Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Review: Seven

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

Interesting collection published in 1971 as the popularity for MacDonald’s Travis McGee series was taking off. The four shorter stories were published in Playboy and likely solicited. “Dear Old Friend” has an epistolary structure where through four shifting attempts at a dictated letter we learn the story. “The Annex” is sort of a white light story or a dream of a dying man. “Quarrel” is a bit of hilarity about an “accidental play” via tape recording. “Double Hannenframis,” my favorite of the shorter stories, is a neat noir about an executive caught insider trading and siphoning cash. The three longer stories were all previously unpublished. “The Random Noise of Love” can best be summed up by what a friend says to the protagonist: “Don’t lose your head for a piece of tail.” Oops, too late. The story has a five-page obsessive description of the girl as she comes out of the shower, gets dressed, does her makeup, etc. Yes, he’s lost his head. “The Willow Pool” is novella length with multiple narrators each describing their view of the events, which is a good technique for broadening the scope of the narrative in ways it couldn’t otherwise. “Woodchuck” seems the class of the collection, with MacDonald at the top of his craft using concrete descriptive writing, insightful psychology, and wicked characterization via action in this long story about a man cynically seducing the wife of a man who works for him. The woodchuck of the title is a story within the story and MacDonald even pulls that digression off and makes it work thematically. Three of the stories I’d give five stars, but the others are not to that level.

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Sunday, August 28, 2022

Review: —And the Girl Screamed

—And the Girl Screamed —And the Girl Screamed by Gil Brewer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of those books where I wish Brewer had spent the time to revise instead of cranking it out in five days because it is just completely uneven. Incredibly written scenes are followed by stretches of lackadaisical writing. The beginning was atypical for Brewer, just a grindingly slow setup. And then blammo! Finally, at the start of chapter four, the girl screamed and the novel got going, as ex-cop Reddick witnesses a murder but manages to become the prime suspect and while the police are searching for him he is trying to find the murderer. Unfortunately Brewer didn't then go back and trim the first three chapters down to five pages! There's some really great stuff in this one but you also have to wade through some crap.

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Saturday, August 27, 2022

Review: The Girl from Hateville

The Girl from Hateville The Girl from Hateville by Gil Brewer
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This one is such a mess it is almost incomprehensible how it got published in this fashion. Even if it is a one of Brewer's first-draft-written-in-three-days novels, the lack of editing is astounding. The basic plot line is that Al Harper returns to his home town after being away for eight years only to find that everyone hates him because his father, the town's banker, apparently cleaned out the bank vault with everyone's savings before committing suicide and leaving everyone to default on mortgages etc. That plot line has some truck as it puts Harper in harms way immediately after he hits town. From that point on, though, the writing is chaotic. Too many characters just start showing up for no reason and Harper starts doing one thing and then changes to doing something else in mid-course for reasons unexplained. The best writing is found in the scenes where Al is getting the crap beat out of him, and there are three or four of those scenes, so Brewer was on his game for those at least. The novel could have been OK with a decent edit, but it would have taken a complete rewrite to get it up to the level of Brewer's other novels.

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Monday, August 22, 2022

Review: The Lonely Silver Rain

The Lonely Silver Rain The Lonely Silver Rain by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the 21st and final book in the Travis McGee series and I put it in my top five of the series. McGee, and his friend Meyer, have had numerous close calls with death in the novels leading up to this last McGee, and that theme continues. I won't spoil the ending for those who haven't read it yet. Felt pitch perfect to me. The story here has McGee tracking down and recovering a stolen yacht and in the aftermath he becomes a target for the Peruvian drug cartel. Plenty of action as McGee deals with the hit men coming after him. A further mystery is the strange pipe cleaner cats which are being left around his boat, it's a message he doesn't understand and that amps the tension from another direction as the novel progresses. What makes this one so good is that MacDonald delves deep into McGee's character as both character and author are feeling their mortality. Beautiful balance between the action adventure aspects and the McGee/MacDonald philosophy of life. Resonates as a great series finale, but it also works well as a stand alone.

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Sunday, August 21, 2022

Review: Dark Trail

Dark Trail Dark Trail by Ed Gorman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Leo Guild, the damaged and heroic bounty hunter, finds himself pulled into two intersecting love triangles that both seem to be headed for hell. The five characters drawn into this mess are exceptionally well drawn with dialog that sparkles and shines, and a plot that is wholly original and cinematic in scope. If I was a film producer I would buy the rights and film this damn thing. As you may have noticed I loved this short novel. The late Ed Gorman was a terrific writer, his Guild books are exceptional, and this is now my favorite one. Five stars.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Review: Cinnamon Skin

