Thursday, December 31, 2020

Review: Legend of the Black Rose

Legend of the Black Rose Legend of the Black Rose by A.W. Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are a lot of demands on the first book in a planned series, introducing multiple characters, backstories, locations, etc. This book does a solid job with all of these although I felt that the descriptive prose was a bit excessive and it seemed over long, like 50 pages could have been cut. This was probably mostly due to the nature of being the first book so it’s forgivable. A young woman named Catalina Riviera, well trained in martial arts, is rescued by a convent of nuns after her family is slaughtered in a raid. The nuns are warriors themselves, protecting underground springs with metaphysical properties, and Catalina is a welcome addition. Catalina assumes a Zorro-like disguised identity called the Black Rose, a crime fighting vigilante in her efforts to bring the persons responsible for her family’s murder to justice. A bevy of interesting characters are introduced, some unlikely alliances, a couple of twists, and an explosive climax all contribute to a satisfying read.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Review: Love-Starved Woman

Love-Starved Woman Love-Starved Woman by Peggy Gaddis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this fast-paced pulp romance. Fantastic dialog in places, with insults thrown back and forth in a way that I'd think was quite edgy in 1953. The plot is a bit straight-forward, but has a enough twists to keep the pages turning. Starts off tightly leashed to Isobel Lamar's POV and then roves around amongst the other characters. At first this POV switch was unsettling but it quickly became a strength of the novel as it rounds out the perspective of the situations and the characters. Nothing too exciting. Just a good time-capsule into small town 1950s life. And Gaddis is on top of her game with energetic and sharp prose. This is a digest-sized paperback original published in 1953 by Croydon. Can't find any record of this having been reprinted, which is quite rare for a Peggy Gaddis novel. Cover art by Bern Safran, who painted a lot of the early Croydon covers.

View all my reviews

Friday, December 18, 2020

Review: House of Flesh

House of Flesh House of Flesh by Bruno Fischer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great noir from 1950 that deserves to be ranked with the classics of the genre. Really surprised that this was never made into a movie because it has all the elements. I've seen this one labeled as horror or "male-gothic," but neither of those labels fit as this is straight-ahead noir. Harry Wilde is a pro-basketball player reeling from a divorce and a loss in the final game of the championship series. He goes to the countryside for the summer to regroup. He plays around a bit with young and beautiful Polly Wellman until he meets Lela Doane, the wife of a local veterinarian (who is rumored to have murdered his first wife and fed her body to the vicious dogs he keeps). Harry soon makes the classic mistake that drives so many noir plots as he pursues a torrid affair with Lela. The plot complications accelerate from there as Harry, wanting to have Lela Doane for himself, tries to prove that Doane killed his first wife, starting with a search for her bones on Doane's property. Fischer keeps the plot and the atmosphere thick throughout. Perhaps a bit too much dialog for my taste toward at the very end as it wraps up the way a lot of mystery novels do with the unraveling of the who- and how-dunnit, but all-in-all a great noir.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Review: Vengeance at Ventura

Vengeance at Ventura Vengeance at Ventura by George G. Gilman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Edge books are characterized by their extreme violence, solid plotting, and breakneck pacing making them typically entertaining fast reads. The main character, a lone gunslinger named Edge, is a damaged man prone to nihilism and brutality which can often be pretty repellent. This 37th entry in the series finds Edge surprisingly altruistic, having some thoughts of romance, and a tendency to kill only fellers that deserve it. Maybe the character has matured, or maybe he’s just in a good mood for this book. Crystal Dickens, an interesting woman from the previous book (which I now need to find and read), plays a major role helping Edge resolve a family feud involving a religious zealot who has been building an ark in the desert with money stolen from his family, and who subsequently steals Edge’s horse. There are several other well drawn characters and I think that making Edge more self-reflective and less amoral help to make this one of the stronger entries in the series.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Review: The Deceivers

The Deceivers The Deceivers by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Carl Garrett's wife Joan goes into the hospital to have ovarian tumors removed and he chooses this time to have an affair with the next door neighbor? Yes, and you know this can't end well. MacDonald is masterful with the character development, the inner turmoil, the sordid details of the affair, and just devastating in how he spins out the consequences. He went maybe a bit overboard in the second quarter of the book with the backstory, but the last half of the novel was riveting.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Review: A Taste for Sin

A Taste for Sin A Taste for Sin by Gil Brewer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are looking for a fast-paced noir thriller to lose yourself in for a few hours this Gil Brewer masterpiece is the one. Brewer removed the filter and just blew up the page. If you are a fan of crime-noir and haven't read this book yet, then you are missing out on a centerpiece of the genre.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 7, 2020

Review: The Removers

The Removers The Removers by Donald Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third book in the series finds Matt Helm becoming reacquainted with his ex-wife Beth and his children after receiving an unsolicited message from her asking for his help. In a bit of a stretch, the visit to Beth’s new husband’s ranch happens to coincide with an espionage mission to track down a criminal formerly known as Martel. It turns out that Martel has replaced Beth's new husband as an enforcer with a local mobster. Helm meets and seduces an alluring younger woman named Moira, who turns out to be the mobster's daughter, leading to some interesting exchanges between the two women. The danger to his family, making the danger personal, failed to soften up Helm. He is just and cold-blooded and ruthless as ever, which I thought was a nice touch in keeping up character consistency. Coincidences aside, I thought that this was a great book, fast moving with several unexpected twists. Hamilton’s writing is strong as he continues to flesh out the Matt Helm character with Helm's clever insights and observations. This reminded me a lot of how John D. MacDonald fleshed out Travis McGee in that excellent series. Five stars.


View all my reviews

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Review: Death House Doll

Death House Doll Death House Doll by Day Keene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you like the classic hard-boiled detective novels, this one fits right in. Keene, as he often did, twists the genre a bit by not using a detective to do the detecting. Here it is an army sergeant on leave checking up on his dead brother's wife and child. As the book begins he's visiting her in prison because she's the death house doll. Plenty of action and twists and turns as the sergeant, a medal of honor winner, takes on hoods and cops as he tries to solve the crime and free his brother's wife from death row before she is executed in five days. Just a couple of things made this clunky. A lot of information is learned through too conveniently over-heard conversations. And then the big summary reveal at the end, although that is a convention of the mystery genre, I wish it could have had a more active ending.

