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review 2018-11-04 05:07
Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth
Black Klansman - Ron Stallworth

In this memoir, Ron Stallworth writes about becoming the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department and doing a bit of undercover work investigating the Black Panthers before eventually becoming deeply involved in an investigation into local KKK activities. And by "deeply involved," I mean that he accidentally ended up in an undercover investigation as the voice of a white man named Ron Stallworth who was supposedly interested in joining the Klan. He communicated with KKK members over the phone, while a narcotics officer named Chuck acted as the face of white Ron Stallworth when face-to-face meetings were necessary.

I bought this, even though I almost never read memoirs, because this case sounded bonkers and because it was set in Colorado Springs, one of the primary places I grew up. I had seen previews for the movie but didn't immediately realize it was based on a book, and I somehow missed that it was set in Colorado Springs. Since it didn't seem likely that the movie would be shown in my area (it wasn't), I figured I'd give the book a shot.

For the most part, I enjoyed this, and I'd recommend that anyone with a connection to Colorado Springs read it. It was a fascinating piece of the city's history, and although I'm too young to have been in the city at the time it took place, I still enjoyed seeing places mentioned that I knew and/or had been to before.

There was a lot of stuff here that I didn't know. For example, I hadn't known about the grip that the KKK had on Colorado politics in the 1920s and 1930s, or that they had such a huge presence in Denver in particular. I went to both middle school and high school in Colorado and don't remember any of this coming up. I suppose this information could have been covered and I just missed it (history didn't generally interest me), but I'd have thought this kind of thing would have stuck with me.

I enjoyed the times when Stallworth poked fun at the KKK, and there were a few moments in the investigation that made me outright gasp. I wonder how much of it made it into the movie (I still need to watch it). There was a bit involving a KKK application that I imagine would have looked overdone onscreen - I still can't believe that Chuck and the other officer got out of there without any of the KKK members figuring anything out or growing suspicious.

The book's organization was a little confusing, to the point that it was sometimes difficult to follow the case's timeline. I had thought that Stallworth was writing about events relatively chronologically, but this didn't turn out to be the case. For example, on page 84 of my copy of the book, Stallworth was asked by those who knew about his investigation to show off his KKK membership card (which struck me as risky - was it a good idea for so many people to know about the investigation and for Stallworth to show off the card? what if any of those people were secretly KKK members?). Four pages later, Stallworth was calling David Duke to ask about the status of his membership card. There were a few other moments like this, but this one was the most glaring. I also found his occasional "Officer Ed" rants to be overly sudden and a little off-putting.

There were many things Stallworth wrote about that were still applicable today. At one point, for example, there was an anti-KKK protest, and 20 or so KKK members showed up as counter-protesters. They were initially ignored and didn't even bother to put on their robes until one of them asked a member of the media if they'd like a story and the person said yes. After that, it became a media feeding frenzy. As Stallworth wrote:

"The media all too often unwittingly creates the very news it reports because of its zeal to get a story. This only benefits the person or subject being covered and gives them or it a power neither deserves." (126)

 It's the kind of thing you can still see in play today, as the media gives screen- and air-time to white supremacists who wouldn't otherwise have that significant of a platform. That said, there were times when I very much disagreed with Stallworth's interpretations, particularly his thoughts on "Antifa" (his decision to capitalize it, not mine).

I wonder whether the movie faithfully stuck to the book's ending, or whether it embellished things a bit? If this had been fiction, the ending would have been deeply disappointing -

instead of coming to some sort of satisfying conclusion, complete with arrests and whatever else, Stallworth was ordered to close the investigation. (I wondered at the legality of what he did to get the documents he eventually used in order to write this book. I assume he wouldn't have gone ahead with the memoir if possessing and using those documents could still have gotten him in trouble, but I honestly don't know.)

(spoiler show)

All in all, I'm glad I read this, despite my issues with some of it.


Several pages of black-and-white photos of documents, items, and photographs relating to the KKK investigation and the beginning of Stallworth's career as a police officer.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-10-31 15:53
It's a bit of Murder and Mayham...
Cops and Comix - Rhys Ford

 'Cops and Comix' is a short story taken from Rhys Ford's world of 'Murder and Mayham' but what it's not about is Rook and Dante. This is a story about Rook's cousin Alex Martin and how he and homicide officer James Castillo came to be a couple and can I just say 'I love Rook and Dante' but these two have popped up in both of the 'Murder and Mayham' books...especially in the 'Tramps and Thieves' and I knew for sure that I wanted to know more about this pairing...they're adorable.


It seems that as well as being cousins...well being cousins and apparently a weakness for men in uniform, Rook and Alex have something else in common and it's a bit more lethal because it's murder...that's right both of these seem to attract murder and that's how Alex ends up on James's radar.


James knows as soon as he sees Alex that he wants to know him better...on a more personal level but there's a murder that needs to be solved first and once that's done...look out Alex because James is a man who knows what he wants.


