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Black Dahlia, Built to Sell & Babauta

Pained by guilt for not having deeply studied, pondered then pontificated on different works, here lies a listing of the things I’ve read I’m not likely to write extensively on. The idea is to get the books out of my office where they sit distracting me for fuller reviews. Here are four that aren’t going to get a larger review.

Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (8/10). Could this possibly have been a first novel? Immersive detective yarn of conflicted characters none of whom would show up in the more philosophical Raymond Chandler. Chandler and Ellroy are the Betty or Veronica question of LA Noir. Both are beautiful, they’re just different and tastes will change. By the time there are lines like

Meeks gave bravado another try. “Bleichert, you are fucking with the wrong man.”

I pulled out the .45, made sure the silencer was on tight and slid a round into the chamber. “No, you are” (p.301)

This sings rather than stumbles because you’ve lived inside the conflicted ex-Boxer Bleichert for 300 pages. First of his L.A. Quartet, the third of which is the arguably more famous L.A. Confidential which I enjoyed in both book and cinematic form.

I may revisit these four one day but the bitterness of the characters makes it hard to dive into the sequel as much as I appreciated the craft of this work.


Built to Sell, John Warrillow (6/10). A call for service businesses to consolidate to their highest margin, most scalable and repeatable activities. The narrative is engaging, written largely as a lightly fictionalized work. Facing a range of issues from cash flow to employee discontent, the Stapleton ad agency becomes a logo agency and becomes more process driven, leading to sales not just of the product, but the agency itself. “You need to stop responding to RFPs and start carving out your own one-of-a-kind product or service. (p.123)”…”Clients will test your resolve every day. They’re used to bossing their service providers around and, if given the choice, would always prefer you customize your solution just for them. (p.30)”. As a Fast Company article I’d give this an 8/10 but it draws out a little long for a book, and ignores the satisfaction of customized solutions for clients in the service business. The book would have been better as a dialog with Seth Godin who might say: “There is always another commodity process provider out there. Would the greatest logo designers want to work for Stapleton?”

Zen Habits and Clutterfree by Len Babauta (2/10 each.) Two exceptionally lazy and dare I suggest greedy copy-paste jobs from blog posts into paid formats on kindle.  The upside? Inspiration to clean up one’s room and avoiding a 1 rating on each since perhaps people have not come across various ideas scattered throughout the book. Babauta has a good reputation, and there are tips – like clean up your screen desktop – which I’ve heard elsewhere and I’ll credit to him as the originator or chief propagator to avoid the seldom given rating of 1. Already thin volumes stuffed with large quotes from third parties. Why read two if so bad? This is the effect of reputation from Seth Godin’s recommendation of the former book in Linchpin (review coming soon).


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