Monday, April 19, 2021

Review: The Bitch

The Bitch The Bitch by Gil Brewer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once this one gets into gear it is a typical Brewer nitro propelled plot of robbery, murder, chase and evasion. Starts a bit slow compared to most of Brewer’s other novels, but the slow setup actually pays huge dividends. Tate and Sam Morgan are brothers and partners in a private detective agency and as the novel starts we glean that it is not all brotherly love between them. The plot picks up quickly when we learn that Tate is planning a robbery with Thelma, “the bitch” of the title. There is the usual late 1950s misogyny at work here, but the book could just as easily have been titled “The Bastard” as our narrator Tate has no illusions about what he is. I thought the effort put into character development, although it slowed the pace at times, made this a much stronger and deeply felt book than some of Brewer's more breakneck noirs.

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Review: Lust Is No Lady

Lust Is No Lady Lust Is No Lady by Michael Avallone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prolific author Michael Avallone is probably best known for his 30+ “Ed Noon” private detective novels.This, the fourteenth entry in the series, tells the story of Noon finding himself dangerously out of his element and stranded when a low flying plane drops a load of bricks on his car while driving through Wyoming on his way to a vacation in California. Things only get more complicated when he rescues a naked woman who has been tied to the ground, gets dumped from a motorcycle, then gets involved with a man with smoking hot wife and daughter,and a psychotic son, who have partnered with some baddies to find a long lost cache of gold dust. The Noon books never take themselves too seriously with lots of sly humor and some wacky plotting which help to make the series, and this book, such delightful entertainment. The book is a total blast, funny and fast moving. I liked it a lot.

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Review: Hell Bait

Hell Bait Hell Bait by Harry Whittington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of Harry Whittington's famed "missing 38" sleaze novels published by Corinth (Greenleaf) in the mid-1960s when he was on a one book per month contract. Many of those novels hid a crime/noir story in between the sex scenes, which is the case with Hell Bait. Crime/noir with sex scenes. Yes, we have plenty of that now. But one of the reasons the missing 38 are famous is that you couldn't do that back then (unless you went the sleaze route). Gold Medal paperback with explicit sex scenes? No way. Now imagine one of Whittington's Gold Medal paperbacks with those sex scenes. What would you have? Something just like Hell Bait. The crime/noir plot is that Steve Burnette is trying to find out who murdered his brother. However, he's too busy getting laid to do much detective work. I would have liked more investigating, so that's the negative. Loved all the gritty psychological trappings: the biting introspection, the psychological warfare between characters. A brutally raw and honest layer that Gold Medal wouldn't have touched. Hard to find and expensive, but worth it for collectors.

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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Review: The Brat

The Brat The Brat by Gil Brewer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Surprised this one was never made into a movie because it has everything: robbery, murder, double-crosses, car chases, boat chases, gun fights, hot babes and hunky guys. The title is one of those misleading Gold Medal marketing ploys common in the 50s: Evis is no brat, but she is all femme-fatale, going at things “like a blitzkrieg in tight nylons.” The novel starts right in the middle of the action with Lee Sullivan showing up late for the robbery planned by his wife Evis and he quickly realizes that she is framing him for both the robbery and the murder of her co-worker. After a back story chapter describing how they met and the progression towards the robbery, the chase is on as Sullivan tries to track down Evis and the $100,000 with the police in pursuit. Plenty of action in this one with a fully realized narrative arc that is propelled by Brewer's relentless pacing.

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Review: A Key to the Suite

A Key to the Suite A Key to the Suite by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read this book when I was thirteen and clueless about corporate politics and thought it pretty boring compared to the other crime-noir novels I was reading back then. Now, though, after serving time in the corporate world, including having been tasked with some of the same post-merger duties given the novel's protagonist, I found this book absolutely riveting and read it straight through from beginning to end. The plot is a riff on post-merger organizational politics. Floyd Hubbard, corporate hatchet man, is heading to a convention to give a final review of Jesse Mulaney, the soon to be axed head of sales. Mulaney, with the help of his right-hand man, Fred Frick, will not go gentle into the good night and crafts a plan to set up Hubbard and embarrass him at the convention in the hope that this will save Mulaney's job long enough so he can collect his pension. That's the battle drawn and to discover the surprising way it plays out you will just have to read the book yourself. Also on tap, though, is the maturation of Floyd Hubbard into a stone-cold executive. MacDonald also delivers that arc with a nail gun. Another thing that makes this such a great read is the way MacDonald makes full use of the third-person point of view to show this power struggle from all angles; not just from the main characters' point-of-view, but from the minor characters' viewpoints as well. That depth of characterization, combined with an intricate plot filtered through a perspectival point-of-view, should make this a compelling read even if you haven't spent time in the corporate world. MacDonald obviously knew the business world inside and out, however, so if you've been there and done that, this novel rings true.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Review: Go Home, Stranger