There was only one thing about this story that bothered me and that was the fact that the more I read the more I liked and for me it just all ended too soon and I really would love more Alex and James. I think these two are every bit as adorable as Rook and Dante but in a very different way and if there's a book in the offing for them I want it...yes, I'm making grabby hands just in case. 


Unsurprisingly the one thing I can say for sure is that if Rhys Ford writes it...I want to read it.




An ARC of 'Cops and Comix' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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text 2018-06-03 22:44
May Musings

Still haven’t been feeling the urge to review as much, so here’s another quick month-end summary. I read 4 pieces of fiction and parts of 3 non-fiction books during May.




A is for Alibi - Sue Grafton 


A is for Alibi is the first book in the long-running “Alphabet Mysteries" series. While the novel was originally contemporary, it now reads as a period piece from the days before cell-phones.  While there were some wobbles, I’ve been looking for a new mystery series and I’m curious to see what kind of writer Sue Grafton matures into.  Ms. Grafton, unfortunately, died at the end of 2017.


Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee 


Ninefox Gambit was the winner of the 2016 Locus Award as wells as being nominated for the 2017 Hugo, Nebula And Arthur C. Clarke Awards. I read Mr. Lee's first full-length novel because the sequel was nominated for the 2018 Hugo Award.  The start of Ninefox Gambit was very confusing start as you are thrown headlong into a very inventive world.  But I very much enjoyed the story once all the players were in motion. I’m likely to re-read this since I feel like I missed a lot of the nuance.

  • All Systems Red - Martha Wells 


I’ve been seeing  glowing reviews of All Systems Red  on my feed for a while, and was able to download the ebook for free from Tor.com in April.  The story won the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novella. I'm glad I spent the time with Murderbot and I hope that my local library makes the sequels available.


The Protector's War - S.M. Stirling 


Meh.  See stand-alone review of the The Protector's War  





I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life - Ed Yong  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot  A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup  


I finally finished I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, which was the March selection from the Flat Book Society. The story of the microbiome was interesting, but for whatever reason, I found it hard to maintain the attention needed to follow Ed Yong’s well-researched summary.  I love that, while I Contain Multitudes was clearly written for a general audience, the back 20% of the book was still footnotes and citations of primary documents.


My IRL book-club read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for our mid-May meeting.  I’d read it several years ago as an audiobook.  I didn’t start until a week before the meeting and had finished about the first 1/3 by our discussion.  After the meeting, I just didn’t feel like taking the time to finish, so moved on to other things.


I read a few chapters in A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie  by Kathryn Harkup, which was the Flat Book Society selection for May.  As a non-Christie reader, I didn't find it all that compelling and chose not to finish.


Happy Reading!

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review 2018-05-26 08:55
The Sergeant - Christa Tomlinson

3.5 Stars.

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text 2018-05-05 02:20
April 2018 Roundup
Lake Silence - Anne Bishop

I read 4 books and finished 1 audiobook during April.  With one exception they were all part of a series. My favorite was the book I'd saved for Dewey's Readathon and then devoured in an afternoon and evening.


Lake Silence returns to the wonderful world of The Others created by Anne Bishop.  Like every other review I’ve read, I’d like to acknowledge up front that Lake Silence introduces new characters and that the denizens of the Lakeside Courtyard who we grew to love are NOT featured (Well there are a few phone calls to consult with folks from the 5-book sequence that starts with Written in Red, but they are incidental and don’t really add much to the story).  Aside from the bad-guys being a bit too obviously set up to take a fall, it was an enjoyable story.  I loved being back in this world where if you’re not good you will get eaten.  I’m very curious to see if Ms. Bishop tries to sustain a multi-book arc featuring the new characters and the hamlet of Sproing, or if currently unnamed Book #7 moves to a different place and new folks.



A Local Habitation - Seanan McGuire 


A Local Habitation  by Seanan McGuire is the 2nd installment in the October Daye series.  It’s a solid, “fae in California” urban fantasy, but Verity and friends in Ms. McGuire’s InCryptid series are more appealing and inventive.  I am unlikely to continue the series since there are only so many pages that fit into a year. 


Invisible City - Julia Dahl 


Invisible City by Julia Dahl


Standalone book reaction post.  Likely to continue the series


Cast In Secret - Michelle Sagara 


Cast In Secret  by Michelle Sagara is book 3 in the Chronicles of Elantra Series.  Fantasy by the yard, but sometimes that’s what you want for a comfort read.  Love the multi-species world.  Planning to continue the series.


Dune - Frank Herbert 


Dune by Frank Herbert, audiobook read by Orlagh Cassidy, Scott Brick, Euan Morton, and others.


I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain


Dune is a classic of SF.  I remember being wowed by Dune and enthralled by the Bene Gesserit when I first read it (college age I think).  However, as I mentioned previously, my worldview has changed and Dune now sounds misogynist and dated.  I remember the sequels as being horrid and don’t intend to continue rereading the series.


On the non-fiction front



  • I started a re-read of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks because my IRL bookclub will be discussing it in mid-May. I hope it will be a quick read because I haven't left myself a lot of time.



And that was my month. 


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