The Bookshelf: Part 3 of 3


What follows is Part 3 of my annual look back at a year in reading. The list concludes with a list of the 10 books that I most enjoyed in 2021, in alphabetical order. I didn’t include books by Don Winslow in that list because they would have dominated. You really can’t go wrong with anything by Don Winslow. . . .

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate — Despite the lengthy title, this was a truly fascinating read. It was published in August 2013, and you can bet that not much has changed in the intervening eight years. Author Rose George was able to spend five weeks on the Maersk Kendal, one of those giant container ships you may have seen going under the Lion’s Gate Bridge. To say that this one is an eye-opener would be a real understatement.

Nothing Ventured — In the Clifton Chronicles, author Jeffrey Archer’s seven-book series following one family, one of the characters, Harry Clifton, is a writer of crime novels involving a copper named William Warwick. Now Archer has spun Warwick into a series of his own, starting with Nothing Ventured. There’s nothing deep here, just an easy read. The second and third Warwick books, Hidden in Plain Sight and Turn a Blind Eye, also helped get me through a few days in the latter part of 2021.

October 1964 — Published in 1995, this was picked by The New York Times as its sports book of the year. As much as it’s a story of the 1964 World Series, it’s a story of that MLB season with a heavy focus on the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees. They would meet in that World Series, and this is more a story of how they got there than anything else. Written by the legendary David Halberstam, it is impeccably researched and loaded with anecdotes and notes on many greats and a lot of not-so-greats. I had read this 20 years ago; I think I enjoyed it even more this time around.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — First, Quentin Tarantino made the movie of the same name, then he wrote the novel. If you have seen any of his movies, well, this is just as quirky. It is, as The New York Times, put it “a pulpy page-turner.” It also features Charles Manson and his crew and a whole lot of Hollywood-based gossip.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft — A few years ago, Stephen King — yes, that Stephen King — took a break from writing thrillers to bang out this really neat book. In the first bit, he tells about his early life and how he came to be a fiction writer. Then he goes on to write about writing — some dos and a lot of don’ts. And he finishes up with a detailed report on the accident — he was drilled by a guy in a blue van — that almost killed him. This was a nice, enjoyable look into the life and thought process of one of today’s most-prolific writers.

Pain Killer: A Memoir of Big League Addiction — This one, by former WHL/NHL enforcer Brantt Myhres, is hard to read, especially the first two-thirds. Myhres didn’t have much of a childhood, then went on to fight his way through the WHL and into the NHL. But a lot of it was snort coke, guzzle Jack Daniels, punch an opposing enforcer in the face, get punched in the face. Rinse. Repeat. Myhres really should be dead. Really. This book is ample proof of that. Instead, despite having only a Grade 9 education, he turned things around to the point that he ended up working for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings as player assistance director. That lasted for three seasons until he lost his job in a regime change. If only this book had fewer cocaine-and-Jack anecdotes and more on Myhres’ life after snorting and drinking, more on why none of the NHL’s other teams has hired him, more on his work with First Nations youngsters. If only . . .

Pat Quinn: The Life of a Hockey Legend — Despite never having met the late Pat Quinn, author Dan Robson has done a more than credible job of chronicling the life of the cigar-chomping guy who was known as The Big Irishman. Quinn never gets nearly enough credit for being ahead of the game as a coach, especially when it came to using video, basic analytics, nutrition and various training techniques. Robson also explores the downside of Quinn’s career, including the eye-opening episode where he agreed to join the Vancouver Canucks — and accepted a hundred grand — while under contract to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Second Life of Nick Mason — After five years in jail and with at least another 20 years ahead of him, Nick Mason, the creation of author Steve Hamilton, makes a deal with a devil named Darius Cole. And thus begins Mason’s second life, one that is on the outside, mostly in the streets of Chicago, but is controlled entirely by Cole. Mason is one of those good bad guys, so this is quite readable and enjoyable. . . .  Exit Strategy is the second book in what surely will become a long-running series.

