Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Review: Wayward Girl

Wayward Girl Wayward Girl by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is one of those Orrie Hitt stories that means to shock and titillate in the realm of juvenile delinquency, a common theme of the time, rather than the sexual obsession stories that he sometimes wrote so well. It tells the tale of a 16 year old prostitute who struggles with drug abuse, reform school, and mostly how she is forced into having sex, either for money, or under pressure from various unsavory predators - which turns out to be pretty much everyone else in the book. Rather than a sexy and fun book it ends up being dark and disturbing. At some point I began paging through the book to see how much was left. Not a good sign. Hitt often employs an implausible happy ending in his books that go against any noir sensibilities that the book may have had, and here we find another forehead slapper. An incongruous ending for this disappointing and depressing novel.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Review: Mad Baxter

Mad Baxter Mad Baxter by Wade Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mad Baxter isn’t mad. His first name is Madison. He’s a 40 year old miner and adventurer who claims to have never been blown up and never been married. Baxter return to Sardinia alone to manage a mining operation where ten years previously, in a fit of passion, he promised to marry a tempestuous young woman. The woman Grazia, now grown, and leader of a tight-knit family clan expects Baxter to be true to his word. Baxter starts off on the wrong foot by blowing off the wedding and hiring miners from another family clan with whom they have been feuding. Sort of a Green Acres vibe here with Baxter, the sensible person, surrounded by folks that act unpredictably as he finds himself stuck in one jam after another in a crazy Family Feud. Well written with many memorable characters, especially Grazia who is insanely hot-blooded and volatile. A highly entertaining and humorous adventure tale.

Although many Wade Miller books are back in print this is not one of them.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Review: Flight to Darkness

Flight to Darkness Flight to Darkness by Gil Brewer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Noir paranoia and obsession at it’s finest. Eric Garth is a Korean War vet recovering in a psychiatric hospital and because this is a first-person narrative we readers are on an unstable foundation right from the start, never knowing whether his narrative is reliable or not. Brewer puts in some neat foreshadowings and doubts early on and that pays big dividends as the plot unfolds. Leda Thayer is the femme-fatale - and she has to rank up there near the top of the FF pantheon - and Brewer just buries Garth in his obsession with her. As the book begins she is his nurse at the hospital and is quitting her job as he is released. He has a big inheritance coming and she is all about that money, just needs to get him back home so he - they - can claim it. Garth, though obsessed, is also conflicted, at least until he finds himself locked up in another sanitarium. And, shall we say, game on?

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Saturday, February 20, 2021

Review: 13 French Street

13 French Street 13 French Street by Gil Brewer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was Brewer's big seller, with more than 1.2 million in sales and, from a literary standpoint, it certainly has some of his best prose. Although I'm more partial to Brewer's propulsive out-of-control style, the best example being A Taste For Sin, but 13 French Street has plenty of forward energy. Overall, I give it 4.5 stars, with the deduct being mainly for repetition, and that is partly by design as the bulk of the action takes claustrophobically place on the second floor of the house. As with Brewer's first novel - Satan Is a Woman - the femme fatale spends the first half of the novel teasing the protagonist - Alex Bland - into an obsessive and near insane frenzy. Once he's hooked the murders begin. A brilliant noir depicting Bland's self-destruction as his conscience is eroded by desire, at first reluctantly, then willfully, and finally under a haze of alcohol as he deliberately tries to drive away the pain he's caused himself by jettisoning his conscience.

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Monday, February 15, 2021

Review: In a Vanishing Room

In a Vanishing Room In a Vanishing Room by Robert Colby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Half of a Ace Double from 1961 telling the story of Paul Norris, a down-on-his-luck business man, traveling to NYC for a job interview when unbeknownst to him a highly valued receipt is planted on him. A woman, forewarned that Norris is carrying the receipt, meets him at the airport and hapless Norris, hoping to score, inadvertently gets involved in a criminal smuggling conspiracy. Failing to score, Norris decides to take advantage of the situation by trying to take a cut of the valuable cargo and then gets himself involved way over his head. Norris is very believable character, motivated by sex and money, and turns out to be less hapless than I had initially assumed. The short novel is a taut rollercoaster of chases and twists and turns. Highly recommended.

