Steve Martini

Sunny was reading a crime novel when she and I were in Austin.

The book was large with a hardback yellow cover and looked like it'd weigh about 25 pounds. When I actually picked it up, it almost flew out of my hands; It was as heavy as a butterfly. A big butterfly.

"How many people were killed while we were in there?" I asked Sunny as we left Austin Java after spending a few hours, her reading and me writing.

"Do you mean how many people were RUBBED OUT?" she replied.

The novel was old-timey noir, full of men in trench coats and porkpie hats smoking cigars and drinking whiskey straight up, grifters and double-crossers and detectives. The women were dames and broads and dishes in fire engine red lipstick and cuban stockings, telling the guys to scram.

I loved making fun of crime novel but Sunny defended herself, "IT'S A REAL PAGE TURNER."

I get it, I told her, I went through the Tom Clancy novels in my parents' attic in high school. I loved spies and assassins and adventure. Oh, and snipers. I dug snipers.

I just haven't gotten into it in awhile. I've been reading more nonfiction.

One of the books I brought with me to Berlin was on a favored subject of mine: brain mechanics and consciousness and their implications for human nature AKA Cognitive Science. This subject, in the wrong hands, can be a real snoozer but given the right author (Antonio Damasio, Steven Pinker, Rita Carter), it's fascinating.

A page turner, even.

Sadly, book I brought with me is not. I think the author tried to make his subject accessible to the non-scientist by keeping his essays short but they were abrupt and incomplete. Worse, he tried to make his messages seem cool by using lots of slang and contractions. But you can't stick a flower in a pile of dog crap and convince people it smells good. Sorry.

I tried to read this book a few times but it wasn't going to work. I decided to go in the other direction.

"I need a bedtime book," I decided, "Something fluffy."

I put the offending book in my backpack and took off on one of my walks, thinking I'd figure out what to do with it on the way. This particular walk started in the north of Mitte, a touristy area in the center of Berlin.

The coffeeshop I chose to do my walking notes in was attached to a hostel, a hostel with a book exchange. OH, HELLO.

I put my book on the shelf and checked out the other titles, landing finally on The Arraignment by Steve Martini.

I may owe an apology to Sunny.

I devoured this book. I mean, I was laughing at my favorite terrible lines -

"Metz was dynamite on a stick with a short fuse up his ass"


"Hey, fuckin' Tolt, he's your friend. I don't care they cut his ears, hose his balls off, hang 'em on a charm bracelet. But this man upstairs, this Pablo Eyebarra, far as you and I are concerned, he be the fuckin' Wizard of Oz"

- but I was riveted and happily let Steve Martini lull me to sleep with his suspense-filled legal thriller.

UNTIL. Right at the end, he went too far. I closed the book this morning and quit with three pages to go because I could not handle a couple of rich, white-collar San Diego lawyers grappling on top of a Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

National bestselling author Steve Martini, come the f**k on. Gah!

Next up: Snipers. Lots of 'em.

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