The Sentinel — This is the 25th book in the series that chronicles the adventures of Jack Reacher, the lone wolf who makes his way aimlessly across the highways of a nation, always seeming to find a mess to clean up. In this one, there are Russians and Nazis and a whole lot more. Yes, it’s all good fun. This is the first Reacher book not to have been written solely by James Grant under his pen name of Lee Child. He shares writing credit for this one with his younger brother Andrew Grant, who is Andrew Child in the publishing world.

Serge Savard: Forever Canadien — This book, written by journalist Philippe Cantin, was a huge success in Quebec with the French version selling more than 30,000 copies. And it’s no wonder. Serge Savard was one of the great players in the history of the Montreal Canadiens, one of the NHL’s proudest franchises. Cantin, with Savard’s co-operation, runs through his childhood and his climb up hockey’s ladder — from all-star defenceman to Montreal’s GM, a job he lost four games into the 1995-96 season when president Ronald Corey fired him. Savard lets it all hang out, too, as he pulls back the curtain to show the Canadiens, warts and all.

Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink — It was May 17, 1979, and the Philadelphia Phillies were at Chicago’s Wrigley Field for a game with the Cubs. The Phillies scored seven runs in their half of the first inning but, with the wind blowing out, it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. Author Kevin Cook takes an entertaining inning-by-inning look at what transpired on that glorious afternoon, with lots of anecdotes and sidebars on participants like Dave Kingman, Bill Buckner, the troubled Donnie Moore and a whole lot more. This is a wild and crazy read.

A Time for Mercy — John Grisham has brought back lawyer Jake Brigance for a third time — after A Time to Kill and Sycamore Row — and he doesn’t disappoint. This time, Drew Gamble, 16, whose family is all but indigent, has shot and killed a policeman. Of course, the story isn’t that simple and, yes, it’s a page-turner.

The Wanted — The homes — 18 of them — belonging to some of the elites have been broken into and it turns out that the perps are three young people. The mother of one of them hires Elvis Cole to get to the bottom of this mess, and he brings sometimes-partner Joe Pike along for the ride. Cole and Pike are regulars in books by author Robert Crais.

The Winter of Frankie Machine — If you haven’t figured it out already, I am a big, big fan of author Don Winslow. And I absolutely loved this book that was published in 2006, Frank Machianno, aka Frankie Machine, is a retired hit man trying to make an honest buck. He runs a bait shack on a pier in San Diego and has a few other things on the go. He’s got an ex-wife, a daughter and a girl friend. But now someone wants him dead. Yes, it’s a familiar story, but Winslow’s writing makes it different.

Without Remorse — It had been a long, long time since I cracked open a Tom Clancy-written book, so I didn’t know what to expect from this one that was published in 1993. The paperback version is 685 pages and I really enjoyed it. This is the first book that features John Clark as the primary character and it bounces smoothly between the various storylines.

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret — Nashville had the A Team. Motown had the Funk Brothers. In Los Angeles, it was the Wrecking Crew. These were the studio musicians who played on oh, so many hit songs, including for the Beach Boys. Did you know that Glen Campbell — think Wichita Lineman and By the Time I Get to Phoenix — was a member of the Beach Boys? Did you know there were two Beach Boys bands, one for the studio and one on the road. Author Kent Hartman has all that and a whole lot more here. I guarantee that if you read this one you won’t ever look at ’60s and ’70s music the same ever again.

Year of the Rocket: John Candy, Wayne Gretzky, a Crooked Tycoon, and the Craziest Season in Football History — There may be just a bit of hyperbole in the title but the CFL’s 1991 season really was one to remember. Prior to the season, comedian John Candy, a true, blue Canadian, hockey star Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall, then a tycoon and later a convict, purchased the Toronto Argonauts. Then they signed Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish star who likely would have been the NFL’s first overall draft pick had he not headed north. The Rocket got what then was football’s richest contract and, all these years later, it still makes an observer shake his head. Author Paul Woods, who has followed the Argonauts for years as a journalist, writer and fan, was there for all of it and details the entire story — the good, the bad and the ugly that followed 1991.


