now were reopening. Or, maybe they were the bars owned by the cops themselves.

Bangkok is a funny place, so much to see – so much more hidden.

My first visit to the orthodontist with my grandson was a revelation. The waiting area was more playroom than office with its jungle motif, separate play areas and massage chairs for parents. The staff of about 20 or so seemed to have overdosed on ebullience as though they had hit the nitrous-oxide on the way to work. The staff was all women except for the man himself, the orthodontist, the chief giggler — the lord of the manor — the Caliph. I used to wonder who lived in those super large homes that line the ridges of El Dorado Hills. I now imagine they are all inhabited by happy-talking orthodontists.

El Dorado Hills is an almost place, almost a forest, almost a mountain, almost a city, almost a community and living here is almost a life.


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