Go Home, Stranger Go Home, Stranger by Charles Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a mystery-thriller rather than a noir-thriller and it loses quite a bit of the edge that Charles Williams novels usually have because it sticks to the conventions of the mystery genre. The basic plot is that the protagonist - Pete Reno - needs to solve the mystery to save his sister who's facing the electric chair. So right from the start this story is somewhat tepid because we don't have the urgency of Reno trying to save his own skin. The third-person narration also pushes us a bit farther away from Reno and is another drop in urgency. These are perhaps subtle points, but all you need to do is read Williams' A Touch of Death to feel the difference. Williams wrote such great action sequences so it is hard to dislike this novel even if it does seem one of his weaker ones. You have car chases, boat chases, gun battles, and plenty of lurking about in the bayou. So, better than OK. And it also makes one realize how great his best novels are if this is a weakling.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Review: The Promoter

The Promoter The Promoter by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Intricately plotted noir that deserves to be rescued from the pulp remainders and see a wider readership. The protagonist, a freelance car magazine writer, makes a series of choices that enmesh him deep into the underground nude modeling/porn scene circa late 1950s. Hitt uses the plot technique of keep shoveling on trouble until the protagonist is buried and gasping for air and that keeps the pages turning.

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Monday, April 12, 2021

Review: Deadly Welcome

Deadly Welcome Deadly Welcome by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent double-edged plot about a disgraced hometown football hero who returns to his hometown to clandestinely investigate a murder. The beginning is kind of clumsy with page after page of information dump via totally unrealistic dialogue, but eventually Alex Doyle gets on the scene and the story gets into high gear. Plenty of action, but also plenty of exposition via disembodied dialogue. Not screenplay snappy dialogue. Long long paragraphs of summary delivered via speeches without any scene setting or facial expressions or gestures or anything. Even a scene where the characters are swimming and delivering speeches. That pet peeve aside, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The climactic sequence was done really well and with a lot of pace and that made for a satisfying ending. And despite my bemoaning the exposition via dialogue, MacDonald still delivers plenty of passages like this: "He felt the familiar tensions of the chase, a taste in the back of the throat of a breathless expectancy. It was, in a sense, a dreadful art, this manipulation of human beings. Discover the area of stress. And then nudge so gently and carefully. Back up the lions with a kitchen chair. But it had to be done delicately."

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Review: So Young, So Wicked

So Young, So Wicked So Young, So Wicked by Jonathan Craig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Screams along like a 57 Plymouth with some nice twists and interesting characters, as a piano playing assassin plots a tough hit in a small upstate New York town. Top notch 50s Pulp Crime fiction.

Highly recommended!        

Now back in print thanks to Stark House Press and Black Gat Books.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Review: A Touch of Death

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

Ex-jock narrator falls for a cute bikini woman’s scheme to help rob some stolen cash from an uninhabited house, but then he unexpectedly finds it occupied by a drunken hottie who turn out to be even more devious than the first. A great opening sets the stage for a taut rollercoaster of a noir that never fails to keep ramping up the tension as the narrator keeps digging himself into a deeper hole. Williams expertly unwinds the story of the stolen cash and the players involved in a way that doesn't make the complex plot feel that way. The puzzle pieces fall into place forcing the beleaguered narrator to keep continuously adjusting his plans. Terrific dialog, clever plotting, and some very interesting characters make this one a masterpiece of 1950s paperback noir. Highly recommended.

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Saturday, March 20, 2021

Review: The Con Man

The Con Man The Con Man by Ed McBain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This fourth book in the series firmly establishes Steve Carrella and his wife Teddy as primary characters as the 87th precinct deals with an influx of con artists, one of which is also a serial killer. McBain is a superb writer spinning dazzling descriptive prose while keeping the story taut and compelling. The killer is a fascinating character, both clever and repellant. I loved the striking third person narrative with multiple viewpoints that ratcheted up the suspense in a race against time as the serial killer readies the next murder, and a major character is endangered. A fine early entry in arguably the best police procedural series of all time.

