Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review: Massacre at Umtali

Massacre at Umtali Massacre at Umtali by Peter McCurtin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Set in 1970s Rhodesia and telling the story of a mercenary named Rainey who has been engaged to lead a ragtag team of hired killers to capture a terrorist kingpin who recently massacred civilians in a village called Umtali. There is quite a bit of 1970s Rhodesia information and geopolitical discussion which was interesting until the point that it got boring. Fortunately the book escalated into high gear quickly and left no doubt that hardcore action was the emphasis of the tale. Rainey is faced with a difficult dilemma at one point, which was a nice touch and added significantly to the story. An engaging and highly testosterone-fueled adventure that should appeal to readers of 1970s military action fiction.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Review: Body for Sale

Body for Sale Body for Sale by Richard Deming
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Resourceful and cunning ex-cop Tom Cavanagh blackmails his adulterous boss into giving him a sales director job which starts the ball rolling in this terrific rollercoaster of a noir. Not much more that I can say about the plot without spoiling so I’ll just say that this efficiently plotted gem is full of surprising twists and is impossible to put down. Another forgotten noir essential that deserves to be read. Highly recommended.

Available as an inexpensive ebook from Prologue and Wildside Press.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Review: Thunder Wagon

Thunder Wagon Thunder Wagon by James Reasoner and L.J Washburn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sheriff Cole Tyler and the other endearing citizens of Wind River, a Wyoming settlement, are threatened on multiple fronts, railroad worker labor unrest, a possible Indian uprising, and robberies whose victims have their ears cut off. Appearances by a Chinese cook and his family, and the US Calvary only serve to add to the tension. Even though there is a lot going on here the authors smoothy tie the events and characters into a nicely cohesive narrative that tie up the loose ends in a satisfying conclusion. I’m fond of books that revolve around a town and it’s cast of interesting characters and their individual stories. Thunder Wagon is a great example of this type of storytelling. I’m looking forward to book three in the series.

Buy the ebook here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Review: Girls' Dormitory

Girls' Dormitory Girls' Dormitory by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More thoughtful than sleazy, Girls Dormitory tells the story of rich college girl Peggy, her money hungry roommate and lover Helen, who is also a prostitute, and horny Jerry the pimp and dormitory handy man who makes time with several of the rooming guests possibly impregnating one of them. The writer really stirred the pot with multiple plot lines and the female character's shifting sexuality, however the pacing is strong and the story kept my interest. Sex is only implied and never described, frequently using the chapter ending device "Show me you love me." And (s)he did.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Review: A Trap for Sam Dodge

A Trap for Sam Dodge / High Thunder A Trap for Sam Dodge by Harry Whittington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sheriff Miles Ringo is gunned down and Sam Dodge comes back to town to find the killer of his old friend. Turns out that Sam and Ringo were once competing for the same girl and the same job, and Sam lost on both counts, inspiring him to leave town to start a ranch.  Sam Dodge has a plan to draw out the killer but ends up creating a trap for himself. Courtroom drama ensues with a nice twist and an unexpected ally. Whittington delivers another propulsive crime thriller with Sam Dodge acting as the detective and protagonist. Sam’s relationship with the steadfast doctor and the soiled dove’s daughter were a couple of highlights for me. Recommended.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Review: Tears Are For Angels

Tears Are For Angels Tears Are For Angels by Paul Connolly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paul Connolly is a pseudonym for Tom Wicker, a notable writer of political non-fiction and NY Times journalist for over 30 years. Wicker started out writing paperback originals for Gold Medal, all sadly out of print. This novel "Tears are for Angels" is much more than a typical pulp crime book. It tells the story of a man who has fallen into the deepest pits of despair and his struggle back, motivated first by vengeance, and then by love. The novel is fast paced with clever and surprising twists, and plenty of sex and violence.

UPDATE: Stark House Press has just brought this superb book back into print. Available here from their Black Gat imprint.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Review: The Silver Tombstone

The Silver Tombstone The Silver Tombstone by Frank Gruber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A pair of somewhat silly grifter buddies Johnny Fletcher and Sam Cragg find themselves immersed in a caper involving a disputed silver mine, a mysterious old book, and a corpse in their car. An amusing romp in the style of of other 1940s hard-boiled-lite mysteries such as those by Craig Rice and Brett Halliday, propulsive plotting, witty banter, and humor. I'll keep my eye out for other books in this series, which are mostly out-of-print and unjustly forgotten.