The ebook is available from Wildside Press and Amazon.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Review: Bloody Bush

Bloody Bush Bloody Bush by Len Levinson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book 3 in the series continues Sergeant Mahoney’s battles liberating Nazi occupied France in 1944. The Bloody Bush refers to hedgerows, wall-like vegetation very common in the area as it created numerous obstacles from everything from reconnaissance to impeding tank progress. There’s a shitload of endless hedgerows chapter after chapter. All of the action takes place on the front-line where characters are introduced then killed off then new characters are introduced then killed off. This became rather tedious and I was really hoping for some non-combat diversion which didn’t happen. The action sequences were well written, exciting, and nicely gory, and I really liked the historical references to actual events and people. Just an okay entry in the series compared to the first two books which I thought were superior.

Inexpensive ebook available from Piccadilly Publishing via Amazon

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Review: The Chased and the Unchaste

The Chased and the Unchaste The Chased and the Unchaste by Thomas B. Dewey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The seventh book in the “Mac” PI series finds Mac in Hollywood where he has been hired by a wealthy film producer to protect his young daughter from a kidnapping threat. Mac considers this to be a lucrative and easy job until a murder occurs and things begin to unravel. Dewey has a knack for creating fascinating female characters and here we have the saucy wife, the mousy governess and the cantankerous housekeeper, all with major roles in the narrative. The things that set Mac apart from the bevy of paperback original PIs of the era is that the characters and the plots are much more believable. Mac is a smart guy and he comes up with logical plans that don’t always go his way, rarely resorts to violence, and almost never gets the girl. Another fine novel from a writer who doesn’t get the respect or attention that he deserves.

Our friends at Wildside Press offers the ebook on Amazon.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Review: A Night for Screaming

A Night for Screaming A Night for Screaming by Harry Whittington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy habanero! Reached the point where I couldn't put this one down and had to sneak off somewhere for a couple of hours so I could finish it without being interrupted. Mitch Walker, our noir protagonist, is an ex-cop accused of murder. He can't prove his innocence and is afraid to be interrogated by his sadistic ex-partner who always gets the confession (scalding hot enemas is one of the proven torture techniques that has Mitch on the lam). We pick up the story with Mitch having hopped off a freight train in Kansas and he is quickly in hiding from the local police and his ex-partner. He "escapes" to Great Plains Empire Farm, which is staffed by prison labor and "employed" laborers who might as well be prisoners. Mitch almost immediately realizes he's made a mistake agreeing to take a job at the farm and begins plotting his escape. From that point on Whittington just keeps putting Mitch into more and more trouble and the plot surprises keep coming right up to the ending pages. Just a great fast-paced fun read and a noir thriller that completely delivers.

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Friday, January 22, 2021

Review: China Coaster

China Coaster China Coaster by Don Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An early adventure novel from Don Smith who went on to write the popular Secret Mission series. CHINA COASTER tells the story of Mike O’Connor, an American expatriate working as a ships captain in post-war China, a tumultuous time when emergent Communism and Chinese nationalism clashed. Adding to the complications are the infiltration of Soviet NKVD (precursor to KGB) agents, one of whom kills O’Connor’s lover which sparks an overarching revenge plot. O’Connor’s goal is to get out of the country before being detained by the Communists but is instead kidnapped and forced to work with Nationalist mobsters. After escaping he realizes that he can’t abide leaving until he avenges his lover’s murder setting up some extended hide and seek action. Well written with many fascinating details about China and the post-war time period. I though that it might be a little too ambitious and overly-detailed with a mind boggling rush of Chinese locations and characters which made following the story a bit of a chore. Still a fine book well worth seeking out and reading.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Review: Harry and the Bikini Bandits

Harry and the Bikini Bandits Harry and the Bikini Bandits by Basil Heatter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I first read back in junior-high that is every bit as fun as I remembered, even if there are no bikini bandits. Ok, maybe one. The form here is "my summer vacation" and it's a coming of age tale as seventeen-year-old Clay hunts down his uncle Harry and sails to the Bahamas with him aboard Harry's worn out old ketch Jezebel. That's the first third of the novel, which is a picaresque. And then, during the middle third, it turns into a heist novel as they plan and successfully rob a casino in Nassau. The final third completes Clay's coming of age in the usual ways: besting his uncle and finally losing his virginity. The end has a sweet twist that I won't spoil. The narration is first-person and the style is a cool mix of genre and literary quality free-indirect prose filtered through Clay's coming-of-age point of view. Good stuff!

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