The street-savvy founder of the Seekers (a group of bounty hunters who see their mission as not just finding men who have skipped bail but saving their souls as well) briskly recounts his own life and the work of his unique organization.
When Armstrong, a self-educated African-American from Elizabeth, New Jersey, captures a fugitive at home, he leaves a copy of a 17th-century prayer behind to comfort the man's family, and when new members join the Seekers, they must take up both rigorous physical training and the reading of ancient Egyptian philosophy. Armstrong's memoirs, written with the assistance of crime writer Bruno (The Iceman, 1993, etc.), are fast-paced and packed with gritty detail about what bounty hunters do and how they do it in an ugly, dirty, drug-ridden, and dangerous world. Armstrong left New Jersey after high school, became a fisherman in Alaska, and, in the off-season, learned first-hand how not to catch a fugitive and then picked up the basics of the trade. Influenced by New Age bookstore owner Kanya McGee, he became interested in self-improvement through meditation and the study of Eastern philosophy, taking as his goal to become "a stellar man in a world that desperately needs stellar men." When he returned to New Jersey in the 1980s, he developed the idea of a bounty hunting operation that would "combine compassion and street smarts." While there's ample technical data about the surveillance and protective equipment and the arms that the Seekers carry with them, it is their mode of operation that fascinates. The cases described emphasize intelligence gathering, planning, patience, cool nerves, and teamwork rather than gunslinging; in fact, only once has Armstrong fired his gun during an arrest. His Seekers now hunt fugitives only to fund Earth Church, a center for spiritual, mental, and physical growth.
Although the Armstrong character—a macho man with a laudable mission—occasionally calls to mind a comic-book superhero, Million Man March supporters should find this agreeable reading.
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").
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)