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Review: Call South 3300: Ask for Molly!

Call South 3300: Ask for Molly! Call South 3300: Ask for Molly! by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If there was ever an Orrie Hitt book set up for one of his $300 abortion plot lines this was it, but not much of a spoiler to say no abortions here. Slade Martin is a hard charging sales director and Ann Frank is a secretary moonlighting as a prostitute. Hitt sticks to their POVs, alternating chapters, and actually does a deep dive (if not very nuanced) into their motivations and this gives the narrative a welcome edginess. The business is the manufacture and selling of TV sets, but Hitt does not explore that milieu with any depth, and that is a disappointment because one of the fun things about reading Hitt's books is that he typically provided a time capsule look into 1950s/1960s business. Not so much this time. Likewise with conventions. Despite the tease on the jacket copy, the convention aspect is barely shown. So don't read this expecting a take on conventions. Plenty of other vintage sleaze books to a better job of showing convention hi-jinks. And it would have been better with more of a noir plot as the prostitution angle doesn't get edgy at all. This is mostly a character study of two needy people. What do they need and will they be satisfied? Although disappointing in many ways, Hitt did more with character than usual, and that made it more interesting than some of his other books. And this was actually one of the few times that Hitt surprised me with the direction he went with the ending. The Beacon paperback is scarce, but there is now an eBook version available.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 27, 2020

Review: Wolf Pack

Wolf Pack Wolf Pack by David Robbins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Wilderness series is an interesting take on the historical fiction Mountain Man genre in that the main character, Nate King, is an educated man and a family man, as opposed to the loner survivalist types that typically dominate these types of stories. This changes the dynamic significantly since being a protector of his beloved family raises the stakes when danger threatens, as it surely will in adventure books. David Robbins, is a pro and this short novel is well-written with smart dialogue and a compelling plot that tells the story of Nate King and his family investigating a murder assumed to be committed by trappers from their peaceful valley before a retaliation effort is mounted by angry Native American warriors. The trail leads to a conflict with a band of particularly ruthless and violent outlaws that have been brutally terrorizing innocent settlers and pilgrims. This is not an Adult Western series, so although violence and gore are plentiful there are no awkward sex scenes or foul language. A solid entry in a dependably reliable series.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Review: Border Town Girl

Border Town Girl Border Town Girl by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A collection of two novellas that shows off some of the things MacDonald does best as a writer. With Border Town Girl, a story of a down-on-his-luck ex-jounalist turned novelist who is set up as a drug smuggling mule, the first two chapters are MacDonald at his absolute best: set pieces that establish the plot and reveal character from the inside out, as we see these two characters dealing with their inner demons and then see them left for dead. Linda is a terrific noir plot featuring an "everyman" who falls for a femme fatale and then becomes the victim of her plot to set him up for murder. MacDonald excels at character and Linda is one of the great femme fatale characters in noir.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 23, 2020

Review: Out of the Sea

Out of the Sea Out of the Sea by Don Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A hard-boiled seafaring adventure tale telling the story of Brian Hart, a WW2 vet who finds a lucrative and exciting career as a smuggler in the Spanish Mediterranean after coming back from the war - very dangerous and highly illegal work. Hart navigates through storms, naval police raids, beatings, and double crosses while trying to keep his hot-blooded Spanish girlfriend satisfied, especially after her father is murdered and she blames him. Of course Hart has to find the murderer, an investigation requiring infiltrating some very unsavory smugglers and criminals, and then some cat-and-mouse action when he is accused of being a communist on top of a smuggler and pretty much everyone is out to get him. Adventure novels on the high seas appeal to me and this is a terrific one, with lots of fascinating details of post-war Mediterranean smuggling routes and locations, mostly Tangier to Mallorca, inspiring me to read up on these locations which I previously knew nothing about. This novel is one of the few Giant Fawcett Gold Medal books that the publisher released under the Red Seal imprint for their longer books, this one is 264 pages, and unfortunately long out of print.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Review: Hell Hath No Fury

Hell Hath No Fury Hell Hath No Fury by Charles Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’d forgotten just how subversive this 1953 Williams noir was. Unlike some of his other blackmail driven plots - The Big Bite and A Touch of Death, for example - which both feature an everyman protagonist narrator driven to crime by hard luck and the lure of a sexy woman, Harry Madox is a criminal from the get go. In this novel Charles Williams and Jim Thompson are simpatico. The other writer I kept thinking about when casting for comparisons, however, is Cornell Woolrich, because for much of the novel we have unrelenting fear, dread, paranoia, and a mind threatening to unhinge with the ticking clock. Plenty of reviews describe the plot, so I will just give you the ingredients: a smooth-talking amoral drifter; a reckless femme-fatale; a nice girl hiding nasty secrets; a scummy blackmailer; a crafty Sheriff; a sultry small town in Texas; and a bank begging to be robbed. There's a 1990 movie version titled The Hot Spot. Directed by Dennis Hopper and starring Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen and Jennifer Connelly. The movie is pretty darn faithful to the novel, which is not so surprising as the screenplay was originally written by Charles Williams (with Nona Tyson) in 1962. The scenes are all there. The only thing the movie really couldn’t duplicate from the novel is the narrative interiority, and not having that to amp up the in-between scene tension made the movie a bit flatter than the novel. What the faithful scene rendering of the movie does is reflect back how many great scenes the novel has. An awesome noir not to be missed.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Review: Lust Dupe