A Promised Land, by Barack Obama

Billy Summers, by Stephen King

Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Crosby

Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treaty Indigenous Player, by Fred Sasakamoose

Deacon King Kong, by James McBride

The Dynasty, by Jeff Benedict

Newspapering: 50 Years of Reporting from Canada and Around the World, by Norman Webster

Serge Savard: Forever Canadien, by Philippe Cantin

Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink, by Kevin Cook

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret, by Kent Hartman

Part 3 of 3

The Bookshelf: Part 1 of 3


This week I will post the annual three-part Bookshelf, in case you are looking for some help as you do your Christmas shopping — for yourself, a family member or a friend. . . . As I journey through retirement, I have found myself mixing in a few books from days gone by and also note that I have been reading more and more books that don’t have much, if anything, to do with sports. In 2021, perhaps because of the lack of normalcy, there also has been more reading of ‘lite’ fiction. . . . Anyway, here they are — most of the books that I read in 2021. . . .

An Accidental Sportswriter: A Memoir — Robert Lipsyte was there from Muhammad Ali’s career through baseball’s steroid era and a whole lot more. For a lot of that time, he was The New York Times’ lead sports columnist. He revisits all of that here, and also writes about his own hits and misses as a writer in a real gem of a book.

A Man Called Intrepid — Intrepid was the code name for William Stephenson — later Sir William Stephenson — and this is the story of his involvement in the Second World War. It’s a fascinating story about spies and counter spies and codes and code breakers and deception and a whole lot more. The detail provided by author William Stevenson is out of this world. (NOTE: William Stevenson, the author, wasn’t related to William Stephenson.)

A Promised Land — I finished this 700-pager early in February and knew then that I wouldn’t read a better book in 2021. Written by Barack Obama, the two-term U.S. president, it isn’t at all ponderous or heavy slogging. He is a terrific writer with the knack for explaining complicated goings-on in easy-to-understand terms, whether it’s a financial crisis, his country’s relationship with Russia, events leading up to the Arab Spring, or the killing of Osama bin Laden. This is Volume 1 of a two-book set. I eagerly await the next part. Spoiler alert: Mitch McConnell is exactly what you think he is.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup — Elizabeth Holmes had a dream. But is that what it was, or was it really happening? John Carreyrou, a writer with the Wall Street Journal, got a tip about Theranos, a startup that was going to revolutionize the field of blood-testing. His writings for the paper led to this book, one that is an unbelievable read, and one that proves the adage about a fool and his money, or, in this case, fools and their money. (Note: Holmes, who is on trial in San Jose, Calif., has pleaded not guilty to nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy.)

The Bastard — Written by John Jakes and published in 1974, this is Book 1 in The Kent Family Chronicles, historical fiction that charts the growth of the U.S. Book 1 follows Philippe Charbonneau, whose mother never married his father, the 6th Duke of Kent, from France to England and then to Boston. By now, he has changed his name to Philip Kent and finds himself wrapped up in the beginnings of the American Revolution. . . . All told, The Kent Family Chronicles features eight historical novels.

Bearcat Murray: From Ol’ Potlicker to Calgary Flames Legend — If you want to read a hockey book that is loaded with anecdotes, this one is for you. Murray, whose little-used first name is Jim, does the talking and George Johnson, a terrific writer who somehow got squeezed out in one of those Postmedia massacres, does the writing. Hey, the ol’ Bearcat had a fan club with chapters in Boston and Montreal. Who knew?

Big Lies in a Small Town: A Novel — In alternating chapters, author Diane Chamberlain tells the story of two artists who lived 78 years apart and how they became intertwined in so many ways. Their stories take place in Edenton, N.C., so the book is full of southern politics and prejudice. This is a well-written book by an oft-published author that just drags the reader into the story as it progresses.

Billy Summers — Brilliant. This one, from author Stephen King, is absolutely brilliant. Billy Summers is a hitman who has decided that he will do one more job and then hang up his rifle. Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but King does a masterful job of weaving together all the threads. A wonderful read.

Blacktop Wasteland — The main character in this brilliant work of fiction is Beauregard Montage, known as Bug to friends and acquaintances. He’s married with two young sons, and there also is a daughter from another relationship. His is a day-to-day existence, which leads to him living two lives. In one, he’s the proprietor of a small two-bay garage that is fighting to stay open. In the other, he’s a driver — yes, a getaway driver — and he’s really, really good at it. He’s also in a perpetual state of conflict because of all this. Author S.A. Cosby has put this all together into a terrific story that won an L.A. Times book prize for mystery/thriller of the year.