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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Review: Ralph Compton Frontier Medicine

Ralph Compton Frontier Medicine Ralph Compton Frontier Medicine by Robert J. Randisi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deceased author Ralph Compton’s legacy lives on as a house name, and his publisher has recruited stellar writers to byline his recent releases. Robert Randisi, the writer here, is a terrific storyteller with a gift for creating compelling characters that are fleshed out in the third person by spirited conversations and dialogue. Descriptive prose is light and there is plenty of action. Page one starts with a little girl on a train choking on a bullet and the action and dialogue never let up, making it a difficult book to put down. The characters really shine here with the earnest young doctor, the cantankerous old doctor, and several female characters bringing rich personas to life. There are no sex, gore, or cussing making this suitable for all readers. I liked it a lot. Recommended.

I bought the paperback as a Walmart exclusive, however I see it on Amazon now too.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Review: Legacy of the Slash M

Legacy of the Slash M Legacy of the Slash M by Ray Hogan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ray Hogan was one of a slew of great authors who were writing Westerns in the shadow of the spectacularly popular Louis L’Amour in the 1960-70s. Sadly most of them are forgotten. Hogan’s works are tightly plotted with terse prose and plenty of action. I really like his Ace Double novellas which are just the right length to showcase his skills. Here Hogan tells the story of Jess Holloway who is summoned by a dying friend to take over his ranch since his family was ill-equipped to do so and they vehemently resent his intrusion. Not surprisingly a range war is on the verge of exploding too. Nothing groundbreaking here, although Hogan does a nice job keeping the story fresh with some interesting characters and dialog. A solid and entertaining 106 pages.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Review: Notorious

Notorious Notorious by Day Keene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Surprised this was never made into a movie - or maybe it was under a different name to avoid clashing with the Hitchcock movie? - because it has a movie-friendly plot with great characters and settings. And it has a carnival. The setup: The carnival - run by Ed Ferron, a lifetime carny and an ex-con - is under threat of foreclosure when it rolls into Bay Bayou, a crooked small town. The carnival needs to make money during its week in Bay Bayou or it is done. The town is united against the carnival. Enter stage left: Marva Miller. A woman with a past returns to her hometown. Ferron helps her out of an altercation at the train station, which puts him on the police radar. He gives her a ride to her uncle’s house, where they find him dead. The police and the lynch mob descend quickly and Ferron is the prime suspect. Keene develops this first act by taking Ferron’s situation from bad to worse and it is packed with tension. What happens after that is a bit surprising as the novel turns into a quasi detective novel. Except it is the carny man doing the detecting. To save himself he needs to find the killer. Can he do that and save the carnival, too? That is the driver for the last two-thirds of the novel and it kept me pinned to the pages.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Review: Savage Night

Savage Night Savage Night by Jim Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Deranged existentialist noir filtered through an unreliable first-person narrator who is a schizophrenic hit man with tuberculosis. Is the novel flawed or genius? Hard to say, probably both. First time through I struggled a bit with the pacing because some of the scenes appear filler and move slow and the dialog is full of dashes and ellipses and stuttered words. By the end, wow. Immediately reread it and then again. Those filler scenes are packed full of clues and edginess that only become apparent later as the story winds down and the narrator unravels. A pulp noir with grotesque and carnivalesque styling. Thompson is in a class by himself when it comes to unreliable narrators.

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Review: Of Tender Sin

Of Tender Sin Of Tender Sin by David Goodis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not so much crime-noir as psycho-noir. It is the second Goodis book I've read that featured a protagonist with incestuous overtones towards his sister and also the second Goodis book that also channels Malcom Lowry's Under the Volcano, but these are not the same books, so that makes three, a menage a trois of incest and Lowry-esque out-of-the headness. Need to read more to confirm, but think Goodis had a fixation. The protagonist in this novel seems mental for most of the book and that is never resolved. The novel doesn't so really end (resolve), instead it just stops. The protag is basically in the same place as in the beginning. Yes, he may know something about the platinum blonde woman (women). Yes, he may know whom his wife has been calling. But we readers are really in no better place to make a decision on our protagonist's state of mind or fate than we were at the beginning of the novel. The psychological torment continues from beginning end. So, on that criteria, this is a superb psychological noir where the dilemma facing the protagonist never really gets solved. For a book written in 1952? A solid candidate for the existentialist canon. Oh, and there is an amazing scene involving a scalping with bare hands! Surely that is a one of a kind!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Review: Wayward Girl

