Monday, 28 August 2017

"Wiseguy" by Nicholas Pileggi

Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family

Publisher:New York : Pocket Books, 2010.
Characteristics:383 pages ;,19 cm

"Wiseguy" by Nicholas Pileggi

I read this book after watching the 1990 movie “Goodfellas” by Martin Scorsese which was referenced in the 2013 movie “The Family” by Luc Besson (confused yet?).

The book is the biography of Henry Hill (1943-2012) who joined the Mafia when he was 12, and worked his way up through the ranks. It details his exploits, the jobs he did, how things worked etc. As an unnamed reviewer in Cosmopolitan wrote "'to be a wiseguy was to own the world,' who grew up to live the highs and lows of the mafia gangster's life--has been hailed as "the best book ever written on organized crime."

Eventually his friends became his enemies, and fearing his impending doom he turned states evidence, and was put into the witness protection program. While in this he was visited by the author Nicholas Pileggi.

This book was fantastic and was well worth the read. It too is comparable to “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo, but was much more realistic in the way it was told (likely because it is true—go figure).

Nicholas Pileggi has another book entitle “Casino”which I'm hoping to read in the near future. This too has been made into a movie by Scorsese, which I'm also looking for.

Monday, 21 August 2017

“Malavita” by Tonino Benacquista


Publisher:New York : Penguin Books, 2013.

Characteristics:275 pages ;,20 cm

“Malavita” by Tonino Benacquista

This book forms the basis of the 2013 movie “The Family” by Luc Besson (who unfortunately didn't do a great job, but this isn't a movie reviewing blog, so enough said). The story follows a family from New York where the father is a Mafia boss, who turns states evidence and goes into the witness protection program. However, the family does not exactly play by the rules, and keephaving to be moved from town to town. They wind up in Normandy, and once again break the rules except that this time the other Mafia types from back in the US find out where they are, and send some people to pay them a visit.

There is one scene in the novel where the father who is in the process of writing his memoirs is invited to comment on a movie at the local film club thinking it is a war picture (he has told people he is writing a novel about WW II), but when they arrive they find the movie that was shipped was the 1990 “GoodFellas” by Martin Scorsese. This leads the father to start reminiscing about his time in the Mafia much to the regret of his handler who keeps trying to keep him out of trouble.

The story itself is very well written, and gives one a lot of insight into what Mafia life might be like, etc. It is a short book (275 pages), but is a good read and very hard to put down. It is nowhere near as violent as say “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo, but is well worth your time.

Monday, 14 August 2017

"Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis" by Alexei Panshin

Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis

An in depth look at the career for the science fiction author Robert Anson Heinlein, that reviews his various stories and give some insight into his personality. This book was published in 1968, and this does limit it's scope somewhat as Heinlein published a number of books after this.

I found the Mr. Panshin's critique to be extremely harsh, and got the feeling that he had a general dislike for Mr. Heinlein for some reason other than his writing. He belabours his points continuously, and while it is true that some of Heinlein's stories were rather simplistic, you have to take into account the fact that some were written for young people (primarily boys at this time in history), and were published by magazines that didn't pay very well. Whether this was a factor in the types of stories I can't say as I wasn't alive when these stories were first published, but I have read most of Mr. Heinlein's books, and found them to be quite entertaining.

Now I first started reading books by RAH when I was about 13 or so. I don't remember what it was that I read first, but all of his stories to me were fascinating. I began reading what are now considered to be his juvenile stories such as (in no particular order) Red Planet (1949), Space Cadet (1948), Tunnel in the Sky (1955), Star Beast (1954), Between Planets (1951), Revolt in 2100 (1953), etc. Some of these I read multiple times, and I still read them now and again because they are simply good stories. Methuselah's Children was one of the ones I read a little later on, and a few years later (about 1979 or so) I read Time Enough for Love (1973).

As he went on Mr. Heinlein's worldview started to show up more in his writing, which is to be expected. And this in the end influenced my worldview as well. Some of his later works were a little difficult to understand, and need to be read a couple of times to get the underlying themes, but it is time well spent. As I mentioned above Mr. Heinlein's book make you think, even his so called juvenile novels typically have a message.

What this comes down to, in my opinion, is that Mr. Panshin's critique which I can only assume he thought was well written, I can only see as a thinly disguised rebuke at both Mr. Heinlein's success, and his outlook on life in general.

Monday, 7 August 2017

"On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-thousand-year History" by Nicholas A. Basbanes

On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-thousand-year History

Publisher:New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

Characteristics:xvi, 430 pages :,illustrations ;,25 cm

A very good overview of the history of paper making, and how it was developed. The detail that the author goes into was appreciated, and the fact that he toured many of the places that are mentioned in the book give you a good insight into the history.

"Being A Scot" by Sir Sean Connery & Murray Grigor

Publisher:London [England] : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008. ISBN: 9780297855408 Characteristics: 311 pages :,illustrations (chiefly ...