Cinnamon Skin Cinnamon Skin by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Number 20 of the Travis McGee series continues a couple of themes from where Free Fall in Crimson left off. McGee is still playing touchy-feely with Annie and he's still trying to help Meyer deal with his residual depression after his take down by the biker Dirty Bob. When Meyer's boat is blown up, killing his niece, we are in uncharted territory for the series. No salvage job for a client this time. It's all about revenge and MacDonald is at his best exploring the psychological depths of the characters. Structurally, the story is also quite similar to Crimson in that we have a powerful villain who is off stage until the end. We know him from stories of his exploits without actually seeing him in action. I'm not a fan of this structure, much prefer learning about a villain by having them do evil in real time. Also disappointed that we didn't get one of those great multi-scene climactic sequences that MacDonald was such a master at writing. Just one, slightly implausible, setup that delivers an uppercut for sure, but was much shorter than the usual McGee endings and that kept this from being one of the great books in the series. The high points are McGee and Meyer investigating to learn the villain's past, Meyer's recovery, and the varied settings as they go from Florida to Texas to upstate New York and eventually to Mexico. Good stuff, but just mid-tier for me.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Review: Free Fall in Crimson

Free Fall in Crimson Free Fall in Crimson by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started off liking this 19th book in the Travis McGee series as it quickly delves into solving the mystery of why a guy dying of cancer gets beat to death at highway rest stop. McGee's investigation takes him to a biker bar run by an old war buddy in search of a lead, which he finds. And then he's off to Hollywood and Lyssa Dean, an actress he helped in The Quick Red Fox, to track down the Director and some bikers/actors from a biker-movie. She steers him to Iowa and the set of movie about hot air ballooning. After that it just felt like the energy left the book even though there is a formidable villain. The problem is we mostly hear about this bad ass second-hand, instead of seeing him live an in action. At least until the ending, where he shows up in the flesh. Doesn't have MacDonald's trademark rollercoaster sequence of climactic scenes as do so many of the McGee books. Instead we have a quick confrontation, with a partially recycled device from, I think, Bright Orange for the Shroud, and an older, wiser McGee (not a spoiler) survives again.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Review: Roanleigh

Roanleigh Roanleigh by Gretchen Mockler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Superb gothic suspense novel. Full of atmosphere, mystery, and tension. At the beginning, Roan is an amnesiac invalid being cared for by her mother, brother, and family nurse. But she knows something is off with the narrative they are spinning. So she quits taking the pills the nurse has been pushing. Soon snippets of memory return and she is certain that she is not Roan. She knows she is someone else, just not who else she might be. The writing craft is so good that I couldn't put the book down after that rolling start. It is packed with concrete details that amp up the moods. The dialog seems always strewn with subtext. And Roan's actions and interactions are fueled by her at any means approach. All of which makes this a virtual master class in how to write a gothic novel. My research has turned up no other books or any other information on the author Gretchen Mockler. The novel seems too good to have been a one off, so I suspect it might be a pseudonym of some other well-known gothic writer, but maybe not.

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Sunday, July 31, 2022

Review: Subdued

Subdued Subdued by Bud Conway
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Cover art is by Bill Alexander, who, along with Gene Bilbrew, Bill Ward, and Eric Stanton did most of the highly collectible cover art for the Satellite Publication imprints After Hours, First Niter, Unique, and Wee Hours. In case the trench coats on the cover didn’t tip you off, this 1966 Wee Hours book is an espionage thriller. Bob Baker is a pinup photographer for Girl Parade magazine and after an interlude shooting at a nude beach on the French Rivera he’s off to Paris on assignment where, surprisingly, he’s recruited into the CIA. After some period of training in German (and Judo) he’s sent behind the lines into communist East Germany and Poland. His mission to photograph plans for a nerve gas factory. The task is intricately plotted with plenty of secret meetings and double agents and all the usual spy genre shenanigans. The writing style, however, is too breezy to take this seriously as a spy novel. It’s a spy plot with opportunities, in between taking pictures with his spy camera, of course, for Bob Baker to have sex. Baker gets plenty of action, but nothing is described too explicitly. So a sleazy spy novel. The smooth prose made this a quick and easy read. Unfortunately the proofreader took the day off and the text is marred by an enormous amount of typographical mistakes.