Lust Dupe Lust Dupe by Harry Whittington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the famed "missing 38" vintage sleaze novels by Harry Whittington. To my sensibilities this is also a lost and waiting to be re-discovered noir masterpiece. Although different in style, it is on par with the best of Whittington's Gold Medal published noirs. There's plenty of action, but what drives this story is the inner turmoil, the "inside voice" of the noir characters. Jim Harper is a bank teller in a small mid-western town who is dying on the inside because of the future he imagines. Into the bank walks Nora "you look like you were made out of hundred dollar bills" Bayer. Jim's a goner. After she spends eight days decking and wrecking him he will do anything she wants. Cue the bank robbery, where a guard is killed and Jim is taken hostage by Nora and her two accomplices. The rest of the novel is delicious disintegration. Noir never offers a way out. The only question is how will these lives shatter and what damage will the shrapnel cause. This was written early in Whittington's run of 38 novels for Greenleaf/Corinth, before he was burnt out by the one novel per month pace, and it still has all the character development, plotting, and action that he put into his "mainstream" crime/noir novels. My sense is that perhaps, at least when he wrote this one, that he also felt freed by writing for the vintage sleaze market: he could give voice to these characters in a way that wouldn't pass the editorial gatekeepers at Fawcett. That's how it reads to me, anyway. Awesome noir. Tough to find, but well worth tracking down.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Review: Fringe Benefits

Fringe Benefits Fringe Benefits by Rock Anthony
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

What we actually have here, despite the front and back cover jacket copy, is a story about the fight for control of the Polar Bear Corporation (they sell household freezers). Steve Turko, our bored and not terribly ambitious (or bright) protagonist, is actually more interested in getting laid than he is taking over the company, yet he still manages to land in the middle of all the office politics. He's a door-to-door salesman and the main pawn majority shareholder Adele Crandon is pushing around the chessboard. The problem here is that Rock Anthony (despite having a good "house name") is not in the same writing league as John D. MacDonald or Harry Whittington. The executives are dolts and the dialog is moronic. Sure, this is mindless sleaze, but it is all just too unrealistic, including the numerous sex scenes, to be worth the effort. Popular with collectors, however, because of the Paul Radar cover art.

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Review: Down and Out

Down and Out Down and Out by Les Masters
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Although the POV jumps around a several times into other character's perspectives, which does help to round out the story, the primary focal character that I guess we are supposed to identify with is Joe Ryan, the sleaze-bag manager of a finance company that specializes in making loans to people who have no other options. His go-to move is to take young women seeking loans to a motel where sex is their collateral for loan approval. But Ryan is under investigation for his shady loans and a couple of the women are also bent on revenge. He has a private detective helping him gather intel on his enemies and the main drama (aside from Ryan getting laid a lot) is whether he will avoid getting arrested for his sleazy lending practices. Plenty of interesting angles and setups but just not written well enough to make this vintage sleazer the cracker of a noir that it could have been.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Review: Escape to Sindom

Escape to Sindom Escape to Sindom by Don Elliott
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Big disappointment after a promising jailbreak start. Only enough plot in these 160 pages for a short story. If you must know, Sparkman breaks out of a small town Iowa jail, steals a car and heads for Mexico. Along the way, in a small town in Missouri, he hooks up with Janey, a waitress looking to make her own break. Sparkman is not the sharpest tool, even though he thinks he is, and he travels too slow and makes too many mistakes for this escape to be believable. But this thin plot is just an excuse for a lot of sex scenes that are really not worth the bother.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 13, 2020

Review: Kept Man

Kept Man Kept Man by Don Elliott (pseudo.)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In addition to being one of the most prolific of the vintage sleaze authors with more than 150 written under various pseudonyms, Robert Silverberg was also one of the best stylists. You can usually count on at least decent characterization of the protagonist and that is what we have here. David Starnes, the kept man of the title, is a playwright battling writer's block. His first play was a Broadway success and he lived high on the spoils for several years, but hasn't written anything since. He's scraping the barrel when Alicia Markell picks him up and offers to underwrite his next play. It's a business relationship, he thinks, even as she puts him up in a swank apartment overlooking Central Park. She covers all his expenses and encourages him to write the play. Silverberg does a great job digging into Starnes' writing block as he spends three months rewriting the 3-page outline over and over. Meanwhile, Alicia begins spending the night, and it is not too long before Starnes realizes that he is her paid lover: a gigolo. Doesn't bother him too much at first, but he does progressively lose more of his self-respect and his writer's block deepens as the relationship continues. Eventually he meets a young woman in a bookstore and pursues her. Alicia finds out and demands he end it or she will cut off the gravy train. Starnes resists and Silverberg completely delivers on his descent into a wholly insufferable and unlikeable character, to the point that Starnes' failure is actually welcomed. What will save him? Writing. He needs to free himself from being a kept man and then he will be able to write again. Just a minor detail, of course, that he'd already been blocked for years before becoming a gigolo. As far as sleazers go, this is a well constructed and written story, although a bit light on the sex scenes.

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Review: A Ticket to Hell

A Ticket to Hell A Ticket to Hell by Harry Whittington
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Couldn't quite bring myself to give this only one-star because there are some great scenes and the early chapters are full of promise and tension, but the rest of it annoyed me to no end, so, yes, this is a ticket to hell. Driving a low-slung Porsche off-road through the pines and boulders of a desert canyon? Makes you wonder if Whittington had ever seen a Porsche or a desert canyon, right? I love most everything I've read of Whittington's but this one's a clunker. After the great start, Whittington went into sit and spin mode, with repetitive teasing exposition suggesting just wait, wait, wait, there will eventually be something worth waiting for. Couldn't have been all of the empty dialog between Ric and Eve, could it? No, not that. Ends with some action scenes but I really didn't care any more at that point. The plot would make a good movie, but the screenwriter would need to ditch just about everything else. Both the Gold Medal originals and the Black Lizard reprints are easy to find in paperback, and there's an eBook version from 28o Steps, so give it a go if you must.

