Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Book: Red Jungle, by Kent Harrington (2005)

Aldo Calcagno, the Mystery Dawg himself, gave me a heads up about this book a few months ago. I’m glad I listened to him. It’s the first great read of 2005. (Even if it was technically published in the last week of 2004.)

Russell Cruz-Price, a half-American journalist stationed in his homeland of Guatemala, is having a premature midlife crisis. To solve it, he tries several approaches. He sinks all of his money into a plantation on the advice of a deranged archeologist named Gustav Mahler, who insists that a rare Mayan artifact is buried there. He starts secretly advising one candidate for President. And he launches a torrid affair with the wife of the other, who happens to be the chief of the country’s ruthless intelligence service.

Harrington combines the political savvy of Ross Thomas with the bruising, elemental prose of the pulp masters. The edition from Dennis McMillan Publications includes striking illustrations and endpapers by Joe Servello. It’s a wonderful book to look at as well as read.

Movie: XXX: State of the Union (2005)

Don’t ask me to compare this to the first XXX with Vin Diesel, which I somehow missed. It was the only movie starting at a convenient time when a hole suddenly opened up in my schedule. I’ve never gone to a sequel without seeing the original before. Fears that I would be unable to follow the story proved unfounded.

The movie raises some troubling questions, such as: why does the Presidential bullet train, which runs underneath Washington, D.C. and is to be used “for emergency evacuations only,” have a fully functional kitchen?

On the plus side, the movie does feature a tank battle inside the hold of an aircraft carrier. Haven’t seen that before.