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Saturday, July 30, 2022

Review: Ex-Virgin

Ex-Virgin Ex-Virgin by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the fifteen novels Orrie Hitt had published in 1959. (From the grave he says I see your nanowrimo and, I raise, all in!) This first edition is Beacon 267 with the painted cover art. The second and third Beacon/Softcover Library editions have lame photo-covers. I'm rating this a bit higher than it probably deserves because on a close reading I found enough "writing surprises" relative to some of Hitt's other books that made me think he wasn't just going through the motions. Sticks to his formula, for sure, and after 50 some books to his credit by this time he had the formula smooth as creamy peanut butter. The title suggests this is a good girl gone bad story. Kinda, sorta. Mary is the virgin who becomes the ex-virgin of the title. But not willingly and Hitt's rape scenes are some of his most explicit pre-1960 descriptions. Many ways to go with this review as Hitt recycles several plots and themes and character types from his earlier books and will do so even more in the 100 books that will follow this one. What struck me, though, was his character assassination of Ferry Street in this unnamed town which surely is a stand-in for Port Jervis, New York where Hitt lived for many years. "Ferry" is a stand-in street name. When I was growing up in Seattle we had "First Avenue" and "Pike Street." Dive bars, flop houses, hookers, pimps, and drug dealers. Hitt's world has Mary, Joe, Janice, Anne, and Sam. Five dollars gets a guy laid in this riverside slum. The sad tale here, however —and it's a noir tale—is that Sam has the world at his feet. He has Mary, the 41-26-36 figure girl that every other guy in town wants. The owner of the gas station where he works is ready to retire and willing to practically give the place to Sam. Yet . . . Head shake. Sam, Sam! Stay away from the bosses wife! You know he won't. And Hitt's morality play—teen sex, pregnancy, abortions—becomes noir as Sam slides down the slippery slope to oblivion. That's all top-notch, but unlike Whittington, Brewer, MacDonald, Hitt sticks to his grade school prose style, at which he was something of a genius, which is easy to miss until you've read enough of Hitt and a lot of the others. Not his best. Not is his worst. But I can steer you towards many better reads than this.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Review: Man-Crazy Nurse

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

Ok, I'm pushing this one again. It's Peggy Gaddis at her sublimely darkest. I still have about 150 of her 250 books left to read but it is hard to imagine one of those topping Man-Crazy Nurse. It's going to be in my top-ten noir novels, for sure. Awesome nurse noir! (Peggy was having a dark time —thankfully for us!) 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!

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Monday, July 25, 2022

Review: The Deadly Climate

The Deadly Climate The Deadly Climate by Ursula Curtiss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This Ursula Curtiss suspense novel with gothic overtones was originally published in hardcover in 1954 followed by a Pocket Books paperback edition, same year. Ace released this edition in 1965 with the classic woman running cover art and a back cover blurb by none other than Anthony Boucher, the New York Times mystery/crime book reviewer, who called it ". . . one of the season's best pure thrillers." Not going to argue. The pace was relentless. Atmosphere deliciously detailed. Action and anticipation. Caroline witnessing a murder and running for her life. Carmichael, the journalist, chasing ghosts, believes her when no one else does. Except the killer. Loved this and read at a blistering pace. Eager to read more of Curtiss's earlier novels.

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Saturday, July 23, 2022

Review: Tawny

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

Tawny, (Beacon B261, 1959), is a reprint of Cabin Fever (Uni-book 73, 1954) with a new title and new cover art. Cabin Fever was Hitt's third published book 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 is the femme fatale character but the novel is not focalized through her, so it's one of those marketing bait and switches where the cover art and blurbs suggest one story but what you get is something else entirely.

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Review: Nita's Place

Nita's Place Nita's Place by Harry Whittington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the judge a book by its cover category, this 1960 first edition cover art is in the same vein as a lot of the Orrie Hitt sleaze books published around that time. Whereas the 1964 second edition has cover art similar to the Gold Medal crime/noir books. So this tough to categorize novel was marketed at different times to different audiences. Interestingly, although this Whittington doesn't quite succeed as either sleaze or noir, if it were sexed up a bit it would track well with the books he wrote for Greenleaf/Corinth in the mid-1960s. The storyline has 44-year-old Jay Wagner, fresh off a couple of heart attacks and a you-could-drop-dead-at-any-time prognosis, taking up residence at a Florida motel to enjoy the sun and bikini-views until he drops dead as the doctors say he will. The motel is run by Nita (good girl) and her sister Callie (slut) and after a period of bikini gazing Jay pleases them both. And then there's Rita, Elsie, and Betty. Jay is your typical sleaze novel protagonist getting plenty of action. The novel, however, is full of espionage overtones with a nearby missile base, airmen and scientists around the pool, and rumors that the motel is under government surveillance. Also plenty of noir subplots via Jay's nefarious history, Nita's and Callie's mob connections, and all three of them are fleeing past lives they can't escape. The problem is that Whittington never quite decided on which kind of novel—sleaze, spy, noir—this would be, and the result is that it succeeds at none of them. Toss in a lot of clunky head-hopping from the point of view, and dialogue that is frequently too on the nose, and this is not one of Whittington's best. That said, I still mostly enjoyed this one because it always seemed to be about to explode. Whittington had plenty to work with here but never quite pulled it off.

