Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Review: Thuvia, Maid of Mars

Thuvia, Maid of Mars Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A beautiful young princess is kidnapped and needs to be rescued by a heroic Earth/Mars adventurer is once again the plot here with the hero being Carthoris, the son of John Carter and Dejah Thoris (who are now perhaps too old or important for this type of thing) and the princess being Thuvia, a character from the previous books in the series. To complicate matters Thuvia’s hand has been promised to another, of course Carthoris is in love with her, and then he is framed for her kidnapping which threatens a global war. Again the meat of the story is discovery and adventure providing Carthoris with exciting travels across Barsoom meeting new creatures and civilizations from ERB’s amazing imagination. I particularly like the ancient imaginary bowmen that could materialize and take substance and the then greatest of them becomes a sentient being and an ally to Carthoris. The stilted dialog and prose, and the predictability of the story took away some of the enjoyment here and I give this entry three stars.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Review: The Warlord of Mars

The Warlord of Mars The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Takes up immediately following the cliffhanger at the end of Gods of Mars. John Carter has remained on Mars and is consumed with rescuing Dejah Thoris and Thuvia from the year-long trap. Unfortunately the troublesome Thule and First Born captors escape with them first and Carter becomes the pursuer with plenty of near miss rescues and exciting escapes. Burroughs continues with the blistering pace of the previous book and introduces yet another lost race of Barsoom, yellow skinned humanoids. A very worthy final chapter to the Barsoom trilogy, just as imaginative and exciting as the preceding stories and perhaps the best of the three. The epic battle at the end and the followup tie up everything nicely. Loved it. Five stars.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Review: Desire in the Dust

Desire in the Dust Desire in the Dust by Harry Whittington
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The characters are all stock and by the time they are introduced in the first few chapters you will already know what is going to happen. I read on in the hope of being surprised in the way that so many of these Gold Medal books do with plot twists and off-the-rails character behavior. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this one. Everything I thought would happen did, including the big reveal that was guessed at back on about page 10. In the meantime I had to endure long stretches of expository dialog. The characters are well-drawn and the plot nicely ordered, but this is all so familiar and predictable. First published in 1956, so maybe it gets a pass because reading it now, after several generations of TV and movies have followed this formula, I shouldn't be surprised that it seems familiar. However, this one is completely formulaic in a way that is unlike most of Whittington's other novels.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Review: The Seventh

The Seventh The Seventh by Richard Stark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This seventh Parker novel is a beaut. One of the things I'm really enjoying as I reread all these Parker novels is the way that Stark (Donald Westlake) varies the formula from book to book. The style has the same forceful elegance. And Parker is the perfect mix of amorality and practicality. There are heists and complications from within the crew and antagonists from without. There's the four part structure, with the third part in the POV of the antagonist. These are the staples of a Parker novel. But StarkLake always mixes up the emphasis. Sometimes it's the heist planning, sometimes it's the heist itself, sometimes it's the aftermath, and sometimes it's all about complications with the crew or with the antagonists getting the upper hand. In The Seventh, which begins with Parker kicking in an apartment door, it starts right off with the antagonist having the upper hand along with the loot from the heist. The heist itself already in the rear view mirror from page 1. Although we do get a nice backstory recap in summary form later in the novel. (Starklake was so confident in this story that he felt he could skip a cool heist about a stadium robbery!) So the progression here is Parker trying to figure out and find who stole the loot Parker was safeguarding for the crew. First he has to determine if someone among the crew is freelancing. The Seventh is probably my favorite so far of the first seven books in the series. A bit shorter, a bit faster paced, and Parker is equally in danger and kicking ass. Has some really nice set-piece scenes.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Review: The Gods of Mars

The Gods of Mars The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Carter, reluctantly transported back to Earth at the end of PRINCESS OF MARS, manages to get back to Mars after several years and ends up in the Barsoom forbidden zone fighting a slew of plant and ape monsters, and a surprise meet up with his pal the green Tars Tarkas the Jeddak of Thark. The novel then races at breakneck speed through fights, captures and escapes, and epic battles. ERBs world building skills are exceptional and he introduces more Barsoom races with their histories, imaginative foreign landscapes, and creatures. The character Thuvia is introduced and she will play a bigger part in the series going forward. Bear in mind that the stilted and florid early 20th century style of prose might pose a barrier to some readers. It’s clearly worth the effort to accommodate the language and enjoy this terrific sci-fi adventure novel.