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Review: Satan Is a Woman

Satan Is a Woman Satan Is a Woman by Gil Brewer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brewer's first novel starts with immediacy as Larry Cole is being questioned by two cops about his brother Tad who is wanted for murder and is hiding in Larry’s house while the police are questioning him. Enter the femme-fatale, Joan Turner, and poor Larry begins his roller coaster ride through various levels of hell. He falls for her quick: "If you’ve never felt the way I felt, O.K. It’s like standing on dynamite, with the fuse sputtering." One thing Brewer was a master of is depicting how thoroughly and obsessively these guys fall under the spell of a woman. Larry is hanging on every look, every touch, every word. He can’t keep his eyes off her and yet he knows he’s doomed, too, even as he resists her pressures to rob a nightclub. Brewer conjures one of his classic twists as Joan stabs an intruder and they have to dispose of the body. It is one of those fantastic and frenetic extended scenes (with an outboard motor tied to the body they row out into the bay in a storm), where Brewer just amps the tension and milks the suspense with great pacing, description, and psychological torment. This one has all the noir elements and the extended character development certainly makes it a more rounded read. But that well-roundedness also detracts a bit from the propulsive pacing at times and that keeps this from a five-star rating.

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Review: All the Way

All the Way All the Way by Charles Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one takes off with a hard-charging start as Jerry Forbes, whom we know initially as George Hamilton, is completely played by Marian Forsyth and quickly finds himself enmeshed in a robbery scheme. He's a shallow-conscience ex-adman and she's a femme-fatale: a perfect match. After telling Forbes her plan to steal $75,000 from her ex-boss's brokerage account, she ups the ante to murder. By this time, Forbes, in classic noir fashion has gone off the deep-end for her and is quickly drawn into the murder plot, which involves him impersonating the man to be murdered. What's Marian's motive, you might ask? No it is not just the money: "Money is important to me. I like success. I poured everything I had into making him one, thinking I was doing it for both of us. Do you think I'm going to move aside now and give it up? Let him hand it all to some simpering, feather-brained little bitch who can't even balance a checkbook?" So it's game on and Williams concocts an intricate and incredibly detailed plot where half the book involves Forbes covering tracks and planting false clues and all the while we just know he's going to get crossed . . . or will he? No more spoilers from me as there are plenty of neat twists to keep you guessing all the way to the end in this top-notch noir. The paperback edition is tough to find but there's an eBook version with a different title - Concrete Flamingo - so check that out.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Review: Blackmailer

Blackmailer Blackmailer by George Axelrod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Axlerod was mainly known as a screenwriter and this novel does have that “old movie” feel to it. I’m kind of surprised that it was never made into a film. It tells the story of a book publisher who gets involved way over his head with a couple of mysterious females, blackmail, mobsters, and movie stars. The main character, being a publisher rather than a private eye, didn’t really twist the perspective much since he was just as hard-boiled and determined as a typical PI of the era, although the novel doesn’t take itself quite so seriously. Reminded me a bit of the Ed Noon or Shell Scott books. Rapid fire dialog and pacing kept the book moving at a nice pace and was hard to put down. Four stars.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Review: The Hungry One

The Hungry One The Hungry One by Gil Brewer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love the way this one gets going. Husband and wife driving late at night looking for a motel. She wants to just continue driving, he wants to stop. They end up with the last room at a seedy motel that is hosting some wild-ass convention. She wants to leave. The room door won't lock. And now Brewer has got this whole horror-novel vibe going. They hear gun shots and the door bursts open and it's a naked girl and a man with a gun. Next they have jumped into bed with our protagonist couple while the police are searching rooms. Tough to top a beginning like that, but Brewer gave it a good go. Turns into a kidnaping plot, but first naked-girl and gun-guy rob a drug store. She's on the downers and he's on the bennies and that dynamic keeps the edgy vibe going. My only real complaint is that Brewer stretched the timeline of the kidnapping - the ransom calls, etc. - out too long and that took some of the tension out of the middle section. And I think he really missed an opportunity by not giving more of a role for the narrator's wife. It's like half the time Brewer forgot he had another character on the scene. Not his best overall, but far from his worst, and that opening sequence is right up there with his best stuff.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Review: Night of the Crabs

Night of the Crabs Night of the Crabs by Guy N. Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Monster attacks are a common theme of cheesy 1950s horrors movies, but not so much when it comes to novels. Guy N. Smith made a career out of writing them. Night of the Crabs from 1976 is one of his early novels and the first in his eight book “Crabs” series. These crabs aren’t some mysterious Cthulhu type creatures, they’re just big-ass crabs the size of cows and pretty much invincible, led by a giant one cleverly called King Crab. The novel is an easy read, maybe eighth grade reading level, has plenty of action, a little romance with some fairly graphic sex, and a welcome pulp fiction sensibility. With sort of a Hardy Boys/Scooby Doo/B-Movie vibe I thought that the novel was a total blast.

Inexpensive ebook available from the author or Amazon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Review: Desert Town

Desert Town Desert Town by Ramona Stewart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A shorter version, serialized in two issues of Collier's magazine in 1945, was made into Desert Fury, a pretty good 1947 film noir that featured Burt Lancaster in the role of Tom Hansen, the ex-rodeo star turned sadistic deputy. The movie breaks free from Ramona Stewart's original plot and in all ways is more hard-edged and darker, especially in its conclusion. After the movie appeared, Stewart went back and expanded her original story into this novel length version, and she remained true to her original story line. Although the narrative roams freely from character to character, with enough back story and motivation to give all the characters arcs, the novel is clearly focused on 17-year old Paula's coming of age. To get there she must break free from her domineering mother, Fritzi, who has the sin business - the saloon, brothel, liquor store, casino - in the small town cornered, which effectively gives her control of the town, especially with the Sheriff on her payroll. But this criminal aspect is all back story and periphery and laid out in the first half of the novel. The story picks up in energy when Johnny and Eddie, two gangster types, roll into town. Paula quickly falls for the 40-something Eddie. Kisses are described and it is clear things go much further. And thus begins the battle of wills that takes up the rest of the novel as Stewart exploits two triangle relationships: Johnny, Paula, Eddie and Eddie, Paula, Fritzi. Although the novel has noir elements, it is not a noir in the way the film version is, and is much more focused on the relationships. The descriptive writing gets a bit over the top at times, but there's a lot of great scenes, and it's easy to see why the original magazine story was quickly picked up to be filmed. A Kindle version is available, so well worth checking out.