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Sunday, July 17, 2022

Review: Sheba

Sheba Sheba by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This one was awful. I've been willing to cut Hitt some slack in my other reviews of Hitt's novels because he did have a kind of genius for writing reasonably complex plotted novels using third-grade reading comprehension prose. But his "see Dick run" prose is incredibly lame in this one. Usually Hitt tunneled into some profession - radio advertising, insurance sales, etc. - and provided an interesting window into 1950s work/business. So reading Hitt usually provides a cultural anthropology window into that era. Not here. The setting is a car dealership and unscrupulous loans, but Hitt was completely going through the motions and didn't provide any deep glimpse into the business. Which was a big disappointment. And the rest is just embarrassing.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Review: The Green Eagle Score

The Green Eagle Score The Green Eagle Score by Richard Stark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Along with The Score, when Parker robs an entire town, this 10th in the series is one of my favorites. Parker plans out the seemingly ridiculous heist of the payroll at an Air Force base. (This is 1967 and the bi-weekly payroll was paid in cash.) Early focus is the casing of the base with the help of the inside guy who works in the finance office. The major complication is that the girlfriend of the finance guy is also the ex-wife of another member of the crew. So early on we know this heist is going to go wrong. A further complication is that the girlfriend is describing the heist planning to her psychologist in thrice weekly sessions, and we know this will muck things up but not how. Saying much more will spoil the read, but suffice to say that the last third of the book is non-stop action with an exciting heist and its surprising and wild aftermath. Stark/Westlake nails the ending in this one.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Review: The Rare Coin Score

The Rare Coin Score The Rare Coin Score by Richard Stark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The tension builds relentlessly as Parker, more out of boredom than the need to increase his stake, breaks a few of his rules and joins a scheme for a big heist at a coin collector's convention. It's not a question of if this heist is going to go wrong, but how and when, and that kept me turning pages as fast as I could read. Parker is at his dominating best throughout, using equal parts humiliation and intimidation, but he makes a few mistakes, and despite all the rigorous planning, it is chaos down the home stretch. Plenty of excitement and Parker is the baddest of bad asses, but the ending—the last four pages specifically—felt dubious and a bit disappointing.

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Saturday, July 9, 2022

Review: The Green Ripper

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

One of my favorites in the series because it forces Travis McGee to go all-in on a dark journey to avenge the murder of Gretel, the woman he fell in love with at the end of The Empty Copper Sea. The last quarter of this novel features one of MacDonald's best climactic concluding sequences. Before we get there, however, we start with the love struck McGee and the quick death of Gretel, gone by the end of chapter two. What follows is a brief investigation by McGee and Meyer, which prompts two different teams of federal-ish agents (one bogus, one real) to investigate McGee and Meyer. It all dead ends and a despondent McGee is told by everyone to give up and move on. McGee's response is to drop out of his life, which includes sending Meyer a letter with instructions about what to do if/when McGee doesn't come back, and to chase down one sliver of a clue. The middle has McGee assume a fake identity and infiltrate the militant wing of the Church of Apocrypha. At first McGee is locked up, but eventually the terrorists start trusting him and he begins training with them, which gives him the chance to learn each of their strengths and weaknesses. MacDonald jumps right to the extended conclusion and over the next fifty or so pages McGee battles with and proceeds to (still three books left in the series, so not a spoiler alert) eliminate all eleven terrorists using rocks, knives, guns, grenades, and probably a head butt or two. And thus, Gretel avenged, McGee is healed and ready to return to his houseboat moored in slip F-18, Bahia Mar marina, Fort Lauderdale, and resume his old life as a beach bum and salvage consultant. MacDonald delivers on all levels and you needn't be familiar with the rest of the series to enjoy this because it also works as stand alone thriller.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Review: Flesh Curse

Flesh Curse Flesh Curse by Harry Whittington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's because there are still great lost noirs waiting to be found that I wade through the vintage sleaze stacks. It's one thing to know that this 1964 John Dexter is one of the famed "missing 38" that Harry Whittington wrote for Greenleaf imprints between 1964 and 1967, and another thing to actually read this blistering noir and realize it's as good or better than most of the crime noir novels he placed with mainstream publishers such as Ace, Avon, and Fawcett Gold Medal. Larry Burgess and his twin Curt are heading to California on a train from Baltimore to visit their wealthy grandfather. Not so innocent a journey, however, as Larry has wracked up $30,000 in gambling debts he can't pay and has welched and is on the run. His brother knows he's in trouble but not to what extent. Without giving too much of the plot away, the mob is on Larry's trail and we find out just how far he will go to survive. What elevates this one is the first person narration from Larry's point of view. Frequently bad guy narrators are the heroes of their own tale. They don't see themselves from society's perspective, don't see themselves as evil. They are motivated to get what they want just like everyone else. Larry doesn't see himself as a hero. He knows he's a welch, thief, liar, and all around loser. He berates himself for being such a loser and simmers in his broth of self-loathing. And yet, that doesn't cause him to change, or slow down one bit his attempt to escape, no matter whom he hurts. The narration hurtles along equally fueled by obsession and paranoia, much like a Cornell Woolrich novel, until the pressure can't be contained. I think this is another example of how writing for a sleaze publisher freed Whittington to hold nothing back because he didn't have to fit Larry Burgess into a mainstream template. We are used to this type of narration in contemporary noir and dark fiction, but it was rare in the 1950s and 1960s, which is one of the reason that these old crime noirs are so prized.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Review: Lust Pro