The Breaker — This is the sixth book in author Nick Petrie’s series involving Peter Ash, an ex-Marine who just can’t stay away from bad situations. They find him — indeed, they seem to hunt him out — and then he takes it from there. If you like Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne and Harry Bosch and their ilk, you’ll enjoy Peter Ash and his world.

Broken — Don Winslow has done it again, only this time he hits a home run with six short stories, all of them centred in the world that he seems to know so well — bad guys, bad cops, drugs, thugs and all the rest. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to read his trilogy — The Power of the Dog, the Cartel and The Force. It’s all great stuff, and Broken fits right in there.

The Broken Shore — Having stumbled on Jack Irish, an Australian TV series, I discovered that it was based on novels written by Peter Temple. The Broken Shore isn’t a Jack Irish book, but it is quite good. Temple has a quick wit and a way with words. Keep in mind that it all is Australia-based, but if you stick with it you won’t be disappointed. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s gritty, bloody and obscene. Oh, and it’s good. Really, really good. . . . The sequel, Truth, is awfully good too.

The Bushman’s Lair: On the Trail of the Fugitive of the Shuswap — More than 20 years have passed since John Bjornstrom, aka the Bushman of the Shuswap, was hiding out in the wilds surrounding Shuswap Lake in the Interior of B.C. With this book, author Paul McKendrick details Bjornstrom’s story and everything is included, from his involvement with Bre-X to his escape from a prison facility near Kamloops to his capture and a run for mayor in Williams Lake, B.C. And when you turn the final page, you are left to wonder whether Bjornstrom was an eccentric running from society or if he really did have a plan.

Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treaty Indigenous Player — This isn’t a work of fiction. It’s Fred Sasakamoose’s story, one that goes from a residential school in Saskatchewan to four years with the Moose Jaw Canucks to the NHL and back to the area around Sandy Lake, Sask. Sasakamoose doesn’t pull any punches about his time in the residential school or anything else, including his battles with alcohol and his regrets about not being a better father. In short, this is a book that you should read, but know that you won’t soon forget it. Unfortunately, COVID-19 took him from us on Nov. 20, 2020, before his book was published.

Camino Winds — This is a followup to Camino Island, the book that introduced us to Bruce Cable, who owns Bay Books. The prolific John Grisham has another winner here, too, as he writes about a hurricane, a dead writer and a whole lot more. So much of what Grisham writes is relevant to the times and this one isn’t any different. Pay attention to the many chunks of dialogue, some small and some no so small, that are commentary on today’s U.S. political situation as much as anything else.

Part 1 of 3

Scattershooting on a Sunday night after watching the Blue Bombers bring some heat to Regina . . .


Mike Lupica, in the New York Daily News: “Whatever (head coach Bill) Belichick says, Cam Newton at least partially lost his job with the (New England) Patriots because he’s another bonehead in sports who hasn’t been vaccinated. . . . So pro sports continues to be a capital of Stupidville on the subject of COVID and vaccines. . . . Now John Smoltz and Al Leiter represent the Stupidville district as they’re not allowed inside the studio of the MLB Network because they’re anti-vaxx guys. . . . You’d say that on and on we go and where we stop, nobody knows, except we do know: This particular train stops in the place where the slow thinkers reside.”

So . . . Nebraska played host to Fordham in a college football game on Saturday. Darren Rovell, who reports on the business of sports, tells us that (a) Nebraska paid Fordham US$500,000 to play the game; (b) Scott Frost, Nebraska’s head coach, makes $416,667 per game; and (c) Fordham head coach Joe Conlin is making $250,000 this season. . . . Nebraska, a 41.5-point favourite, won the game, 52-7.

Justin Foster, a defensive end with Clemson, tested positive for COVID-19 last summer. So, too, did T.J. Quinn, a staff writer with ESPN. . . . You know what else they have in common? They are COVID long-haulers. If you’re one who thinks that COVID-19 isn’t a big deal and that it comes and then it’s gone, well, think again. Maybe this piece right here, written by Quinn, will change your mind.

