I read this 1897 book by Barry Pain because a lost Lon Chaney film, A Blind Bargain, is based on it, and I thought it might give me some insight intoI read this 1897 book by Barry Pain because a lost Lon Chaney film, A Blind Bargain, is based on it, and I thought it might give me some insight into the film.
From what we know of the film, a scientist (Dr. Lamb) persuades a down-on-his-luck Mr. Sandell to sign his life over to him, in exchange for allowing him eight days to live life as he chooses (the "octave" of the book's title), and the money with which to do it. Wallace Beery appeared as an ape/man hybrid making it clear what sort of experiments the mad doctor might have in mind.
The book, however, is not horrific in hardly any way. A loooooong set-up introduces Lamb's household and his simpering wife to little purpose. Sandell's eight days of high living are dull and melodramatic, as he falls in love, spending most of his time in vapid conversation.
It's somewhat interesting that Sandell's love interest now gives him reason to want to back out of his contract with Lamb, but by the time the eight days are up, I had suffered through so much tedium that I was sort of rooting for the doctor to hurry up and remove Sandell's brain. I might have voluntarily given up mine.
Of some interest just for the literary history of the mad scientist and the connection to the Chaney film, but not much fun. ...more
I was excited to read what I thought would be some first-rate escapist fiction. Not only does the jacket flap promise government-run battles-to-the-deI was excited to read what I thought would be some first-rate escapist fiction. Not only does the jacket flap promise government-run battles-to-the-death, but it's written by Pierre Boulle—the guy who gave us Planet of the Apes. What could go wrong?
As it turns out: everything.
The old writing adage about "Show, don't tell" never reached Boulle—or is it possible that this is an incredibly botched translation? The entire book is written passively, with long explanations of the setting-up of a new, science-based world order. There's rarely any dialogue. Names are mentioned, but without any insight into what the people are feeling or thinking, I hesitate to call them "characters." The whole book is a lot like listening to someone tell about a workday in tedious detail, while referring to people you don't know.
By the time the book gets to the goods—the death battles—almost 3/4 of the book has elapsed. There are some fantastic ideas here, and some brutal deaths, but by this time, there's no reason to care, and again, the descriptions of the battles are passive, sucking out a lot of the excitement.
This was a real struggle to finish, and a huge disappointment. I feel as if, rather than reading a novel, I've read someone's lengthy description of how he wanted his novel to unfold. ...more
A cool little western noir about a piano player who sees and hears all the dirty goings-on in a place called the Bad Dog Saloon. Like any true noir, tA cool little western noir about a piano player who sees and hears all the dirty goings-on in a place called the Bad Dog Saloon. Like any true noir, there's a blurring of the good guys and the bad guys. Just the right size for the waiting room at the doctor's office. ...more
I didn't finish this, which is rare for me, and I even persisted for one more chapter to give it a chance to get better. The descriptions sounded likeI didn't finish this, which is rare for me, and I even persisted for one more chapter to give it a chance to get better. The descriptions sounded like it would be right up my alley: psychosexual crime stuff is interesting to me, if done right. The fact that it's translated suggested that it might have some substance—no one bothers to translate a terrible book ... usually.
The biggest problem is that it's written in second person. It's not something you often see, because it doesn't really work. The suggestion that I am the protagonist of the novel might seem like a way to involve me more intimately in the story, but the effect is quite the opposite.
Yes, your name is Ksenia," it reads. "You live in a rented flat, cheap, found through friends." No it isn't, and no I don't. I'm also not thin and short. Second person is a quick way to remove me further from the character. It might work in a choose-the-ending book, but not here.
Even more alarming is the fact that the author himself can't control the p.o.v. very well, switching to third person in the middle of paragraphs for no good reason. Perhaps it's a translation issue, but the result is so muddy, that it's difficult to read.
I couldn't find anything to latch on to, or any signs that I could trust the writer to tell this story well.
From the author of the brilliant noir classics They Shoot Horses, Don't They and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, "The Mopper-Up" is a pulp short originally pubFrom the author of the brilliant noir classics They Shoot Horses, Don't They and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, "The Mopper-Up" is a pulp short originally published in a 1931 issue of Black Mask.
Ted Bender is a Texas ranger deployed to the prohibition-era boomtown of Rondora, where teeming numbers of oil workers have made money quick, and all manner of criminal doings have sprung up to relieve them of it. It's a hotbed of illegal booze, gambling, and gunfights, and Bender is just the guy to mop it up.
Lacks the characterization and dark quirkiness of McCoy's novels, but then it's pretty brief. ...more