Lust Pro Lust Pro by John Dexter
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

John Dexter was a house name at Greenleaf used for just about everybody, but this one was by Richard A. Curtis, who also wrote three books under the Burt Alden pseudo. Haven't found much on Curtis other than that he was among the crew at the Scott Meredith Agency who started out reading manuscripts and graduated to writing sleazers to feed the Greenleaf production line (30 plus books a month at one point). Raleigh is the golf pro at the Baywind Country Club and the first chapter is not too bad as he dusts off the club champion on the 18th hole while eyeing the guy's wife and ignoring his own. The plot, which all told probably takes up about 10 of the 189 pages, has Raleigh negotiating a deal for some of the members to buy the country club. The rest of the book consists of poorly written sex scenes, with a smattering of better written scenes where Raleigh is hitting balls on the practice range while trying to get his head straight. Not recommended.

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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Review: Isle of Sin

Isle of Sin Isle of Sin by John Dexter
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This 1961 Nightstand reads like a frat-boy fantasy. First-person narrator Rick Lane is a sleazy folk singer chasing fame, fortune, and fanny. His agent lands him a summer gig at a resort town that resembles Provincetown and it is a target rich environment. He can't keep his pants on for any longer than the time it takes to remove them. The nightclub crowds love his performances and future stardom is assured. There's a slight speed bump in the last third of the novel, but let's not kid ourselves about how this fantasy will end.

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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Review: The Blonde on the Street Corner

The Blonde on the Street Corner The Blonde on the Street Corner by David Goodis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodis is well-known for his many crime noirs from the 1950s. This 1954 Lion paperback original set in 1936 Philadelphia is not one of those. Instead it is a portrait of depression-era ennui. Although a basically plot-less novel (the point) about four 30-ish men who live with their parents and spend most of their time standing around on street corners, it nonetheless crackles with energy in between long stretches of flat meaningless dialog. In response to shouts from his sister to get a job you lazy bum, Ralph instead descends into a three-page think that is a stunning repudiation of the American Dream, as if to say, if that's all you got, I'll stand around on a street corner and do nothing, thank you very much. Parsed in this way, we have an uneven novel, with brilliant flashes of literary realism. Goodis was well-read and well-educated and knew exactly what he was doing here and you wouldn't be far off making the connections with Kafka and Beckett or noticing the obvious homage to West's Miss Lonelyhearts. The real star of the novel is Lenore, the blonde on the street corner, who starts and ends this story by getting what she wants, "the kind of action that knocks me out, puts me on a roller coaster going haywire." Ralph gives it to her "like a beast" and that's where their dreams go to die.

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Friday, July 1, 2022

Review: Sin Ship Skipper

Sin Ship Skipper Sin Ship Skipper by Alan Marshall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Better written and edited than most vintage sleaze novels I've read, which makes me wonder which well-known author might have written this one. Alan Marshall was basically a house name for Greenleaf, although it was first used by Donald Westlake when he started publishing with Midwood and later for his Nightstand (Greenleaf) novels. This is not a Westlake, however, and its 1968 publication date likely rules out some of the other mainstream authors who started out publishing sleaze under pseudonyms. That said, sometimes older manuscripts were pulled out of storage and published years later, so who knows. Need to do more sleuthing, and this may be nothing, but I have found numerous stylistic and textual clues (of the sort that have been used to identify Whittington and Block novels) that point to John Jakes. Jakes was identified by Earl Kemp (Greenleaf editor) as the early J. X. Williams (a pseudo also later also used for Whittington novels), and one Alan Marshall—Shame Isle —has been previously linked to Jakes, which is one of the novels where I found stylistic similarities to Sin Ship Skipper. This is a bawdy blackmail fueled crime novel that takes place mostly at sea on board a yacht on its way from San Francisco to Panama. The first person protagonist is Captain Toby Dorn who has a reputation in the bunk as well as at the helm. The guests on the yacht include a bevy of what Dorn might describe as bed-able broads and he spends most of his time bouncing them on his bunk. Well, what else would you expect from a Greenleaf novel? The sex is not too explicit and the last half of the novel is focused on the unraveling of the blackmail plot and a series of murders that go along with it. Not great but a cut above the typical sleazer.

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Monday, June 27, 2022

Review: The Empty Copper Sea

The Empty Copper Sea The Empty Copper Sea by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Way back in the 1970s when the Travis McGee series was still fresh, we had to wait about four years between the 16th and this the 17th in the series. McGee had a rough go in The Dreadful Lemon Sky, maybe he was done? No, MacDonald took a break from McGee and took on Florida developers and a hurricane in his massive 550+ page novel Condominium, which came out the year before this one did. The return of McGee here is a bit a of a disappointment. I won't say MacDonald was going through the motions, because McGee and Meyer do plenty of investigating, but McGee is world weary and needed a break so up comes a cream puff of a case to help an old friend recover his reputation. Minimal action with lots of talking and ruminating. The thin story about a businessman who liquidated most of his assets, faked his death, and disappeared with a hot woman, is regurgitated over and over by everyone McGee and Meyer talk to. Gets boring pretty quickly. There is a twist, which I won't spoil, as it comes at the end, and the boring story becomes a mystery solved. It was an OK read, but skippable without any loss to the McGee legacy.