Now that’s high-end trash talk — Phil Mickelson was prepping for a practice round with a couple of PGA lesser-knowns — Harry Higgs and Keith Mitchell — the other day, when he told them he would be using a ball with his logo on it. As he explained: “It’s from when I won the Masters. What are you guys using?”

And then there’s the guy who bet US$220,000 on the Thursday night football game between Tennessee and Bowling Green. He had Tennessee winning by at least 36. Uhh, the Vols won, but only by 32 — 38-6. . . . Easy come, easy go!

“I love the Field of Dreams concept,” writes columnist Norman Chad, as he hits the nail on the head. “I love the Field of Dreams buildup, I love the Field of Dreams setting, but then . . . it’s just another MLB game that takes forever to get from a 1-0 count to a 2-2 count.”

Peter King, in his weekly Football Morning in America column: “A football field, from end of end zone to end of end zone, is 360 feet long. Jeff Bezos’ new yacht is 50 feet longer than that. Bezos’ yacht will cost about $500 million to build. Twenty-one NFL teams play in stadiums that cost less to build than the yacht Jeff Bezos has under construction.” . . . The complete column is right here.

Kimi Raikkonen sat out Sunday’s Netherlands Grand Prix after testing positive. The Alfa Romeo team replaced him with Robert Kubica. Raikkonen, 41, has said he will retire from Formula One at season’s end.

The Ole Miss Runnin’ Rebels won’t have head coach Lane Kiffin with them tonight when they open their NCAA football season against the Louisville Cardinals in Atlanta. He is fully vaccinated, but has tested positive. . . . Earlier this month, Kiffin revealed that 100 per cent of Ole Miss’s players, coaches and staff members were fully vaccinated.

ODDS AND ENDS — Hey, Toll Free Serv., you may as well give up because we’re not answering when you phone during an election. . . . We answered one unknown number recently and it was from a candidate in West Kelowna. Uhh, we live in Kamloops. . . . If you are looking for a really, really good read, you won’t go wrong with Billy Summers, the latest work from the prolific Stephen King. You can thank me later. . . . And if you’re looking for some good listening, you won’t go wrong with Rita Chiarelli. Start with her Breakfast at Midnight album. . . . DE Willie Jefferson of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers set the table for Sunday’s Labour Day Classic — the game is played the day before Labour Day — when he said Saturday that the host Saskatchewan Roughriders “ain’t played nobody special. Nobody with no heat, the way we’re coming. We know it’s a battle for first place in the West but we could care less. We just want to give them our best game and show them that their offence isn’t as prolific as people are saying.” It’s not bragging when you can do it; the Bombers won, 23-8. . . . D Matthew Gallant, 17, will be in camp with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. From Langley, B.C., he is the oldest of Kevin Gallant’s two boys. Kevin, you may remember, is a former play-by-play voice of the Regina Pats. The Warriors placed Matthew on their protected list last winter.

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JUST NOTES: The junior B Castlegar Rebels of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have signed Arnie Caplan as general manager and head coach. Caplan, 53, is from Winnipeg. He has been living in Dauphin, Man., where he was the U18 AAA Parkland Rangers’ head coach in 2019-20. A goalie in his playing days, Caplan got into nine games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 1987-88. The Rebels actually signed Carter Duffin to a multi-year extension as general manager and head coach on May 29. Duffin left two months later to join the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats as assistant GM and assistant coach. He had been the Rebels’ head coach for the previous three seasons. . . . Long-time NHL scout Marty Stein wasn’t out of work for long. Stein, who is based in Vernon, B.C., now is a Western Canada scout with the Buffalo Sabres. He had been with the Detroit Red Wings since 1996 when he recently was dropped as GM Steve Yzerman made some changes.


The Bookshelf: Part 1 of 3


There are at least three people who stop off here on a regular basis and have asked in the past few days about the annual book list. Well, it’s here. . . . I have done this for a while now, writing thumbnails on books I have read over the previous 12 months. Perhaps this will help with your Christmas shopping or your own Christmas list. . . . And whatever you do, don’t forget to treat yourself!

