Friday, May 29, 2020

Review: Northfield

Northfield Northfield by Johnny D. Boggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An original and brilliant retelling of the James-Younger gang assault on a bank in Northfield Minnesota in 1876. Each chapter is told in the first person by a different person that was somehow involved in the failed robbery that resulted in several deaths and injuries. I love how Boggs was able to give a unique voice to each of the characters, from a little girl who’s father was killed in the robbery to the violent outlaws, some of whom were surprisingly intelligent and utterly fascinating. You can tell that Boggs did a lot of research to make this as historically accurate as possible. A remarkable achievement and a terrific read. Recommended.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review: The Partridge Family: The Haunted Hall

The Partridge Family: The Haunted Hall The Partridge Family: The Haunted Hall by Michael Avallone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Michael Avallone wrote a lot of TV tie-ins and other work-for hire but he was no hack. This nicely crafted short novel tells the story of a single mother and her five children as they fight for survival in a house long abandoned by an insane arsonist, a man who intends to reclaim his property - in flames! The story focuses on eldest daughter Laurie, who's sexual obsessions with Duke, leader of a violent band of young squatters, and Jerry, a heroic film actor, drive the tight plot, as the musical family prepares to perform at at an outdoor concert event. In general I found the novel rather juvenile, and clearly intended for a younger audience. The short book has a distinct "Goosebumps" vibe, but with a startling amount of dated American slang and pop culture references. Rating this on the "Goosebumps" scale, I give this three stars. Your milage may vary.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Review: Case of the Cop's Wife

Case of the Cop's Wife Case of the Cop's Wife by Milton K. Ozaki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The cop’s wife is inadvertently abducted during the getaway of a heist, and to further complicate things she’s getting ready to give birth at any minute. Her husband, the cop, is a hard-nosed robbery detective which lends itself to the police procedural feel of the book rather than a typical heist story narrative. The entire books takes place in a few hours and the compressed time keeps things moving at a breakneck pace. The criminal characters were very well drawn and the dialog between them was strong point as the novel shifts viewpoints from the police investigation to the criminal’s flight and hide-out. Yet another excellent Gold Medal crime book.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Review: Valley of Vultures


Valley of Vultures by Paul Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Manning Lee Stokes, probably best known for his Nick Carter: Killmaster books, authored this book, the fifth in the Expeditor series. It's a wild spy adventure with John Eagle, undercover and unarmed, traveling to Ecuador to investigate a suspicious resort that promises youth to rich old men. Eagle soon uncovers testicle-transplanting Nazis, nymphomaniacs, grown-up Hitler youth, and a little lesbian porn filmmaking throw in for good measure. Stokes is in fine form here compared to his previous Expeditor efforts, the first two books in the series, which had a fairly high snore factor. This book is engaging and very well written throughout. The last quarter of the book shifts gears and sends Eagle on a second mission to Ecuador, fully armed this time, to deal with Hitler's son - of all people. Eagle befriends a horny and hilarious native girl who provides some appreciated levity in this mission, which surprisingly turns out to be just as engaging as the first. Definitely the best in the series so far. This book is big-ass Buick great!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Review: The Double Take

The Double Take The Double Take by Roy Huggins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Roy Huggins, the legendary Hollywood producer and screenwriter, started his career as a detective novelist. He was clearly a follower of Raymond Chandler - not a bad thing. Wise cracking PI Stuart Bailey gets involved over his head in this nicely plotted crime caper, meeting a slew of interesting characters, getting beat up, and doggedly chasing the twisting clues to a satisfying conclusion. The novel is certainly on par with the best of the 1940s era hard-boiled PI books that I've read. He later adapted this book for a film called I Love Trouble starring Franchot Tone which is very underrated. Someone has put it up on YouTube. Not a great print but it's watchable, and definitely worth watching.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Review: Double Wide

Double Wide Double Wide by Leo W. Banks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A washed up and dejected baseball pitcher named Whip Stark now lives in a makeshift trailer court in the Arizona desert with an oddball bunch of trailer tenants. When a friend’s amputated hand appears on his doorstep he puts on his amateur detective cap and gets involved in a complex web of murders, drug cartels, and baseball scandals. A female TV reporter ends up partnering with smart-alecky Whip and I really liked the witty banter between them. The subtle and clever humor throughout the whole book is a real joy. Whip Stark is a terrific character with an interesting backstory that explains how a young baseball phenom ended up in a rundown desert trailer - and he also loves the same vintage crime books that I do. Nicely plotted and paced and entertaining as hell. I loved it. Recommended.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Review: Go, Honeylou: A Pete Schofield Caper

Go, Honeylou: A Pete Schofield Caper Go, Honeylou: A Pete Schofield Caper by Thomas B. Dewey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Married couple Pete and Jeannie Schofield are a lot like Nick and Nora Charles, except Pete is more hard-boiled and Jeannie is a lot more frisky. The novel is a screwball detective romp with Pete getting beat up, and the women undressing for various reasons as they attempt to unravel a caper that includes murder, kidnapping, prostitution, a disputed inheritance, and $250,00 in hidden cash. Lots of playful banter between the married couple, and a solid plot that takes place during an assignment to transport a young Texas beauty from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with stops in Bakersfield and other locations. Fun stuff in the tradition of the Richard S. Prather and Craig Rice stories.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Review: Some Must Die

Some Must Die Some Must Die by Gil Brewer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Gil Brewer is renowned for his over-the-top noir paperback originals, all brimming with violence and sexual obsession. His lone attempt at writing a Western proves to be a drawn-out and aggravating novel that tells the story of six unlucky characters snowbound in a cabin with a saddlebag full of stolen money. This trope provides the conflict and forwards the minimalist plot. The characters showed illogical restraint when it came to violence when a killing or two could have resolved the conflicts and ended this dirge fifty pages early. This may have worked better as a short story or novelette. Stick with Brewer's crime novels, which may be inconsistent, but often burn as brightly as the best of the crime fiction of the era.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Review: The Thousand Mile Case

The Thousand Mile Case The Thousand Mile Case by J.R. Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clint Adams, The Gunsmith, helps out a stranger in an unfair shootout, killing a few men, although the stranger and the men hunting him all end up dead too. Clint wonders why the men chased the stranger 1000 miles across the country, and why he was forced to kill men that he didn’t even know. Clint journeys to the town were the men came from and starts investigating, although his efforts are initially rebuffed by the cautious townsfolk. The Gunsmith books are all heavily dialogue driven and are typically action-packed mystery stories. This is a good one. An enjoyable and easy read - perfect escapist fare.

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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Review: Lament for Julie

Lament for Julie Lament for Julie by Robert Colby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A past love triangle finds Julie married to Steadman, with Corwin the odd man out. Tough guy Corwin holds no grudge and they remain close friends. Steadman goes to sea and when he returns he finds that wife Julie has been killed in a suspicious hit-and-run. Steadman starts investigating and ends up dead in an apparent suicide. Corwin assumes that they have both been murdered and comes back to town for answers and vengeance. Corwin turns out to be a proto-vigilante type, driven and violent, who suspects and then ingratiates himself with the rich and corrupt Vollmer family that runs the town, and then proceeds to get laid and kick some serious ass. A propulsive plot with several interesting characters and plenty of sex and violence are my low-brow expectations for a great book and this one covers all the bases. Recommended.