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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Review: The Dreadful Lemon Sky

The Dreadful Lemon Sky The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you've been reading through the Travis McGee series sequentially—and this is probably my third time through—you can't help but notice, in this the 16th (of 21), that McGee's brushes with death are more frequent and more narrowly avoided. McGee is on his game in this one, however, and there is less talk of feeling his age and losing his step. He mentions luck a few times and he praises the skills of his opponent. MacDonald is sowing more seeds for the end of McGee. But not yet. As usual, plenty of good action scenes and the climactic sequence involving a jeep with a blade and some fire ants is top notch. This book also features, at least up to this point in the series I think, the best tag-team investigating by McGee and Meyers as MacDonald makes full use of their different skill sets to completely unravel the mystery of what happened to Carrie Milligan. One of the things I like most about MacDonald's approach is that he doesn't rely on the mystery trope of wrapping things all up in some final scene that solves the whodunnit. McGee and Meyer are incrementalists using con, smarts, sneakery and thuggery to put the puzzle together piece by piece. They toss out theories and test them. They poke and prod to see who gets squirrelly. It's a fun process to follow and makes this one my top McGee's.

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Review: A Gun For Honey

A Gun For Honey A Gun For Honey by G.G. Fickling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Large breasts and murder are the focus of the third book in the Honey West series, a female private detective that the authors describe as a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Mike Hammer. Honey is engaged by a Hollywood director to protect his young second wife and young daughter from “The Kissing Killer”, however the young wife is immediately found dead. The suspects are a foursome of amorous men who take every opportunity to grope, kiss, or remark upon Honey’s well-endowed physique. Honey fends off these advances admirably, clearly determined to solve the crime without such distractions in a very classic detective whodunit murder mystery plot, even bringing the suspects together at the end for the big reveal. Lots of terrific set pieces with Honey bouncing between the elusive suspects who all have dark secrets to hide. I won’t spoil the conclusion - only to say that it was a real shocker. A fair bit of nudity, plenty of discreet references to sex, and a tight plot make this book a sexy and enjoyable reading experience. I will be on the lookout for the other books in the series. Four stars.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Review: So Rich, So Dead

So Rich, So Dead So Rich, So Dead by Gil Brewer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was Brewer's second novel and it reads fast and loose. Early on Brewer is channeling The Maltese Falcon: A private investigator with a dead partner, weird criminals trying to find loot, multiple femme-fatales. The descriptive writing is better than in some of his later books. The dialog, however, is clunky and doesn't move the story forward very well, in fact it is actually evasive. At first I thought it was just bad dialog, but I've seen this in other Brewer books and it is actually a tease and deny technique he uses. The dialog is rarely on the nose, the right questions are rarely asked, and any answers avoid communicating. Gets a bit frustrating in this one at times, but that's kind of OK because there is constant action as Bill Maddern is caught and then gets away, over and over again. He's jumping out windows, off roofs, and running a lot. Ultimately, this is a whodunnit where it is not too hard to be smarter than the investigator, so the concluding wrap-up is no surprise.

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Monday, June 20, 2022

Review: Sin Pit

Sin Pit Sin Pit by Paul S. Meskil
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love the gritty beginning that starts in the middle of the action. Plus great circa 1954 East St. Louis setting. I can see why this is considered a classic of the genre: the prose is lean and mean and the characters are all the opposite of the Ozzie & Harriet image that the mainstream media of that era was promoting. The first meeting between the cop protagonist and the femme fatale is explosive and that sets the stage for his trip to hell. More police procedural than noir, but all the behavior is beyond the norm, and that's what makes this an exciting read. In eBook format now, so readily available.

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Friday, June 17, 2022

Review: Operation Ice Cap

Operation Ice Cap Operation Ice Cap by James Dark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The beginning, inside a submarine under the polar ice cap, is hooky, especially when the submarine starts melting from the outside in. Our hero, Intertust agent, Mark Hood doesn't show until the third chapter, and then he appears in a very James Bond-ish scene in a sports car on a mountain road with a "tall, sun-bronzed" girl named Elke. Before the end of the chapter they have sex (not described) in the bushes alongside the road and dispense with three hoods armed with guns and knives. This, like the other half-dozen fight scenes, is described in great choreographed detail. Gun battles, karate fights, sword fights, knife fights. Did I say it's fast-paced with plenty of action? It is. The plot, if you can suspend your disbelief and allow some sci-fi/future technology into your 1960s espionage, is plausible, minimal, and tight. Liked this better than the other two I've read in the Mark Hood series.