View all my reviews

Review: Sin on Wheels

Sin on Wheels Sin on Wheels by Don Elliott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thoroughly enjoyed this sleazer, especially for its literary style and focus on character (which is not typical for this genre). Even the sex scenes benefited from the elevated quality of the writing. This Don Elliott book is not to be confused with that other novel with the same Sin on Wheels title, also by Robert Silverberg, although under the Loren Beauchamp pseudonym this time. Two completely different books. This one has protagonist Fred Bryan, newly discharged from the army and unemployed, taking a job as a driving instructor. He soon learns that his driving students are all rich and highly-sexed society women in need of another kind of service. Gigolo is part of the job description and he is well-laid and well-tipped. So one of the novel's arcs is Fred's rise and fall, as it were, down this gigolo path. What drives the story, however, is Fred's and Nina's romance. So really this is a love story. But let's not forget that this is a 1960 vintage sleaze novel by Nightstand Books! It's first date sex and they're off. Meanwhile, back at the driving school, Fred is earning his tips in the back seat. Yes, he's double dipping. This goes on energetically until Fred finds out Nina's pregnant. Plot twist - not his. Abortion time. But this is not going to be one of Orrie Hitt's $300 dollar back alley abortions, no, this is a $3,000, spend a week in a private hospital out in Westchester, abortion. I'll leave the rest of the plot to your imagination and future reading, the question, though, is how will things work out once Fred's driving instructor/gigolo arc intersects with the arc of his romance with Nina? Excellent book, one of the best written vintage sleaze novels I've read.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 23, 2020

Review: Cassidy's Girl

Cassidy's Girl Cassidy's Girl by David Goodis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although the character types and the setting are completely different, the knock-down drag-out verbal (and physical) battles between the men and women characters in this David Goodis novel had me continuously visualizing Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton from that great movie based on the Edward Albee play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. So that is a big part of this novel: the characters guzzle booze and fight. The other part of the novel is Cassidy's arc. He's a disgraced airline pilot who crashed a plane and is now driving a bus for a "living." After a boozy brawl with his buxom wife he dumps her for an alcoholic waif. Cassidy should be watching out for the woman scorned, but isn't. Fights with her lover instead and then foolishly lets the guy on his bus, in the seat behind his driver's seat, with a flask of booze. Can you see what is coming? On the run, helped by friends doing more harm than good, Cassidy can't stop thinking about saving the alcoholic waif and his wrong decisions keep stacking up. Enter stage left, his scorned and vengeful wife. And so it goes. The dialogue gets a bit repetitive at times but Goodis also portrays these self destructive lives with some beautiful prose.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Review: Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever Cabin Fever by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cabin Fever was one of Hitt's first books and it shows, with some sloppy writing in places. That said, we have here a cool dust-up at a summer resort in rural New York. Danny, our focal character and first-rate heel, manages to get drunk and rolled while on vacation. But he takes a job at the resort as a means to get back on the cash. He's quickly chasing after the owner's wife - the femme fatale character - in between chasing after the hostess and his late arriving former girlfriend. There are several other shady characters and everybody seems to have an angle to rip somebody else off. Danny is slow on the uptake, thinks he's in the driver seat, planning his own scam, but as they say about poker games, if you don't know who the mark is . . . All good fun if you put on the editorial blinders. Hitt's book Summer Hotel (Beacon B168, 1958) picks up many of these same themes a few years later and is more smoothly written. Tawny, (Beacon B261, 1959), is a reprint of Cabin Fever with a new title and new cover art.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Review: Sin on Wheels

Sin on Wheels Sin on Wheels by Loren Beauchamp
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The original 1961 Midwood edition is highly collectible because of Paul Rader's iconic vintage sleaze cover art. If only the book were as good as its cover. Our POV character is Lenore: a young virgin marrying a philandering satyr. Her honeymoon? Straight home to Jack's trailer and a swift introduction to trailer park living. Before the first week is out he has her playing strip poker and more at a neighbor's party. Not that there's much to redeem here, but not getting any back story about how Lenore met Jack and decided to marry him - except to hear that he never made a pass at her before they were married - removes any chance of identifying with her character. In two weeks of marriage she's already engaged in a tit-for-tat adultery war until she reaches this moment of Kierkegaardian sickness unto death: "Bleakly, she thought over the possibilities of escape from the intolerable situation she had entered. Suicide. Drinking. Adultery. Lesbianism. Divorce. A fine bunch of possibilities, she thought bitterly." What's a newlywed to do? Would you believe there's another option? One that repudiates that build-up of tension? I'll save you the journey, it's a disappointment.

View all my reviews

Review: Man-Crazy Nurse

Man-Crazy Nurse Man-Crazy Nurse by Peggy Dern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Awesome nurse noir! Originally published in 1954 by Croydon in digest form and marketed as a romance. But there's no happy ending romance in this one, it's seriously dark all the way to the nihilistic ending. The cover art and jacket copy of this Pyramid edition was clearly aimed at sleaze readers, and there are a few sex scenes, but this is noir all the way. Arline Grayson is a highly respected nurse at a hospital until she is unable to resist the charms of Dr. Blaine Christopher, a known skirt-chaser. She quits the hospital to become a private duty nurse so that she won't have to work with and be tempted by Dr. Christopher any more. She is shocked to discover, however, that he's the doctor of the patient on her first private assignment. He's a sleaze-ball and specifically requested her. The slippery slope begins when he takes her to a seedy hotel. Her desire is greater than her disgust and she loses a bit of herself in the process. She disintegrates progressively in classic noir fashion as she makes one mistake after the other and utterly destroys her life via mostly self-inflicted wounds. Although Dr. Christopher is a stunningly good homme-fatale and helps things along by getting her black-balled from private nursing. No more spoilers from me. Great book!