As for the books on my Christmas list, you can start with Barack Obama’s A Promised Land; Finding Murph, by Rick Westhead; Broken, a collection of short stories by Don Winslow; and James McBride’s best-selling and award-winning Deacon King Kong. . . . Yes, you also can include The Sentinel, the latest in Jack Reacher’s adventures; Michael Connelly’s The Law of Innocence; and A Time for Mercy, by John Grisham. . . . I also had Al Strachan’s Hockey Hot Stove: The Untold Stories of the Original Insiders on the list, but I cheated and purchased it earlier this week. . . . And I eagerly await Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treaty Indigenous Player. The story of Fred Sasakamoose, who died last week, it is to be published on April 6. . . . But enough of that . . . here’s the first of three parts of this year’s Bookshelf . . .


Agent in Place — This is another Gray Man novel by Mark Greaney. I will tell you that the first chapter grabs you and before you know you’re 30 chapters in, and I will leave it at that. . . . Agent in Place is No. 7 in Greaney’s ultra-successful series.


The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport — Rafi Kohan, a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City, has given us a really intriguing look at the arena/stadium/sports facility game. He visited numerous facilities and saw the nooks and crannies, and he wrote about all of it. From the huge food service crew for a New York Mets game at Citi Field, to the end of the days for the Pontiac Silverdome, the Olympic facilities in Utah and a whole lot more . . . it’s all here in an engrossing and ultra-informative read.


The Black Russian — Frederick Bruce Thomas was born in 1872 in Mississippi. He would go on to become an entertainment mogul in Moscow and later in Constantinople. Author Vladimir Alexandrov tells Thomas’s story between the covers of this book, and it’s an amazing tale. In places like Moscow and Constantinople, Thomas, a Black American, rarely had to deal with a colour line, but it was a different story when it came to politics and upheavals.


Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth — This book, written by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, opens with the opening of a gas station in Manhattan and before you know it you’re drawn into what is a stunningly good read. It’s about the oil and gas industry and I guarantee that you will never fill up your car again without thinking about what you read here. You also will have your socks blown off by the amount of money that is in play; you may have heard or seen figures before, but not like what you will read about here. However, if there is a thread here, it is Vladimir Putin and his rise to power. Scary and amazing, all at the same time.


Blue Moon — Jack Reacher finds himself between Albanian and Ukrainian gangs in Lee Child’s latest book — it’s No. 24 — on the vagabond former military cop who roams the United States righting wrongs as he travels. If you are a Reacher fan, or even if you aren’t familiar with him, you’ll enjoy this one as he eliminates two camps.


The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood — It was one of the milestone films in big screen history, and author Sam Wasson’s book is just as good. Wasson shapes the book around screenwriter Robert Towne, director Roman Polanski, and actors Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson as he writes about the before, during and aftermath of Chinatown. Good stuff!


Burke’s Law: A Life in Hockey — Hockey lifer Brian Burke tells his story, with the help of Stephen Brunt, a former newspaper columnist who, like Burke, now is at Rogers Sportsnet. This book is about what you might expect from Burke — loud, obscene and opinionated. It is interesting how he claims on more than one occasion that “white noise” from the media never bothered him, but he then spends a lot time ripping into those same media types. I would have liked a bit more inside dope on the NHL-NHLPA battles, but it wasn’t to be.


California Fire and Life — If you haven’t yet discovered author Don Winslow through his drug wars trilogy — The Power of the Dog, The Cartel and The Border — get thee to a book store. After that, go back and start reading Winslow’s earlier stuff. California Fire and Life is an insurance company; Jack Wade is an insurance claims investigator. There is a fire and, of course, not all is as it seems. There are good guys and bad guys, and Winslow’s writing.


Circe — Oh my, what an interesting book! It’s a novel based on Greek mythology. Admittedly, the only time I have an interest in that subject is in the odd crossword puzzle. But author Madeline Miller can write — oh, can she! — and she really brings the subject to life. Circe, a daughter of Helios, the Titan sun god, and Perse, a sea nymph, is banished to an island where she learns all about witchcraft. Give this one a look; you won’t be disappointed.


