First lines from Buddha's Money, a by Martin Limon:
Three miniskirted business girls flitted around Ernie like butterflies bothering a bear. He pulled out a packet of ginseng gum, grinned, and passed out a few sticks.
(part of the Soho Crime series, seriously good crime novels set in many parts of the world)
TO THE RED COUNTRY and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth. The plows crossed and recrossed the rivulet marks. The last rains lifted the corn quickly and scattered weed colonies and grass along the sides of the roads so that the gray country and the dark red country began to disappear under a green cover. In the last part of May the sky grew pale and the clouds that had hung in high puffs for so long in the spring were dissipated. The sun flared down on the growing corn day after day until a line of brown spread along the edge of each green bayonet. The clouds appeared, and went away, and in a while they did not try any more. The weeds grew darker green to protect themselves, and they did not spread any more. The surface of the earth crusted, a thin hard crust, and as the sky became pale, so the earth became pale, pink in the red country and white in the gray country.
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Childhoods End-Arthur C. Clarke
EARTH AND THE OVERLORDS
THE volcano that had reared Taratua up from the Pacific depths had been sleeping now for half a million years. Yet in a little while, thought Reinhold, the island would be bathed with fires fiercer than any that had attended its birth. He glanced towards the launching site, and his gaze dimbed the pyramid of scaffolding that still surrounded the Columbus. Two hundred feet above the ground, the ship's prow was catching the last rays of the descending sun. This was one of the last nights it would ever know: soon it would be floating in the eternal sunahine of space.
It was quiet here beneath the palms, high up on the rocky spine of the island. The only sound from the Project was the occasional yammering of an air compressor or the faint shout of a workman. Reinhold had grown fond of these clustered palms; almost every evening he had come here to survey his little empire. It saddened him to think that they would be blasted to atoms when the Columbus rose in flame and fury to the stars
THE SHIPPING NEWS--Annie Proulx
Heres an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle,born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of upstate towns.
Ah, that's a book I liked.
Opening lines from The Redbreast
, by Jo Nesbo (musician, songwriter, economist, and one of Europe's most critically acclaimed crime writers)
Toll Barrier at Alnabru. 1 November 1999
A grey bird glided in and out of Harry's field of vision. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. Slow time. Somebody had been talking about 'slow time' on the TV yesterday. This was slow time. Like on Christmas Eve before Father Christmas came. Or sitting in the electric chair before the current was turned on.
He drummed harder.
I can't seem to cut and paste Wiki on Nesbo, but there's an article there about him.
Until the nineteenth century few tools existed to detect a toxic substance in a corpse.
THE POISONER's HANDBOOK- Deborah Blum
Start of The Silence of the Wave by Gianrico Carofiglio, a writer that has swept me in, an italian antimafia judge (see wiki), among other attributes, including his being a booklover.
For the third time he passed her outside the doctor's front door. It was on a Monday, at the same hour as usual. But he was certain he had seen her somewhere even before these encounters, although he had no idea where or when.
Maybe she was also a patient and had an appointment at four, he said to himself as he climbed the stairs to the doctor's office.
He rang the bell. After a moment or two the door opened, and the doctor let him in. As usual, they walked in silence down the corridor, between shelves filled with books, came to the office, and sat down, Roberto in front of the desk, the doctor behind it.
"So, how are things today? Last time you were in a bad mood."
"I'm better today. I don't know why, but as I was coming up the stairs, I remembered an old story from my first years in the Carabinieri."
It was on a cold and rainy night, towards the end of October, 1838, that a tall and powerful man, with an old broad-brimmed straw hat upon his head, and clad in a blue cotton carter's frock, which hung loosely over trousers of the same material, crossed the Pont au Change, and darted with a hasty step into the Cité, that labyrinth of obscure, narrow, and winding streets which extends from the Palais de Justice to Notre Dame.
 Tapis-franc: literally, a "free carpet;" a low haunt equivalent to what in English slang is termed "a boozing ken."
Although limited in space, and carefully watched, this quarter serves as the lurking-place, or rendezvous, of a vast number of the very dregs of society in Paris, who flock to the tapis-franc. This word, in the slang of theft and murder, signifies a drinking-shop of the lowest class. A returned convict, who, in this foul phraseology, is called an "ogre," or a woman in the same degraded state, who is termed an "ogress," generally keep such "cribs," frequented by the refuse of the Parisian population; freed felons, thieves, and assassins are there familiar guests. If a crime is committed, it is here, in this filthy sewer, that the police throws its cast-net, and rarely fails to catch the criminals it seeks to take.
On the night in question, the wind howled fiercely in the dark and dirty gullies of the Cité; the blinking and uncertain light of the lamps which swung to and fro in the sudden gusts were dimly reflected in pools of black slush, which flowed abundantly in the midst of the filthy pavement.
The murky-coloured houses, which were lighted within by a few panes of glass in the worm-eaten casements, overhung each other so closely that the eaves of each almost touched its opposite neighbour, so narrow were the streets. Dark and noisome alleys led to staircases still more black and foul, and so perpendicular that they could hardly be ascended by the help of a cord fixed to the dank and humid walls by holdfasts of iron.