Wayward Girl Wayward Girl by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is one of those Orrie Hitt stories that means to shock and titillate in the realm of juvenile delinquency, a common theme of the time, rather than the sexual obsession stories that he sometimes wrote so well. It tells the tale of a 16 year old prostitute who struggles with drug abuse, reform school, and mostly how she is forced into having sex, either for money, or under pressure from various unsavory predators - which turns out to be pretty much everyone else in the book. Rather than a sexy and fun book it ends up being dark and disturbing. At some point I began paging through the book to see how much was left. Not a good sign. Hitt often employs an implausible happy ending in his books that go against any noir sensibilities that the book may have had, and here we find another forehead slapper. An incongruous ending for this disappointing and depressing novel.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Review: Mad Baxter

Mad Baxter Mad Baxter by Wade Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mad Baxter isn’t mad. His first name is Madison. He’s a 40 year old miner and adventurer who claims to have never been blown up and never been married. Baxter return to Sardinia alone to manage a mining operation where ten years previously, in a fit of passion, he promised to marry a tempestuous young woman. The woman Grazia, now grown, and leader of a tight-knit family clan expects Baxter to be true to his word. Baxter starts off on the wrong foot by blowing off the wedding and hiring miners from another family clan with whom they have been feuding. Sort of a Green Acres vibe here with Baxter, the sensible person, surrounded by folks that act unpredictably as he finds himself stuck in one jam after another in a crazy Family Feud. Well written with many memorable characters, especially Grazia who is insanely hot-blooded and volatile. A highly entertaining and humorous adventure tale.

Although many Wade Miller books are back in print this is not one of them.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Review: Flight to Darkness

Flight to Darkness Flight to Darkness by Gil Brewer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Noir paranoia and obsession at it’s finest. Eric Garth is a Korean War vet recovering in a psychiatric hospital and because this is a first-person narrative we readers are on an unstable foundation right from the start, never knowing whether his narrative is reliable or not. Brewer puts in some neat foreshadowings and doubts early on and that pays big dividends as the plot unfolds. Leda Thayer is the femme-fatale - and she has to rank up there near the top of the FF pantheon - and Brewer just buries Garth in his obsession with her. As the book begins she is his nurse at the hospital and is quitting her job as he is released. He has a big inheritance coming and she is all about that money, just needs to get him back home so he - they - can claim it. Garth, though obsessed, is also conflicted, at least until he finds himself locked up in another sanitarium. And, shall we say, game on?

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Saturday, February 20, 2021

Review: 13 French Street

13 French Street 13 French Street by Gil Brewer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was Brewer's big seller, with more than 1.2 million in sales and, from a literary standpoint, it certainly has some of his best prose. Although I'm more partial to Brewer's propulsive out-of-control style, the best example being A Taste For Sin, but 13 French Street has plenty of forward energy. Overall, I give it 4.5 stars, with the deduct being mainly for repetition, and that is partly by design as the bulk of the action takes claustrophobically place on the second floor of the house. As with Brewer's first novel - Satan Is a Woman - the femme fatale spends the first half of the novel teasing the protagonist - Alex Bland - into an obsessive and near insane frenzy. Once he's hooked the murders begin. A brilliant noir depicting Bland's self-destruction as his conscience is eroded by desire, at first reluctantly, then willfully, and finally under a haze of alcohol as he deliberately tries to drive away the pain he's caused himself by jettisoning his conscience.

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Monday, February 15, 2021

Review: In a Vanishing Room

In a Vanishing Room In a Vanishing Room by Robert Colby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Half of a Ace Double from 1961 telling the story of Paul Norris, a down-on-his-luck business man, traveling to NYC for a job interview when unbeknownst to him a highly valued receipt is planted on him. A woman, forewarned that Norris is carrying the receipt, meets him at the airport and hapless Norris, hoping to score, inadvertently gets involved in a criminal smuggling conspiracy. Failing to score, Norris decides to take advantage of the situation by trying to take a cut of the valuable cargo and then gets himself involved way over his head. Norris is very believable character, motivated by sex and money, and turns out to be less hapless than I had initially assumed. The short novel is a taut rollercoaster of chases and twists and turns. Highly recommended.