The Colorado Kid — Written and marketed in the style of pulp fiction that once was hugely popular — hello there, Mickey Spillane — it is easy to tell that author Stephen King, he of horror fame, had fun with this one. It’s a quick read and it’s different, as you will discover if you give it a try. The story involves two veteran small-town newspapermen relating a local murder mystery to an intern, with some terrific dialogue. King also had fun burying some pearls of wisdom along the way.


Fair Warning — Chances are that If you are a reader of any kind you have a favourite writer or two or even six. That being the case, you trust your favourites to deliver for you. That’s exactly what Michael Connelly does time after time. In Fair Warning, he brings back journalist Jack McEvoy for a third time, and this time he’s tracking a serial killer.


Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O’Malley, Baseball’s Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles — I always was of the belief that Walter O’Malley picked up his Brooklyn Dodgers and moved them to Los Angeles in 1957 because he was a greedy old you know what. It turns out I was wrong. As author Michael D’Antonio details in Forever Blue, O’Malley badly wanted to stay in Brooklyn, but with the dawning of the automobile era he needed a ball park with parking. O’Malley was prepared to build the facility with his own money, but he needed land. In Brooklyn, he was up against Robert Moses, who was unelected but immensely powerful. Ultimately, O’Malley came to realize he wasn’t going to get the help he needed. Through it all, city officials from Los Angeles were courting him, all of which finally paid off. . . . I’m a sucker for baseball books from this era, and this one didn’t disappoint.


The Girl in Saskatoon: A Meditation on Friendship, Memory and Murder — Alexandra Wiwcharuk was 23 years of age in May of 1962 when she was murdered alongside the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon. The murder hasn’t been solved. Author Sharon Butala, who attended school with Wiwcharuk but was hardly what one would call a close friend, decided to write a book about it and, she hoped, come up with some answers. When she was done she had a book that was more about growing up in Saskatoon, at the time a little city that also was growing up, and all that came with it. Butala can write, and this is good, really good. . . . BTW, The Girl in Saskatoon is a seldom-heard Johnny Cash tune. You’ll have to read the book to find out the back story.


The Girl Who Lived Twice — This is another in the series of books about the adventures of Lisbeth Salander. Author David Lagercrantz had done an admirable job of picking up where the late Stieg Larsson left off. This one is a bit — OK, quite a bit — different than the earlier ones, in that it involves a Sherpa and an Everest expedition as key plot elements. I would have liked to have had more Salander, but, then, that’s all part of the mystery, isn’t it?


NEXT: Part 2 of 3.

Best junior player I’ve seen would have turned 61 on Sunday . . . Hockey world mourns death of Bowkus

He was the best junior hockey player I ever had the privilege of watching.

Brad McCrimmon, at the age of 19, was a smooth-passing, minute-eating defenceman with the 1978-79 Brandon Wheat Kings, who lost a grand total of five regular-season games. He had the knack of conserving energy while on the ice, so he could play and play and play.

And, although he didn’t carry the title or have his own office, he also was the Wheat Kings’ lone assistant coach.

Dunc McCallum, the head coach, knew what he had in McCrimmon and the former NHLer let the future pro shoulder a huge load. From Plenty, Sask., McCrimmon had grown up on a farm so the work load didn’t scare him; in fact, he scared it.

McCrimmon, as TSN’s Craig Button noted in the above tweet, would have turned 61 on Sunday.

You will recall, however, that McCrimmon died on Sept. 7, 2011. He was the head coach of Lokomotiv Yaroslav of the KHL when its plane crashed shortly after takeoff. McCrimmon, then 52, had signed with the team in May.

This was his first pro head-coaching gig. You can bet that had he lived he would be an NHL head coach today, perhaps with the Vegas Golden Knights.

In a later tweet, Button pointed out what I think says more than anything about Brad McCrimmon, hockey player:

“He played with Ray Bourque, Mark Howe, Gary Suter, Niklas Lidstrom and a young Chris Pronger. All the while helping and complementing others, he was a force in his own right.”