Stalls of charcoal-sellers, fruit-sellers, or venders of refuse meat occupied the ground floor of some of these wretched abodes. Notwithstanding the small value of their commodities, the fronts of nearly all these shops were protected by strong bars of iron,—a proof that the shopkeepers knew and dreaded the gentry who infested the vicinity.
The man of whom we have spoken, having entered the Rue aux Fêves, which is in the centre of the Cité, slackened his pace: he felt he was on his own soil. The night was dark, and strong gusts of wind, mingled with rain, dashed against the walls. Ten o'clock struck by the distant dial of the Palais de Justice. Women were huddled together under the vaulted arches, deep and dark, like caverns; some hummed popular airs in a low key; others conversed together in whispers; whilst some, dumb and motionless, looked on mechanically at the wet, which fell and flowed in torrents. The man in the carter's frock, stopping suddenly before one of these creatures, silent and sad as she gazed, seized her by the arm, and said, "Ha! good evening, La Goualeuse."
 Sweet-throated: in reference to the tone of her voice.
Eugene Sue, The Mysteries of Paris
See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves. His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster. He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him.
Night of your birth. Thirty-three. The Leonids they were called. God how the stars did fall. I looked for blackness, holes in the heavens. The Dipper stove.
The mother dead these fourteen years did incubate in her own bosom the creature who would carry her off. The father never speaks her name, the child does not know it. He has a sister in this world that he will not see again. He watches, pale and unwashed. He can neither read nor write and in him broods already a taste for mindless violence. All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man.
People reading Erskine Caldwell, beyond Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre, might be surprised at a few of his stories. I freely admit not all are that great, but I like several of them. He wrote of his experiences in the deep south as a boy, telling about things he saw and experienced, fictionalized, mostly. Because he described racial injustice by depicting it without preaching in his books, some might mistake his words for approval. He was one of the least prejudiced writers I have read. Which brings me to this book, Summertime Island.
It was the second week of June in Unionville, a town of almost five thousand people in the northwestern corner of Tennessee, and not far from Kentucky, where I had gone to spend two months of the summer.
Unionville had an imposing collonaded gray-stone county courthouse and a small brick jail with iron barred windows and two red firetrucks with solid-rubber tires but at that time it had very few paved streets and most of the sidewalks were graveled paths. It was a place where most of the lawyers and doctors and wealthy storekeepers in those days lived in large white houses that had been built far apart - often one of them being the only house on an entire block - and nearly all of those had wide lawns and tall oak trees around them.
Except for brief intervals when the Panama Limited and other fast Illinois Central trains roared through Unionville with whistles screaming, it was quiet all over town and like being far away in the country after the city noises of Memphis where the week before I had finished the second week of high school.
The sound of a record dropping onto a turntable is like a short sigh, with a touch of dust mixed in. The sound of the automatic arm rising up from its rest is like a repressed hiccup or a tongue clucking drily --- a plastic tongue. The needle, as it glides across the grooves, sibilates softly and crackles once or twice. Then comes the piano, a dripping faucet. Then, the bass, buzzing like an enormous fly at a window. Finally, the velvety voice of Chet Baker singing "Almost Blue".
From Almost Blue by Carlo Lucarelli (translated from italian). My favorite Lucarelli novel, a crime situation set in Bologna.
I like Ernest Hemingway. It seems "Ernest" is a name that I've come to respect in terms of achievements, and because it was also my father's name. It's also about Ernest Shackleton, one of my favorite heroes, because he saved all his men when his ship was crushed by the ice in Antarctica.
I've had the privilege of having visited Cuba several times, and visited Hemingway's home. That he wrote books like The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea and became classics. It's now a museum of sorts, but nobody is allowed inside. We are allowed only to look in from the doors and windows. Hemingway's Royal typewriter sits on top of a bookcase where he typed his stories standing up. I also have some friends in Cuba, and wish to see them again.
I have an urge to return to Cuba with my travel buddy, but my wife won't let me. It makes sense, because of my many health issues.
I like Ernest too, CI. I was reading portions of The Old Man and the Sea the other day.
I would visit Cuba if I could. I have wanted to since I was a kid.
"This book is a record of a pleasure trip. If it were a record of a solemn scientific expedition, it would have about it that gravity, that profundity, and that impressive incomprehensibility which are so proper to works of that kind, and withal so attractive"
THE INNOCENTS ABROAD-Twain
I remember enjoying that.
. October 12 was a good day for a killing. It had rained all week, but on Friday, after the church fair, our good lord was in a kindlier mood. Though autumn had already come, the sun was shining brightly on that part of Bavaria they call the Pfaffenwinkel- the priests' corner- and merry noise and laughter could be heard from the town. Drums rumbled, cymbals clanged and somewhere a fiddle was playing. The aroma of deep-fried doughnuts and roasted meat drifted down to the foul-smelling tanners' quarter. Yes, it was going to be a lovely execution.
From The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch.
(first of a series known as The Hangman's Daughter...5 historical novels so far, set in the 1600s but written- and translated so well, you'll feel you're there)