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Monday, June 13, 2022

Review: Under the Sweetwater Rim

Under the Sweetwater Rim Under the Sweetwater Rim by Louis L'Amour
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Set in 1863 Wyoming, this 1971 L'Amour western begins with the aftermath of a wagon train massacre. Although the point of view is omniscient and shifts around frequently, it mostly sticks with Tenadore Brian, ex-mercenary, but now a Lieutenant in the Cavalry. The renegades are led by Reuben Kelsey, a mad-skilled villain. Complications abound. Brian and Kelsey knew each other as boys when they survived a wagon train massacre together. One of the women in the wagon train is the daughter of the Cavalry Major tracking down the renegades. There's missing US Military payroll, in gold. With the stakes set sufficiently high, L'Amour launches into a chase and escape driven plot as Kelsey's renegades pursue a wagon, led by Brian, that escaped with the gold and the Major's daughter. Pretty much non-stop action and gun battles for 150 pages to the end, with occasional character analysis in service of the cat and mouse plot, as each character is trying to figure out what the other will do. I'd place this in the upper tier of L'Amour's books.

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Saturday, June 4, 2022

Review: Candy

Candy Candy by Sheldon Lord
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another early Lawrence Block book. The first chapter is a doozy as our first-person narrator Jeff comes home late still reeking with his mistresses' perfume and is confronted by his wife. The narration is flavored equally with asshole-ness and self-loathing and really starts the book off with an edge. Then we get a back story chapter showing how Jeff gets involved with Candy. Candy's goal is to be a kept woman and clearly Jeff doesn't make enough to keep her. He becomes obsessed with her. She dumps him. His wife leaves him. He hits the bottle. Losses his job. And then tries to find Candy. To say more would be spoiler, except that the crime elements all come late in the book. In the iBook store this is classified as erotica. It isn't, not even by 1960 standards. Couple of sex scenes, but they are not even written to excite. Overall, some good stuff here, but also plenty of filler, and it's easy to see that Block was ready to make the move to Gold Medal style books.

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Friday, June 3, 2022

Review: Angel!

Angel! Angel! by Carter Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

These Carter Brown novels always annoyed me when I first read them back in junior high because they all had the sexy Robert McGinnis cover art and then, unlike the sleazers they were made to look like, they never delivered. That's what we have with Angel. Lieutenant Al Wheeler, the cop on the beat here, spends a lot of time describing sexy women, but never gets to partake. He does solve the crime, however, and in typical mystery novel convention, the wrap up comes, after quite a few red herrings, in the last ten pages. This is a quick and easy read with plenty of interesting characters and a decent plot. Some of the Carter Brown dialog stylistics get slightly annoying, the too clever repartee, and particularly the speech tags (he growled, he snarled, he said laughingly, etc), but this is a beach read, so who cares.

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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Review: The Greenback Trail

The Greenback Trail The Greenback Trail by Jon Sharpe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A gorgeous young woman and her elderly father are aided by Skye Fargo not knowing that they are counterfeiters with a map to dig up a long buried cache of millions of dollars of counterfeit bills. Of course Pop spilled the beans in prison and a band of outlaws are in hot pursuit looking to get the map and the moola. Fargo ends up in the middle of this mess and has to use his investigative skills to figure out what everyone is after and why. So yeah, like most Adult Westerns its a detective novel set in the Old West with a couple of sex scenes thrown in. The writing, dialog, and plot are all great and, although there is no author name attributed The Trailsman novels were written by some of the most respected work-for-hire authors in the business at the time. I’ve enjoyed all of ‘em so far.

Plenty of The Trailsman reviews at Steve Myall's Western Fiction Review blog.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Review: Slab Happy

Slab Happy

Slab Happy by Richard S. Prather
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I somehow ended up with three copies of this book and figured that I ought to read one of them. A Hollywood movie producer hires Shell Scott to investigate a blackmail scheme involving some of his up and coming young stars. Once again Shell digs himself into deeper and deeper trouble this time with competing mobsters out to kill him, a corrupt desert horse ranch resort, and a hot young starlet to bed. All of the Shell Scott books are a wild ride with Shell getting beat up a few times, some cat-and-mouse set pieces, and some outrageous humor and wisecracking. This one plays it pretty straight. Less goofiness and a solid, albeit somewhat convoluted plot. I liked it a lot. Speaking of Hollywood, I’m surprised that there was never a effort to put Shell Scott on the big screen. His character and his antics would have translated well in my opinion. Four stars.

Wolfpack Publishing has acquired the rights to this series and has reissued them as very affordable ebooks.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Review: Spy Ghost

Spy Ghost Spy Ghost by Norman Daniels
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The current Russian aggression had me seeking out a vintage Cold War espionage book and found this one from 1965. John Keith is The Man from APE (nothing to do with evolution) a secret USA spy agency who is tasked with keeping the KGB from persuading a Soviet scientist to design a rocket, ostensibly to rescue a cosmonaut who is lost in space, in a really bonkers plot to use ESP to convince him that the spaceman is still alive. More lunacy ensues with Keith trying to disprove a clairvoyant and a telepath that the KGB has tricked into duping the scientist to work on the rocket. Not surprisingly Keith beds the attractive females and gets beat up. Super silly plot, bordering on self-parody, but entertaining as hell. A fun and nostalgic read for those who lived through the Cold War and the spy/secret agent media rage of the 1960s. Four stars.

