Monday, January 10, 2022

Review: Wild Town

Wild Town Wild Town by Jim Thompson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Although not the main protagonist, Lou Ford, a character from two other classic Thompson novels - The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280 is nonetheless the prime mover as he sets things in motion by releasing Bugs McKenna from jail and arranging his hire as a hotel detective. Plenty of noir dealings and double dealings, but the plot and the narrative shifts are almost incomprehensible at times. The ending, where Lou Ford spends five pages describing what really happened, pretty much confirmed my sense that Thompson had lost control of the narrative and had to tell us what he'd fail to show in the course of the novel. Not Thompson's best, but it does have buried within some details best described as the Lou Ford origin story.

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Saturday, January 8, 2022

Review: The Wayward Wahine

The Wayward Wahine The Wayward Wahine by Carter Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this the third of 28 books featuring private investigator Danny Boyd, the action and the double-crosses drive the narrative at a fast pace and Boyd is resourceful enough to survive car chases, gun battles, and a burning yacht. Not as much pointless banter compared to other Carter Brown books I've read as Boyd actually does some investigating, but let's not kid ourselves that he's actually solving anything, as one by one the conspirators confess their roles. Not a spectacular crime/noir, but there's still plenty of activity and the story moves relentlessly forward without too much annoying dialog to bog it down.

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 Haiku: The Devil's Dooryard


 
The Devil's Dooryard
by Wilbur Coleman Tuttle

 

  


 

Action and Chuckles
Hashknife and Sleepy style.
Bullets and Rustlers collide.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Review: A Swell-Looking Babe

A Swell-Looking Babe A Swell-Looking Babe by Jim Thompson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a strange little novel. The first chapter really baits the hook and then the narrative wanders for 35 or so pages, where I was wondering ok what is the point of all this? - although it will all become important by the end of the book - and then blammo, we are headlong into a blackmail and hotel robbery scheme. So there are two main threads involving Dusty, our noir protagonist, who is a bellhop at a hotel. He is "taking care" of his father who is in ill health. As the novel progresses this thread goes from what appears to be filler material to the primary arc of the novel. And then there is the hotel robbery as Dusty gets involved with gangster Tug and Marcia, the "sweel-looking babe" of the title. The robbery thread has all kinds of twists and turns, appears to be the primary arc, but by the end is actually a side plot. The close third-person narrative gets all inside of Dusty's manic head and that is what gives the novel all of its forward energy. The robbery plot doesn't always make a whole lot of sense and at times it seemed like Thompson was making it up as he went along, as if he added in the robbery as filler for the story he really wanted to tell about Dusty's relationship with his father. The ending was a bit confusing, and even after reading it a dozen times I'm still not sure what happened.

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Sunday, January 2, 2022

Review: The Jade-Eyed Jungle

The Jade-Eyed Jungle The Jade-Eyed Jungle by Carter Brown
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is the fourth of 35 in the Rick Holman series and the second one that I've read. Plot here is pretty much the same as Murder in the Key Club: Holman is hired and the jerk who hires him spends the whole book doing an end-around Holman, which begs the point of why hire him in the first place? Never explained. Throughout, Holman snarls a lot of dialogue that goes nowhere, investigates without investigating, and, spoiler alert, but not really because there are 31 more of these Holman books to follow, he wins the concluding gun battle, which is the only action in this 125 page book. Carter Brown (pseudo for Alan Yates) had a gazillion books in print in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I've yet to hear from a true fan, so keep trying these out to see what the excitement was all about. Answer not found in The Jade-eyed Jungle.

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Saturday, January 1, 2022

Review: Swamp Nymph

Swamp Nymph Swamp Nymph by John Burton Thompson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Written in 1962 Thompson’s literary and elegant prose are a poor fit for a swamp sleaze novel and I found myself skimming and looking forward to the end of the book. The first three quarters of the book are alternating expository character studies introducing the two main characters, and the last quarter their inexplicable meeting in a Louisiana swamp. The author doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on male/female relationships providing a series of bizarre and nonsensical romantic and sex scenes. The solid prose and dialog were enough to keep me from ditching the book, but Thompson’s fine writing skills aren’t enough to redeem this snorefest. One star.