View all my reviews

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Review: The Bedroom Broker

The Bedroom Broker The Bedroom Broker by Gus Stevens
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Read the ebook version but this was originally a vintage sleaze novel published in 1965 by Brandon House with what appears to be cover art by Fred Fixler, who is a favorites of collectors. 1965 was the cusp between censorship and anything goes and you see that reflected here with relatively more explicit sex scenes, of which there are plenty. The plot is marginally noir-ish, but make no mistake, the primary purpose is to get protagonist Nick Jackson laid as many times as the page count will allow. He's your typical good looking, smooth talking, uber-confident scam artist whom no one can resist. On the lam from some nefarious deed in New York he arrives by train in LA and quickly ditches the woman he'd been sharing a "sleeping" compartment with. On to San Diego where he scams his way into an apartment (sans rent) and into a job (without qualifications) as a brokerage salesman. Soon he's running an insider trading scheme and vacuuming up accounts and bedding every woman in sight. Unfortunately, the ending failed to deliver on the story's noir-ish tendencies.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Review: Wild to Possess

Wild to Possess Wild to Possess by Gil Brewer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another of Gil Brewer's relentlessly paced noirs, although it is not hard to keep it fast-paced when the main character is either running or racing around in cars for half the book. That's a key part of Brewer's technique, keep the characters always in motion. The plot requires some suspension of disbelief: Lew overhears a couple plotting a kidnap/murder/ransom and then spends the first part of the book trying to track them down so he can cut himself in on the action. One of the great scenes is when he breaks into the woman's house looking for information only to have them come home and he is forced to hide in the bedroom closet while they sex it up a couple of times. In between the sex they discuss the plan and Lew hears all he needs to. From that point on he's a man on a mission to get his hands on the $250,000 ransom money. Brewer's typically sharp plot twists make sure that things don't go smooth for Lew, but he does a lot of the damage himself by pounding bottles of gin. The climatic seen involving boats was chaotic and fun and is a scene that's been done in movies many times since. The final two pages are just wrap up, but who cares at that point because we already had all the pleasure of the read.

View all my reviews

Review: Damnation Alley

Damnation Alley Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First published in 1967 Damnation Alley is arguably the godfather of the biker (as in motorcycle) post-apocalyptic genre. It tells the story of Hell Tanner, a renegade biker and criminal who is pardoned by the Nation of California in return for him delivering the cure for a plague that is overwhelming the Nation of Boston. Most of the USA has been devastated by nuclear missiles and the cross country journey is extremely perilous due to radiation, huge storms and winds, swarms of giant creatures, and dangerous itinerant motorcycle gangs. The theme of a warrior going it alone against impossible odds is a familiar one, so not too many surprises here. Zelazny’s writing is stellar and in general keeps the linear plot moving at a breakneck pace. There is a weird two page stream of consciousness run-on sentence that made me think that the ebook had ended and that I was reading a printing error, although it the 1960s I’m sure that hip folks thought is was pretty groovy. A essential read for anyone interested in the nascent post-apocalyptic literary scene that soon exploded in popularity in the 1970s and ‘80s.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 9, 2020

Review: My Flesh Is Sweet

My Flesh Is Sweet My Flesh Is Sweet by Day Keene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About a third of the way into this novel our detective writer protagonist Ad Connors is holed up in a Mexican hotel and needs money to get back across the border before the Mexican police arrest or kill him. He calls his agent in New York and asks him to wire $50, a loan against future sales. The agent agrees but tells Ad to crank out a couple of manuscripts. So Ad snags a typewriter from a pawn shop, buys some paper, and heads back to the hotel room to start writing. The first night he cranks out a 15,000 word potboiler - Kill me, Ma├▒ana - but has more difficulty with the second novelette, "It took him two nights, a day, and part of a third morning to get it down on paper." This second manuscript - A Corpse For the Bride, which he thinks less of, actually leads to a big sale. But that is getting ahead of the story. The significance of these two manuscripts Ad cranks out is that they essentially mirror the structure of this novel. The first half of My Flesh Is Sweet is pure potboiler. Ad witnesses a car crash and then rescues the driver, American school teacher Eleana, from the lecherous general whose car she crashed into, but in the process the general is shot and Ad thinks he's killed him. So Ad and Eleana are on the run trying to get back to Texas and it is fast paced and full of disguises and close calls. There is, however, the business of what she was doing in Mexico in the first place, and that is the more involved plot that takes up the second half of the novel. Good fun read with the added kick that you can see a writer at work who was quite aware of his genre's conventions and also how to play with them.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Review: College for Sinners

College for Sinners College for Sinners by Lawrence Block
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Another one of the sleaze books Lawrence Block wrote under the Andrew Shaw byline for Nightstand Books. The plot - yes, there is one - follows David Forrestor (Trevor in the Nightstand edition, but Forrestor in the eBook edition Block released as part of his Classic Erotica series) from the start of his sophomore year at college until he suddenly drops out following a period during which he questioned just about every aspect of his life. In the meantime, there's a parallel plot following David's experience with The Libertines - a small campus sex club; he traverses a path from recruitment to initiation to eager participant, from awkwardness to abandon to disgust, and finally, resignation. The latter plot reveals the real purpose of the book: sex scenes, lots of them. Although this was published in 1960 during the censorship era, it leans more explicit, with a caveat: it has long realistic descriptions of foreplay, but once the activity goes further, the language becomes euphemistic, or worse, as description is replaced with phrases such as "it got better and better and better." Block delivers on all the sex scenes as required, but give him credit for also layering in some significant character development. Perhaps in some way it parallels Block's college experience at Antioch. In any case, he does capture the typical tumult when thoughts of certainty and uncertainty about one's life are commingled. That's probably more depth than the typical Nightstand reader wanted to absorb.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Review: A Haven for the Damned

A Haven for the Damned A Haven for the Damned by Harry Whittington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stark House has re-released this long out of print Whittington classic. It has one of my favorite crime/noir/mystery setups: a group of people all stuck in a place - in this case an abandoned hotel - where the interactions between the characters is as much fun as the plot. A Haven for the Damned begins with a bank robbery, and the robbers are among the eight people who converge on Lust, a New Mexico ghost town. In the first part of the novel the point of view shifts around to introduce us to all of the characters and show the plot point that is driving them towards Lust. For the rest of the novel it is character warfare with the bank robbers trying to find a way out before the police arrive and all the other characters trying to survive the ordeal. I'd give this five stars for the first three-quarters of the novel, but thought it fell off before the end, descending (literally into a tunnel) with some melodramatic romance.