This work is in the public domain and freely available from https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/64

Review: Sex and the Stewardess

Sex and the Stewardess Sex and the Stewardess by John Warren Wells
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

John Warren Wells was a pseudonym used by Lawrence Block for a whole series of these supposedly sociological/cultural studies of sexual behavior during the Sexual Revolution in the mid-late 1960s and early 1970s. Here we have "interviews" with stewardesses conducted by Wells. Made up, of course. There are interviews with eight typecast stews: the swinger, the good kid, the hooker, the celebrity hound, etc. Lots of made up biography and armchair psychology and cliched fantasy about hyper-sexual stewardesses. In the introduction it is suggested that stewardesses have replaced farmer's daughters as the new male fantasy (this is 1969). "She is every man's dream mistress, pleasant and poised, neatly groomed and becomingly coifed, cool under stress, always smiling, and - because she is booked on another flight tomorrow morning - as conveniently disposable as an air sickness bag." Even if this ilk of book is all fictional it is an interesting cultural time-machine.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Lone Star and the Master of Death

Lone Star 66 Lone Star and the Master of Death by Wesley Ellis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Old pro Paul Lederer, author of 250+ novels, contributed this one and he loads up the story with gunfights, corruption, race riots, silver robberies, explosions, plus Ki’s teacher and master from Japan is in town to kill him for deflowering his granddaughter! Lederer is a fine writer and his prose and dialogue are pitch perfect for the established characters, the tough-as-nails Jessie Starbuck and her faithful protector Ki, the Japanese Samurai and martial arts expert. The premise behind the Lone Star novels, the strong partnership and friendship between Jessie and Ki, distinguishes itself from most other Adult Western series which typically involve a lone male gunslinger type. I really like this. This is a terrific entry in an entertaining and fun series. I can find no faults with this novel, even the often superfluous and puerile obligatory sex scenes are well integrated into the story and well written. Five stars.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 21, 2022

Review: One Endless Hour

One Endless Hour One Endless Hour by Dan J. Marlowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great sequel to Marlowe's The Name of the Game Is Death, which is one of my all-time favorite crime/noir novels. In this one Earl Drake gets a new face to replace the one he burned at the end of the last book, followed by escaping from a prison sanitarium with plans to rob a couple of banks. The ending sequence is completely whacked out and not something you will see coming.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Review: Sugar

Sugar Sugar by Gil Brewer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Uneven - at times exciting and propulsive, yet also frustrating because I can feel Brewer making this up as he goes. Was starting to lose interest and then just before the midpoint, in pages 60-68, blammo! Two major plot twists and Brewer has the story off and running again. Not without some more wheel-spinning though, as if Brewer couldn’t quite figure out where to take things - including a scene that literally involves a car stuck in the mud spinning its wheels (yes, the unconscious is a cruel master!) - but the last 70 or so pages (160 total) really rip as it is one complication after another and the first-person narrator is in a constant state of agitation. Brewer at his best brought the hallmarks of Woolrich and Poe - narrators consumed with obsession, paranoia, agitation, all converted to tension and suspense - to noir. His style tends more to short paragraphs than Woolrich and Poe, and that gives a propulsive pace to Brewer's books. This style is ever-present in Sugar as we have Jess Cotten, who owns a business selling and installing air-conditioners, in the throes of desperation because he needs money, money, MONEY. He's the everyman who crosses the line into crime when he meets the minx Selma and she asks for his help to get the MONEY she and her murderer boyfriend stole and hid. Brewer is so good at describing the sexual tension when he has his everyman and femme-fatale alone in a room, but rarely is this tension consummated. There are 4 or 5 of these tease and deny scenes in Sugar. Too bad Brewer didn't write for Midwood or Beacon or some of the other sleaze publishers!

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Review: Manhattan Massacre

Manhattan Massacre Manhattan Massacre by Peter McCurtin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Peter McCurtin’s take on the “Lone Man against the Mafia” theme is heavily derivative upon Don Pendleton’s Executioner series in ways that I won’t go into and rather focus more on the differences. The main thing that sets the Assassin apart is that Robert Briganti operates in the open, he announces himself and his intentions to the media, then doggedly pursues his targets much like a hard-boiled cop or private eye. The Executioner relies more on stealth and espionage techniques, more James Bond than Mike Hammer. Not much new here from a plot perspective (even Pendleton ran out of ways to kill off the Mafia after 38 books) although the Briganti character is well fleshed out and interesting, the story moves at a blistering pace, and McCurtin’s writing is solid and evocative. Manhattan Massacre is easily equal to the best of the slew of 1970s war against the Mafia books. I would like to read more books in this series. Not sure if they have been republished or if I have to track down the old paperbacks. I’ll give this one four stars.

View all my reviews