Take a few minutes and check out the seasons those players had while partnered with McCrimmon. Officially, he may not be a Hockey Hall of Famer, but he was a Hall of Famer, if you know what I mean . . . on and off the ice.

Jack Bowkus, a former WHLer who went on to coach for 20 years in southern California, died on Saturday after a battle with cancer. . . . Bowkus, 55, was a native of Lansing, Mich. . . . He played four seasons (1984-88) with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . While coaching in California, he guided California Wave and Los Angeles Jr. Kings teams to numerous championships. . . . There is more on Bowkus right here.


Ray Macias, a former Kamloops Blazers defenceman from the Los Angeles Jr. Kings program, offered this tribute to Jack Bowkus on Facebook:

“We lost a complete legend last night from the game of hockey and all of Southern California hockey. I had the privilege to coach side by side with him this past season and the lessons learned were second to none. A true leader and a true mentor to many kids and for me as I just start my coaching career. The experience gained will never be forgotten and will be carried on through many generations. Thank you Jack for being such a great role model for so many kids in So Cal. May you rest in peace Jack.”

Ray’s mother, Helen Alex, is a long-time member of the Jr. Kings’ operation. . . .


Joe Diffie is dead. John Prine is in critical condition. And the clown show is bragging about TV ratings. . . . Will this nightmare ever end?


Oh, and have you heard about the King who rented an entire German hotel so that he could go into self-isolation? Did I mention that he brought along his harem of 20 and, yes, some servants? . . . It’s all right here. . . . But I do wonder how the King and his court didn’t end up at Mar-a-Lago.


Stephen King and Don Winslow couldn’t have combined to write anything close to what we’re witnessing these days. . . .

Pat Leonard, writing in the New York Daily News:

“For the NFL to play even one game, it needs to be able to safely welcome around 61,500-80,000 fans into a stadium. It must be able to guarantee all staff and players can travel, collaborate, and come into close contact without contracting and spreading this deadly virus.

“How could the NFL possibly guarantee that type of safety by Labor Day?”

Leonard’s look at the situation in which the NFL finds itself is right here. . . .

Twitter headline from The Onion: Trump Orders Manufacturers to Drastically Ramp Up Production of Hospital Gift Shop Supplies. . . .

Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The 49ers dodged a big bullet when they passed on Tom Brady.

“Brady is a Bay Area guy and it would have been a heartwarming story, the old warhorse coming back home. But many hearts would not have been warmed.

“While I try to steer clear of politics, my national-affairs advisers tell me that the Bay Area leans politically left, and it would be tough for many 49ers’ fans to embrace Brady because of his BFF status with the president.

“ ‘I spoke to (Brady) the other day, he’s a great guy,’ the president said last week.

“In normal times, that wouldn’t matter. Normal Times just boarded a Princess Cruise to Tahiti.” . . .

If you haven’t heard, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks are going to present a concert — Garth & Trisha: Live! — on Wednesday evening  on CBS-TV. If you’re interested, check your local listings. . . . They and CBS also are donating $1 million to charities “combating the COVID-19 virus.” . . .

From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Sidelined sportscaster Joe Buck will do a play-by-play narration of your quarantined existence in exchange for a charity donation, tweeting, ‘Send me videos of what you’re doing at home and I’ll work on my play-by-play. Seriously!’ . . . Predictably, Cowboys fans are already complaining that Buck is biased toward Green Bay’s shut-ins.” . . .


Perry, again: “NASCAR is imposing staff salary cuts of 20-25% until there’s a return to racing. Or as the folks in accounting prefer to call it, restrictor-plate paying.” . . .

The Toronto Blue Jays opened their regular season by getting swept by the visiting Boston Red Sox. . . . Boston won, 6-3, on Sunday, as 3B Rafael Devers hit his fourth HR in three games, a two-run shot that tied the game in the eighth inning, and JD Martinez won it with a three-run dinger in the 12th. . . . After the opening weekend, the Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s join Boston at 4-0, with the Los Angeles Dodgers at 3-0. . . . This all is part of a simulated season being played out by the folks at Strat-O-Matic, and you are able to check it all out right here.

Think about these numbers for a few minutes . . .

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