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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