The ebook is available from Wildside Press and Amazon.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Review: Bloody Bush

Bloody Bush Bloody Bush by Len Levinson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book 3 in the series continues Sergeant Mahoney’s battles liberating Nazi occupied France in 1944. The Bloody Bush refers to hedgerows, wall-like vegetation very common in the area as it created numerous obstacles from everything from reconnaissance to impeding tank progress. There’s a shitload of endless hedgerows chapter after chapter. All of the action takes place on the front-line where characters are introduced then killed off then new characters are introduced then killed off. This became rather tedious and I was really hoping for some non-combat diversion which didn’t happen. The action sequences were well written, exciting, and nicely gory, and I really liked the historical references to actual events and people. Just an okay entry in the series compared to the first two books which I thought were superior.

Inexpensive ebook available from Piccadilly Publishing via Amazon

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Review: The Chased and the Unchaste

The Chased and the Unchaste The Chased and the Unchaste by Thomas B. Dewey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The seventh book in the “Mac” PI series finds Mac in Hollywood where he has been hired by a wealthy film producer to protect his young daughter from a kidnapping threat. Mac considers this to be a lucrative and easy job until a murder occurs and things begin to unravel. Dewey has a knack for creating fascinating female characters and here we have the saucy wife, the mousy governess and the cantankerous housekeeper, all with major roles in the narrative. The things that set Mac apart from the bevy of paperback original PIs of the era is that the characters and the plots are much more believable. Mac is a smart guy and he comes up with logical plans that don’t always go his way, rarely resorts to violence, and almost never gets the girl. Another fine novel from a writer who doesn’t get the respect or attention that he deserves.

Our friends at Wildside Press offers the ebook on Amazon.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Review: A Night for Screaming

A Night for Screaming A Night for Screaming by Harry Whittington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy habanero! Reached the point where I couldn't put this one down and had to sneak off somewhere for a couple of hours so I could finish it without being interrupted. Mitch Walker, our noir protagonist, is an ex-cop accused of murder. He can't prove his innocence and is afraid to be interrogated by his sadistic ex-partner who always gets the confession (scalding hot enemas is one of the proven torture techniques that has Mitch on the lam). We pick up the story with Mitch having hopped off a freight train in Kansas and he is quickly in hiding from the local police and his ex-partner. He "escapes" to Great Plains Empire Farm, which is staffed by prison labor and "employed" laborers who might as well be prisoners. Mitch almost immediately realizes he's made a mistake agreeing to take a job at the farm and begins plotting his escape. From that point on Whittington just keeps putting Mitch into more and more trouble and the plot surprises keep coming right up to the ending pages. Just a great fast-paced fun read and a noir thriller that completely delivers.

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Friday, January 22, 2021

Review: China Coaster

China Coaster China Coaster by Don Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An early adventure novel from Don Smith who went on to write the popular Secret Mission series. CHINA COASTER tells the story of Mike O’Connor, an American expatriate working as a ships captain in post-war China, a tumultuous time when emergent Communism and Chinese nationalism clashed. Adding to the complications are the infiltration of Soviet NKVD (precursor to KGB) agents, one of whom kills O’Connor’s lover which sparks an overarching revenge plot. O’Connor’s goal is to get out of the country before being detained by the Communists but is instead kidnapped and forced to work with Nationalist mobsters. After escaping he realizes that he can’t abide leaving until he avenges his lover’s murder setting up some extended hide and seek action. Well written with many fascinating details about China and the post-war time period. I though that it might be a little too ambitious and overly-detailed with a mind boggling rush of Chinese locations and characters which made following the story a bit of a chore. Still a fine book well worth seeking out and reading.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Review: Harry and the Bikini Bandits

Harry and the Bikini Bandits Harry and the Bikini Bandits by Basil Heatter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I first read back in junior-high that is every bit as fun as I remembered, even if there are no bikini bandits. Ok, maybe one. The form here is "my summer vacation" and it's a coming of age tale as seventeen-year-old Clay hunts down his uncle Harry and sails to the Bahamas with him aboard Harry's worn out old ketch Jezebel. That's the first third of the novel, which is a picaresque. And then, during the middle third, it turns into a heist novel as they plan and successfully rob a casino in Nassau. The final third completes Clay's coming of age in the usual ways: besting his uncle and finally losing his virginity. The end has a sweet twist that I won't spoil. The narration is first-person and the style is a cool mix of genre and literary quality free-indirect prose filtered through Clay's coming-of-age point of view. Good stuff!