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Thursday, December 30, 2021

Review: A Touch of Death

A Touch of Death A Touch of Death by Charles Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The beginning is quite clever as ex-football star Lee Scarborough responds to an ad of someone looking to buy a car and completely by chance meets up with Diana James who sizes him up and recruits him to help her find $120,000 in stolen money. Williams also uses a clever plot device when about a quarter of the way through the novel Scarborough, who started out scheming with one femme-fatale, takes up with another. This switch adds an extra kick to an already fast moving storyline. Plenty of action and suspenseful plot points keep the pages turning to find out who gets the money and who lives or dies. To provide more specifics risks a spoiler, but this novel has most of the archetypal film-noir elements, and it is surprising that, unlike twelve other of Williams’ novels, that this one was never made into a movie.

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Review: Fancy Anders Goes To War: Who Killed Rosie The Riveter?

Fancy Anders Goes To War: Who Killed Rosie The Riveter? Fancy Anders Goes To War: Who Killed Rosie The Riveter? by Max Allan Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This well researched short novel captures the lives of WWII Women at Work while providing a terrific mystery yarn that introduces Fancy Anders, socialite and daughter of a renowned detective, who goes undercover at an airplane factory to help solve the suspicious death of a woman that held the job previously. Fancy is a woman before her time, rebelling against the regimented lives of women in the 1940s. She is adventurous and fearless with modern sensibilities. I really liked the tight, compelling mystery plot, the dialog that contains several 1940s pop culture references and slang, and the cast of characters, especially her new friend Lulu. There are a couple other books in this series that I am looking forward to reading. Loved it.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Review: Murder for the Bride

Murder for the Bride Murder for the Bride by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was MacDonald's second novel, published in 1951, and he steered completely away from the hard-boiled detective style of his first novel and produced an espionage novel full of Russian spies and ex-Nazis. But this is no John LeCarre style spy novel because it features an everyman protagonist in the classic noir sense. Dillon Bryant is a geological engineer scouting oil formations in Venezuela. He's fresh from a three-day honeymoon but has left his wife home in New Orleans. When he receives a letter saying that his wife is in trouble, he rushes home, only to find when he gets to his apartment that his wife has been murdered. The plot takes an intriguing turn as we learn that he'd married Laura after a quick whirlwind romance and that she is not what she seemed. Bryant initially refuses to believe what he hears and sets off trying to discover who she really was. Before too long he realizes he's a patsy and is embroiled in a plot involving Russian sleeper cells. From that point on there are plenty of plot twists and action to keep the pages turning until the end.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Review: Any Woman He Wanted

Any Woman He Wanted Any Woman He Wanted by Harry Whittington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this was published by Beacon in 1960 as a sleaze novel, it was originally written by Whittington as sequel to Brute in Brass, which was published by Fawcett Gold Medal. Whittington intended Mike Ballard as a series character but Gold Medal rejected this sequel. The hilarious thing is that anyone buying this based on the cover thinking that they were getting a story about a guy making time with four women was seriously disappointed. There is not so much as a kiss in the entire book. Hard to understand Gold Medal's rejection because this is just about the equal to Brute in Brass. The primary difference is that Any Woman He Wanted is not a noir. It is just a straight ahead crime novel. The novel starts with Ballard, now a homicide detective showing up at the scene of a robbery. A nice set-piece scene that establishes character via action. After that things slow down a bit with Ballard's back story, both pre- and post-Brute in Brass. So we learn more about his history, and for those who have read Brute, we find out what happened after that novel ended. It is now four years later and Ballard is a clean, but hobbled, cop. Enter new plot complications. He meets with the DA, who tries to hire him as a special investigator. Ballard knows that is death warrant and refuses. Next day the DA is dead and it is game on. The rest of the novel tracks Ballard as he battles it out with the new criminals who run the town.

280Steps has re-released this one as an eBook and it is also available in a Stark House edition along with A Night for Screaming.

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