This book is long out-of-print and not likely to be reprinted. I created these ebooks from scans that I found online. Download and enjoy.

EPUB - The Silver Tombstone - Frank Gruber.epub
MOBI - The Silver Tombstone - Frank Gruber.mobi

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Review: The Executioner: Vegas Vendetta

The Executioner: Vegas Vendetta The Executioner: Vegas Vendetta by Don Pendleton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mack Bolan stops off in Vegas to relieve the Mafia of a load of cash and ends up rescuing undercover cop Carl Lyons who tells Bolan about some sinister mob activity in town. Bolan decides to stick around, help out a comedian that has been targeted, and take down a Casino-Resort that is mobbed up. The hip 70’s idioms were a gas, the police are called “the fuzz” and independent women are “Women Libbers”. Bolanverse regulars Hal Brognola, Jack Grimaldi, and the deadly  Talifero brothers all make appearances too. Another lean and muscular action thriller in the long running series that is difficult to put down.

Available for Kindle

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Review: Take A Step To Murder

Take A Step To Murder Take A Step To Murder by Day Keene
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Kurt Renner needs money to keep his motor court in business while the expressway interchange gets built. He devises a truly repugnant plan to blackmail a rapist’s rich father, but things don’t go as planned. A rollercoaster of events keeps the book rolling at breakneck pace, and although I liked the plotting, I found that the lack of any sympathetic characters took the heart out of the book. I didn’t really care if Renner succeeded in saving his motor court. Not one of Keene’s better books.

View all my reviews

Review: Strangers in My Bed

Strangers in My Bed Strangers in My Bed by Allen O'Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good example of rural swamp noir, and a solid coming-of-age story, as kindly brother Willie tries to pick up the pieces when bad brother Elroy comes home from college and creates a unholy mess of everything. Although the title and cover blurbs promise some sleaze the book is not nearly as salacious, consisting of horny hillbillies talking about sex in metaphorical terms with no gratuitous or graphical depictions. The books touches on the discrimination of urban Southerners against the uneducated backwater folks, and some pretty disturbing examples of racism in the Deep South. A talented writer, Mr. O'Quinn wrote three backwoods/swamp novels for Gold Medal and then disappeared. Another great cover by Barye Phillips.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Review: The Paperback Fanatic issue 43

The Paperback Fanatic issue 43 The Paperback Fanatic issue 43 by Justin Marriott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Plenty of insightful reviews of Fawcett Gold Medal paperback originals from reviewers that are well informed and not particularly wordy, a couple of paragraphs per review. Recommended for all lovers of Gold Medal books.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 17, 2020

Review: Hot Lead, Cold Justice

Hot Lead, Cold Justice Hot Lead, Cold Justice by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Burn ‘Em” Burnham, a psychotic protege of Quantrill has a vendetta against Trinity Sheriff Caleb York. He plans to rob a Las Vegas bank with his cohorts, kill York, and then hide out in Trinity during a deadly New Mexico blizzard. Faithful deputy Tulley is gunned down, accidentally mistaken for Caleb, and York seeks vengeance. Spillane created the resourceful, noble, and somewhat mysterious character of Caleb York and he’s in great hands with Max Allan Collins. Love interest Willa Cullen and other colorful characters of Trinity are back giving the story great depth and heart. The blizzard was almost a character itself, infuriating travel, and causing havoc, death and devastation. This tightly written page-turner should appeal to all readers of crime and thriller novels, not just fans of historical fiction. Highly recommended.