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Review: Understudy for Love

Understudy for Love Understudy for Love by Charles Willeford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the original 1961 edition of the novel reprinted in 2018 as Understudy for Death by Hard Case Crime, which they heavily marketed as his long lost novel. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the novel is that both publishers misrepresented the novel. In 1961 Newsstand library pushed the sleaze and sex angle. In 2018 Hard Case pushed the crime angle. The book is neither sleaze nor crime. The two books that immediately came to mind for comparison were Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West and Revolutionay Road by Richard Yates. What we have here is a cynical journalist with a bad case of existential dread amidst his comfy suburban life. Your basic literary novel, which is how it would have been marketed if it had been published by one of the mainstream publishing houses instead of a sleaze publisher. So the first task in approaching this novel is to set aside both the sleaze and crime expectations. The question is will Richard Hudson get his head and heart in sync enough to keep his marriage and his life from imploding? Has its flaws, but is well-written, and actually quite good in its proper context. Willeford wrote a fascinating mix of novels that is worth deeper literary study.

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Review: Clint Adams, Detective

Clint Adams, Detective Clint Adams, Detective by J.R. Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another highly amusing and entertaining entry in the 465 book (and counting) series that tells the story of Clint Adams, The Gunsmith, called to Hannibal Missouri by Mark Twain to help defend a black man falsely accused of murder. Prolific author Robert Randisi’s conversational style of writing is well-tuned here with dialogue between the characters that nicely advances the plot with little filler or padding. The obligatory sex scenes are steamy and blessed with a lot of panache, not afterthoughts like in many adult Westerns. Plenty of interesting characters – Twain, the timid young lawyer, his enthusiastic sister, and the saucy banker’s wife, and a very propulsive plot, make this one hard to put down. I read it in one day and liked it a lot.

Not sure if this one is still in print or not. Here's a link to the J.R. Roberts page on Amazon.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Review: Gannon's Vendetta

Gannon's Vendetta Gannon's Vendetta by John Whitlatch
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had read all of Whitlatch's books back in Jr. high and remembered them as being good action thrillers. Have to say I was disappointed rereading this one. We have a simple revenge plot as Gannon's wife is raped and killed by a motorcycle gang and he tracks them down to Mexico to get his vengeance. The action scenes are good, and it is pretty well written, but at least a third of the book is scenes that don't advance the plot, instead they just show how he passed the boring time between the action. This would have been much better at 160 pages instead of the 249 it is. Cover art by Norm Eastman who did a lot of men's adventure magazine covers back in the day.

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Friday, January 15, 2021

Review: Killer Crabs

Killer Crabs Killer Crabs by Guy N. Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The second book in the Crab series shows significant improvement in the author’s writing, which unfortunately negates most of the amateurish charm of the first book. This time the monster crabs have shown up in an Australian resort area - discovered by a cantankerous fishing boat captain named Klin, who reminded me of Quint from Jaws, only a lot hornier. Fortunately for him (but not for us) a promiscuous model impersonating a wealthy woman is staying at the resort, a goofy subplot that yields several gratuitous and puerile sex scenes with various partners, but ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere. Professor Davenport is back and teams up with Klin to fight the monsters. No surprise that I didn’t like this as much as the first book, which wasn’t very well written, but was entertaining and charming in a pulpy way, where this one is mostly just a clunker.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Review: The Death Riders

The Death Riders The Death Riders by Jackson Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jim Hatfield, Texas Ranger, goes undercover while investigating some troubling reports of outlaw rustlers wearing luminous skull masks that have been terrorizing ranchers and townsfolk. Like most good pulp Westerns this one is an easy and entertaining read, well written and simply plotted with a nice few surprises, and it’s all tied up neatly at the end with Hatfield revealing his identity and then methodically describing how he was able to solve the mystery, much like a Golden Age Mystery detective. Like so many pulp Westerns it ends with a planned wedding. I found it a fun and comfortable read - perfect for a cold and snowy day in January.

James Reasoner posted a nice review with much more detail on his blog.

Available as ebook from Prologue Books and Amazon.