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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Pulpgen Archive Now Online

Something that I accomplished while quarantined with COVID-19 was to bring the Pulpgen documents back online.

Pulpgen was a labor of love of many individuals to reproduce scanned pulp magazine articles digitally - rendering them as clean documents rather than yellowed scans using optical character recognition and various Adobe tools and the PDF format. The website was online from 2002 until 2021 when it unexpectedly went offline - at the time containing over 2200+ documents.

The original Pulgen static HTML files are archived at this link thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

The 2200+ PDF documents have fortunately been archived several places including here. You can navigate the document repository and download or read online these treasured documents using the Browse and Search links.

Sure, I tried to keep the same minimalist aesthetic of the original site (ugly) and maybe I'll modernize it a bit someday, and yeah, I need to cleanup some redundancies and author names still. A work in progress.

Check out the Pulpgen Archive.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Review: Thuvia, Maid of Mars

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

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

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Sunday, April 17, 2022

Review: The Warlord of Mars

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

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

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Thursday, April 7, 2022

Review: Desire in the Dust

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

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

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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Review: The Seventh

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

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

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Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Review: The Gods of Mars

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

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

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

Review: Sex and the Stewardess

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

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

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Thursday, March 31, 2022

Lone Star and the Master of Death

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

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

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Monday, March 21, 2022

Review: One Endless Hour

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

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

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Sunday, March 20, 2022

Review: Sugar

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

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

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Sunday, March 13, 2022

Review: Manhattan Massacre

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

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

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Saturday, March 5, 2022

Review: Too Hot to Handle

Too Hot to Handle Too Hot to Handle by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another noir-ish plot with a vice angle, in this case prostitution circa late 1950s. A bit unique because it is narrated from the female protagonist's point of view. She drifts into prostitution because her husband isn’t making enough money and he is a “little man” and she is a nymphomaniac and anyway why not make money doing what she most enjoys? Ahem. Okay, if you can get passed that kind of character motivation - it is a pulp novel after all - it’s a decent tale of the ascent into crime and the inevitable fall.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Review: Longarm and the Outlaw Empress

Longarm and the Outlaw Empress Longarm and the Outlaw Empress by Tabor Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Longarm Giant novels are about 50% longer than the traditional Longarm series books which gives author James Reasoner, writing as Tabor Evans, some breathing room to pen a team-up that includes Longarm plus Jessie and Ki from the LONE STAR series of Adult Westerns. The protagonists are unaware that they are both following clues from unrelated crimes that are leading them to a Nevada ghost town called Zamora that has been secretly repurposed into a haven for outlaws by a beautiful and wealthy Prussian outlaw, the titular Empress. The author nicely weaves the two narratives into a cohesive story with a terrific climax when the team-up culminates in Zamora. Reasoner is a dependably adept and entertaining writer providing some fine prose, plotting, and dialog. The only thing that I didn’t care for much was the intrusive obligatory sex scenes, although even those were written pretty well. I really enjoyed the novel and give it five stars.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Review: Walk Softly, Witch

Walk Softly, Witch Walk Softly, Witch by Carter Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Danny Boyd, the annoyingly smug and misogynistic private eye, accepts his first case assisting a gorgeous broad to get her sane stage actor husband out of the way by getting him institutionalized. This sets off a chain reaction that spills the blood of various folks attached to the production and Boyd discovers that he’s the sucker. Pretty typical Carter Brown fare with a convoluted plot that I’m not quite sure that I fully understand, and plenty of dialog whose purpose is to set up Boyd for one of his outrageous wisecracks. Despite some faults the short novel is immensely readable and enjoyable. It can be read in a sitting or two and is good for some laughs and an entertaining, albeit somewhat silly, story. The Carter Brown books are not known for their consistency. I thought that this was a good one and give it four stars.

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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Review: One For The Road

One For The Road One For The Road by Robert Dietrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first third of the book employs a familiar noir theme, an irresistible drifter scamming a beautiful rich widow, nothing too original although well written and interesting enough. The next third has a Las Vegas hooker falling for him while he blows his big score gambling. Seemed like pointless filler in the grand scheme – again well written and interesting. This sets the stage for the final third, again a familiar noir theme with with our charismatic drifter seducing a young heiress and plotting to kill her rich husband. This was the best part of the book, clever scheming and tension as plans go awry and need to be reconfigured, crackling dialog, steamy sex, and a nice twist at the end. Turned out to be a fine book, not too original but nicely written and well executed. I liked it enough to award it four stars.

Available in the Best Pulp Noir Super Pack from Cutting Edge Books