Pre-order it on Amazon

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review: A Woman For Henry

A Woman For Henry A Woman For Henry by Allen O'Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tensions between moon-shining swamp brothers Henry and Del are heightened when Del brings home salacious saloon bride Morna from New Orleans, and a complex plot to ruin Henry's operation begins to unfold. Morna is a formidable femme fatale, brimming with overt sexuality and a boldness that Henry finds difficult to resist, although he secretly pines for local good girl Joanne. Well written enough to make me seek out another book from this very obscure author. Great cover art by Barye Phillips.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Movie Review: Range War (1938)

William Boyd
Not really a range war per se, but rather a greedy land baron trying to sabotage railroad construction that threatens his toll range business model. There's no Gabby Hayes or Andy Clyde here, just horndog Lucky Jenkins and Speedy, a fella that talks slow and who provides some comic relief. Hoppy is engaged by the railroad to track down the bandits that have been stealing the payroll and no surprise, they are under the auspices of the greedy land baron. Like all Hopalong Cassidy movies this one is fun and entertaining, and perhaps more a little more violent than most.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Review: The Searching Rider

The Searching Rider The Searching Rider by Harry Whittington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A farmer named Kraylor mounts a lone, suicidal revenge mission against a trio of outlaws that murdered his young son. His wife Hetty implores old flame Matt Logan to go after Kraylor before he gets himself killed. This revenge novella is a razor sharp page-turner set amongst the backdrop of a compelling love triangle. Matt Logan is seriously conflicted. Letting Kraylor die would leave Hetty to himself, and of courser Kraylor wants no help from his wife’s former flame. This emotional turmoil propels a fairly standard revenge plot into something transcendental. The action-packed climax is a highlight as well. Recommended.

I don't see this Ace Double half being reprinted anytime soon so I created ebooks from scanned images that I found online in the name of digital preservation. Download them here:

EPUB - The Searching Rider - Harry Whittington.epub
MOBI - The Searching Rider - Harry Whittington.mobi

Friday, January 24, 2020

A new ebook project


My friends at the Paperback Warrior blog had high praise for this Harry Whittington story - THE SEARCHING RIDER, which made up half of Ace Double D-510. I was able to find a really good scan of the story online and I converted the images to text using an OCR program called Tesseract. After running the text through a Perl script to remove page numbers, titles and linefeeds I then copied the text into MS Word, did a few Replace All changes to fix some oddball characters and ended up with a pretty clean document. I'll still have to go through the painstaking process of comparing the source scan to the Word document and fixing a lot of other stuff. The best part of that is that I get to read the book, plus it will be digitally preserved in a true book format. Anyway, the screenshot above shows the source image on the left, and the target document on the right. I'm a bit constrained on time so it might take a while.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Review: The Law at Randado

The Law at Randado The Law at Randado by Elmore Leonard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A young and and inexperienced deputy sheriff named Kirby Frye has his skills tested when a rich and arrogant rancher and some citizens of Randado conspire to entrust themselves with lawmaking and executions while he’s away. The narrative is nicely dialog driven with plenty of colorful and insightful conversations, especially between Kirby and his mentor and his boss Sheriff Danaher. The descriptive prose is taut and compact so get ready to use your imagination when it comes to how the characters and locations look. There were several tense sequences with a fair amount of gunplay, although I found the final conflict a bit strained. In general an exciting and propulsive read that I recommend.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Review: Mac Detective Series 06: You've Got Him Cold

Mac Detective Series 06: You've Got Him Cold Mac Detective Series 06: You've Got Him Cold by Thomas B. Dewey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many years of simmering secrets and blackmail explode in a sudden burst of related murders in this complex private eye mystery from the reliable Thomas B. Dewey. The P.I. known only as "Mac" deftly investigates and unravels the puzzling clues that include several seemingly unconnected characters while butting heads with the police as their investigations overlap, and Mac is forced to evade and withhold information to protect a girl in his care. Dewey's exceptional plotting and prose stands tall amongst the bevy of 1950s PI writers and if you can weather the head-swimming number of characters and names then the rewards are substantial. Highly recommended.

Buy the ebook here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Review: Death Train

Death Train Death Train by Gordon Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Top-notch military fiction taking place in France during the Nazi occupation and telling the story of Sergeant Mahoney, his soldiers, and a band of French resistance fighters attempting to blow up a bridge to cut off the Nazi supply lines to the beaches at Normandy on the eve of the Allied invasion. Of course nothing goes as planned and the heroes have to dig themselves out of several unexpected situations. Mahoney is a fascinating character, an outstanding soldier, and also a complete asshole. Major Richter of the Gestapo is a vile and terrifying villain. Several other memorable characters. A nice blend of actual historical events and people are smoothly integrated into the main narrative. A very entertaining page turner from the great Len Levinson writing as Gordon Davis.

Buy the ebook here