An immersion journalist’s ill-conceived quest to illegally cross the Mexican border into the United States.
Although the banal title fails to capture the inherent danger of the task, former Army infantryman and Penthouse contributor Rico (Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green: A Year in the Desert with Team America, 2007) spends the first few chapters prepping the reader for hair-raising adventure. With the guidance of “coyotes”—mercenary guides who help illegal aliens cross the border—the author planned to put himself at risk and cross the border in the same covert, desperate fashion that hundreds of Mexicans attempt every day. Initially presented as a gesture of empathy for the poor souls trying to escape poverty-ridden Mexico, Rico’s quest never quite transcends narcissistic stunt journalism. The author orchestrates a dramatic buildup to his undertaking with foreboding stories of northern Mexico’s notorious Devil’s Highway and the deadly Los Zetas paramilitary group. But as Rico and his battered rental car sped along the U.S.-Mexico border to find an ideal illegal entry point, his biggest nemeses were curious cops and nosy border patrolmen. However, the author does offer objective profiles of the “Minutemen” near San Diego—vigilante civilian border patrollers with their own primitive means of curtailing illegal immigration. In Juarez, Rico made compelling notes of the city’s desperate poverty and the important ways in which it differs from sister city El Paso, Texas, but he’s self-conscious among the American aid workers—privileged college graduates who shucked their expensive degrees to help the poor—and betrays a hint of jealousy and contempt for these slumming do-gooders. Finally, after paranoia-induced acid flashbacks, constant hassles from the authorities and nonstop driving, Rico’s project began to take its toll. His final stab at crossing the border is unforgivably lame compared to the grand Lawrence of Arabia–style adventure he envisioned.
Delivers some tense moments but never fulfills its initial promise.
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").