View all my reviews

Review: Return to Vietnam

Return to Vietnam Return to Vietnam by Stephen Mertz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the pantheon of Mack Bolan stories this book holds a high place for a couple of reasons. First, it returns Bolan to the jungles of Vietnam where his experiences as an extraordinary and deadly soldier led to the creation of the vigilante known as “The Executioner”. Second, it was a precursor and influencer of the POW/MIA movies that soon followed such as “Rambo II”, “Missing in Action”, and “Uncommon Valor”, plus scores of fiction dealing with this issue. The short novel tells the story of Bolan, now a government operative known as Colonel Phoenix, accepting a mission to rescue a POW imprisoned in a modified Vietcong temple. It’s a compressed timeline story with a linear plot and all of the events taking place in a four hour window so the pacing and action is relentless. Bolan is ably assisted by an aging and noble Vietnamese warrior, his beautiful daughter, and a ragtag group of fighters. It’s a definitely a strong entry in the series and I’m thankful to the writer, Stephen Mertz, for helping to bring the POW/MIA issue to the forefront.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Review: Unfaithful Wives

Unfaithful Wives Unfaithful Wives by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published in 1956, I think this is one of Hitt's best books. I'd rank it along side I'll Call Every Monday and The Promoter. The story line revolves around Fred and Rita - married and dissatisfied - and the people they are having affairs with and the complications that ensue. Plenty of conflict and sex, with murder and theft also in the mix. The multiple POV narration moves effortlessly from character to character, each of whom is dissatisfied, striving, and edgy. Early on the plot is elusive, but this is a real strength of the novel because we are tracking along with these on edge characters, not sure what is going to happen, yet knowing that multiple fuses are lit and something is going to explode. The characters are explored in-depth and the language and psychology is more from within the characterization rather than being the shallow (and lecturing) rationalizations that show up in a lot of Hitt's later books. I read a paperback original, but there is an ebook edition from Prologue Books, so this is an easy one to get a hold of and read.

View all my reviews

Review: Standoff in Labyrinth

Standoff in Labyrinth Standoff in Labyrinth by J.R. Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Clint Adams, The Gunsmith, arrives in the town of Labyrinth to find that his friend Rick Hartman has been framed for murder. Robert Randisi is at heart a mystery writer and this is, like the others in the series, is solidly plotted like a detective story with Adams playing the part of the investigator. The Gunsmith books are reliably easy and entertaining reads and this is no exception. Unfortunately this is probably one of the weaker efforts with Adams endlessly going from place to place questioning folks, lots of pointless small talk, and a motive for the murder that wasn’t really explained. Still a fun read, although not quite up to the usual Gunsmith standards.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Review: Campus Tramp

Campus Tramp Campus Tramp by Lawrence Block
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Long before Lawerence Block hit the big time with his Matthew Scudder crime series he was cranking out two sleazers a month for the likes of Midwood and Nightstand. Campus Tramp, written under the Andrew Shaw byline, was Block's fifth novel. In comparing this to Donald Westlake's Campus Doll, I'd say it has more depth, more nuance, and more style and voice. The main difference is that Block seems to be having fun with it and Westlake seemed to be going through the motions by then. The plot here is straightforward: Linda is going away to college determined to lose her virginity. She quickly falls for the editor of the school paper, beds him, moves in and becomes obsessed. He dumps her and she proceeds to work her way through all the men on campus. On the verge of being kicked out of college, she rallies, quits the guys and the booze and starts cramming three weeks before finals. Until, just before her last final she finds out she is . . . wait for it . . . pregnant. What is she to do? Do hills look like white elephants? Not great, but not bad for a book written in a couple of weeks. Fun to see Block's early style developing.

View all my reviews

Review: Campus Doll

Campus Doll Campus Doll by Edwin West
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Early Donald Westlake written under the Edwin West byline that reads like an Orrie Hitt novel. What's a co-ed to do when she can't pay her tuition? Become a hooker, of course. "They'll get an hour," she said, "for ten dollars." "Only ten bucks? You could get a hell of a lot more than that, Jackie." She had shaken her head. "The guys in school don't have a lot of money. Ten dollars is just about as much as they'll want to spend." Soon, supply and demand being what it was, Jackie had to move from her apartment to a five-bedroom house and had four other girls working for her. And so it goes. This was the censorship era so no explicit sex and things will have to end badly for Jackie. The prose is simple, without nuance, but does read smoothly. Easy speed reading. All plot focused exposition, including the dialog. Achieves the purpose intended, but unlike some of Westlake's other early pulp fiction forays, does not have anything to elevate it or to make it more interesting.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Review: High Priest of California

High Priest of California by Charles Willeford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a difficult book to rate. I thought that the writing and dialogue was very good. The narrator is a real jerk, which isn't unusual in these types of novels, although rather than plotting a murder or a heist, he's just looking to score with an attractive married woman. The author does a pretty good job of trying to communicate what motivates this character. I've known jerks, and I've probably been one myself on more than one occasion, so I thought that the character was believable. I suppose the novels weaknesses were with the less than ambitious plot, and the lack of any internal change to the character. Three stars.

Available for Kindle

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Review: Passion Isle

Passion Isle Passion Isle by Curt Aldrich
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Strong crime-noir plot in this sleazer. Insurance detective tracking down a thief who pulls off a jewel heist. As with most of the Greenleaf/Corinth sleazers the plot is just something to fill the space between the sex scenes. Must be at least 10 such scenes in this one, but this was published in 1964, so still in the censorship era and nothing remotely explicit by today's standards. The jewel heist plot is pretty good, unfortunately this is primarily revealed through exposition rather than showing us the action in scenes. Was hoping for better after a strong beginning but was disappointed. Curt Aldrich was a "house name" most frequently used by William Knoles, who wrote the highly collectible 0008 spy-spoof series, for Greenleaf/Corinth. He spent time in Puerto Rico, where much of this book is set, so a fair bet this is one of Knoles.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Review: Death Car Surfside

Death Car Surfside Death Car Surfside by Patrick Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When this series first published I was in Jr. high and Bill Cartwright the surfing spy was one of my favorites. I recently reread all ten books of this series and think this is the best of the bunch. It reads like Morgan (pseudo for George Snyder) thought it was going to be the last book but there's actually one more. Fascinating because this is not actually a Hang Ten case. Takes place all in one day and begins in the middle of the action as Cartwright is surfing before daylight and sees a Mustang drive off the end of the pier. He dives down to rescue the driver and bring her up to the beach. Another girl arrives and before too long Cartwright is bopped over the head with his flashlight. He comes to surrounded by police and the girl he rescued has been stabbed to death. Cartwright is taken to the police station and once he realizes they have him pegged for the murder he punches the detective and busts out of the police station. Cartwright is on the run and compounding his felonies. He tries calling his Hang Ten boss several times but the phone is never answered. On his own Cartwright tries to find out why the girl was murdered and he gets deeper and deeper into the manure. This storyline would have made a great end to the series, but it is also a great stand alone noir. Has the best lines of the whole ten book series: "Okay, brush your hair, put on some perfume, and get your purse. I'll show you a life of crime."

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Review: Get Out of Town

Get Out of Town Get Out of Town by Paul Connolly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The debut novel from noted New York Times columnist Tom Wicker writing as Connolly tells the story of a rookie cop fighting the drug trade and police corruption in a segregated town in the deep South. War vet Dave Reynolds returns home and lands a job on the small police force and then reestablishes a relationship with Nancy the local newspaper editor and the widow of his best friend. Barbiturate abuse is rampant in the black community and the impulsive Dave throws himself into cracking the drug trade while digging himself and Nancy into deep danger. A fine novel that portrays the attractions of small town life in the deep South, as well as the ugly, pervasive racism that marked that period in the previous century.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 14, 2020

Review: Pushover

Pushover Pushover by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fund-raising scam artists go into small towns and "write" a book about the town's history as a fund-raising project for the police department or the churches or some other worthy civic cause. They sell ads and sponsorships to local businesses. And they sell, sell, sell the books, but mostly on the side, and keep the profits, plus everything else they can skim off the project. The worthy cause frequently makes next to nothing. On to the next town. That's the crime aspect, and Hitt does a great job detailing how these scams work. Funny thing is the scammers seem to work harder than most people do at legitimate jobs. The protagonist, mastermind of the scams, and our first-person narrator, is Danny Fulton, a self-described louse and jerk, and he lives up to that billing. He spends as much time woman chasing as he does running the scams and that leads to complications threatening to unravel his scam business. His troubles are self-inflicted and he'll deserve what he gets as the book heads to its conclusion. Except there is the matter of the last chapter, which almost feels tacked on. Without the last chapter you have a book that passes the censor test. With it, well, maybe crime does pay.

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Review: Four for the Money

Four for the Money Four for the Money by Dan J. Marlowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Has all the goods. Marlowe sucked me right in with his smooth and well-paced style. This is a heist book with a long and interesting setup. Our narrator, "Slick," is the first of a gang of four to be released from prison. He heads out to Desert City, Nevada, which is described as being midway between Reno and Las Vegas. His task is set up a safe house and wait for the others to be released from prison. When they are all out they plan to go for one last big score. The first part of the book is all about Slick. He meets a woman, but she's on to him, calls him Slick without even knowing that that is his nickname. He's a card shark and takes some other card sharks for a big pile of cash. He's rousted by the police. Forced to get a job. Can't find a house to buy but ends up buying a motel from a scammer who's sold it over and over. So plenty of activity and Slick is an engaging narrator. Then the other three guys are released from prison one at a time and make their way to Nevada and Slick's motel. It's a volatile bunch with plenty of interpersonal drama as they try to figure out what the score is going to be and how to pull it off. That's the second half of the book. The heist comes at the end with a nifty surprise.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 4, 2020

Review: Mansion of Evil

Mansion of Evil Mansion of Evil by Joseph J. Millard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very early graphic novel from 1950, Fawcett Gold Medal 129, declares “A fascinating mystery, told in a new picture-book medium” on the back cover. It’s essentially a 195 page color comic book printed in typical paperback size. The plot is interesting enough telling the tale of a psychotic and highly regarded artist who kidnaps a young woman that happens to look exactly like his dead wife - who he accidentally murdered. A lot of padding here, a slew of unlikely coincidences that only serve to drag out the story, word balloons that needlessly state what is evident from the pictures, etc. The prose is pretty clunky - juvenile Golden Age comic book stuff with plenty of anachronisms and old slang. It’s an interesting enough oddity, but not really worth seeking out.

It seems to be in the public domain and available here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Review: Sins of Flesh

Sins of Flesh Sins of Flesh by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some of Orrie Hitt's best writing in this sleaze-noir. One of his early books written before he went into assembly-line mode and the writing here makes clear that he could write better than a lot of his latter books would suggest. I read the hardcover edition but also have the Kozy Books paperback edition and they seem to be identical. The story starts with Shad Albright fresh out of a three-year prison stint for an embezzlement for which he was framed. He goes back to his riverfront property and tries to make a go as a fishing guide. But others want his property so he's immediately embroiled in a fight. In between making time with the four women he's juggling. The middle section devolves into some country-noir melodrama but the the plot does thicken with a murder and Hitt is on his game throughout. Needed a bit more action to be four star, but better than most Hitt books.

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Review: The Sucker

The Sucker The Sucker by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title gives the end result away just as the voice over at the start of a film noir does. Slade Harper won a gas station in a card game and has been running it for a couple of weeks when a red convertible drives up. Midge Dalton is driving, but Slade isn't interested in him. He has eyes only for the passenger, Ruth Talley. So when Midge offers Slade a job at his mail order auto parts business, Slade knows he is ditching the gas station and chasing after Ruth. And thus begins a classic noir tale where Slade seemingly has the upper hand but of course he is "the sucker" and we know that Ruth is outsmarting him the whole way. Plenty of plot permutations to keep this one interesting, even if the end result is never in doubt. Slade is the first person narrator and he is under no illusions about what a bastard he is, but Hitt does a good job of giving him the blind spot that leads to his downfall, one that we readers can see coming. That provides a nice edge to the narration because we know something Slade doesn't even though he is telling the story.

View all my reviews