Earlier this year I was able to acquire a bunch of Carter Brown paperbacks for a fantastically cheap price. To be honest I was mostly interested in thEarlier this year I was able to acquire a bunch of Carter Brown paperbacks for a fantastically cheap price. To be honest I was mostly interested in the cover art by Robert McGinnis which have become collectibles all on their own. But I happen to be one of those people who can’t stand to have an unread book in their house (which is a real problem considering my TBR shelves currently top 1600 books…owned but not yet read…) so I went ahead and plunged into this one, a random selection from the bunch.
This is reportedly the first of the Rick Holman series, although I have seen references to it being number two. It was published in 1961, an era I’ve been reading quite a lot of recently although not necessarily by design. Rick Holman is a Hollywood PI, a cool cat who tends to know more about what is happening than he lets on. He is hired by one of Hollywood’s hottest glamour queens, Ms. Zelda Roxane to be a sort of keeper of the peace/bodyguard during a weekend retreat at her house where she has invited five men, including three ex-husbands to a blackmailing party. Seems Zelda is short of cash and…well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. One of the five men gets murdered and it is up to Rick Holman to solve the case.
Parts of this novel were exactly what I expected: a good mix of characters, some innocent, some dumb, some downright slimy, lots of titillating tease scenes, and oozing 1960’s culture. At first it seemed to be a straight-forward crime story but then it morphed into almost a Hercule Poirot locked-room mystery story with Rick Holman even spilling the results of his investigation to the room full of suspects. But in the end it morphed one more time into a twist ending that I didn’t see coming but endeared the character of Rick Holman to me quite nicely.
Happily, I still have about 20 more of these Carter Brown novels with McGinnis cover art to make my way through and I shall look forward to them for quick reads when the mood strikes me. ...more
Only Lawrence Block (writing as Jill Emerson) could pull off a novel with a black widow cold-hearted murderess of innocents (mostly), and have her comOnly Lawrence Block (writing as Jill Emerson) could pull off a novel with a black widow cold-hearted murderess of innocents (mostly), and have her come off as a sympathetic character. This book is not for everybody; as the cover indicates it is filled with sexual encounters, much of it explicitly detailed. It is certainly a fast read and has the ability to make you turn the pages and continuously make that "just one more chapter" decision. A happy ending for the reader but not, obviously, for all the characters....more
The 18th book in the “Assignment” series finds Special Agent Sam Durell willingly walking into a trap in order to assist in the successful defection oThe 18th book in the “Assignment” series finds Special Agent Sam Durell willingly walking into a trap in order to assist in the successful defection of Soviet agent, Alexi Kaminov. The trap involves a woman, of course, a deadly and damaged Soviet agent without whom Kaminov would not defect.
Much of the story takes place in Japan and some in China but it really reads like a Cold War novel with Soviets as the major characters. The primary bad guy is a Omaru, a businessman who runs the Kaiwa Trading Corporation which runs people, propaganda, and espionage cash back and forth across the East Asia coasts. To me he was the most interesting character and a worthy opponent for Sam’s own counter-espionage skills.
This novel, published in 1963, is fairly typical of the series. I’ve read enough of them now to recognize many of the patterns that seem to crop up in each of the books but they continue to be easy, fun reads for me. ...more
“Frey pitied his friend. There was something wide-eyed and hurt about him, the shock of a slapped child. He still wanted to believe in order and auth “Frey pitied his friend. There was something wide-eyed and hurt about him, the shock of a slapped child. He still wanted to believe in order and authority and the powers that be. He thought of the world as an upright, sensible place, where righteousness would prevail if only everyone tried hard enough. Frey knew otherwise.”
The final novel in this 4-book set featuring the lives of Captain Darian Frey and his ragtag crew of misfits on board the Ketty Jay does a wonderful job of being a complete and fulfilling novel in its own right as well as being a satisfying culmination of that has been building over the first three books. It was a great finish to a wonderful series. Given the nature of the first three books, it’s hard to believe but the stakes in this time are even higher than before, not only the involvement with the brewing civil war (that our endearing crew essentially created), but also on a personal level for all of the characters. Chris Wooding delivers an extremely satisfying ending and is filled with the expected humor, action scenes and emotional moments.
The entire series gets my highest recommendation. ...more
Fresh off helping King Alfred defeat of the Danes in Wessex, and essentially saving the future of England, Uhtred is expecting some sort of reward. BuFresh off helping King Alfred defeat of the Danes in Wessex, and essentially saving the future of England, Uhtred is expecting some sort of reward. But alas, Alfred’s largess amounts to a slap in the face and so Uhtred heads north, intent on finding his stepsister who was taken prisoner by the Danish Lord Kjartan the Cruel. He also hopes to get back to reclaiming his homelands.
This third novel in the Saxon Tales does not let up in the strong plots and great characters. Once again, it moves along at a nice pace with Uhtred’s plans going completely off-the rails through betrayal or just good old fashioned intrigue run amok. These novels, even though based on accurate historical events, are anything but predictable. After reading three of them now, I think they just might have surpassed “The Warlord Chronicles” as my new favorite Cornwell series. ...more
Indy vs zombies…I suppose it had to happen eventually.
After wrapping up some espionage activity in the heart of WW2 Germany, Indy joins his buddy MacIndy vs zombies…I suppose it had to happen eventually.
After wrapping up some espionage activity in the heart of WW2 Germany, Indy joins his buddy Mac McHale in traveling to Haiti in search of an enormous black pearl known as The Heart of Darkness. Unfortunately, both German and Japanese agents are also after the artifact due to rumors of its strange powers. But the real obstacle this time around is a voodoo priest who has the ability to control the dead and make them do his bidding.
This is Steve Perry’s one and only Indiana Jones novel and I noticed that his web site does not exactly tout his accomplishment for this book. Many reviewers pan this novel but I have to say it actually wasn’t too bad. It does move a little slower than most other Indy novels I’ve read and Indy, himself, is in less than half the scenes so perhaps that is why it sometimes gets short shrift. But the voodoo angle was developed quite well and I have to say…when voodoo is done well, it gives me the heebie-jeebies. The zombies (or “zombis” as referred to here) as tools of the voodoo priest were also done well. Overall, this was a pretty middle of the road Indiana Jones novel, and I have now read them all (except the movie novelizations).
One side note: Goodreads has this listed as the 13th and final novel in the “Indiana Jones Prequel series” but I think it more accurate to say those ended with number 12, Max McCoy’s Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx. This book takes place in 1943 and several references are made to past events in the movies so it is hardly a prequel. The book also follows the history of the movies rather than events contained within the first 12 prequel novels. Or perhaps the author simply didn’t read those books as evidenced by his having Indy recall his past girlfriends and failing to even mention his one-time fiancée, Dierdre Campbell from early in the series. At one point he also wonders aloud if he’s ever dated a witch, apparently failing to recall the events of Indiana Jones and the White Witch by Martin Caidin. But that’s fine. It is what it is.
If you really need an Indiana Jones fix while awaiting the 5th movie…you could do worse than reading this novel. ...more
I may well be among the last people on the planet to have read these books but I am glad I finally did. So many good reviews are out there that I’m suI may well be among the last people on the planet to have read these books but I am glad I finally did. So many good reviews are out there that I’m sure I won’t be able to add much to the discussion but I will say that that this third book, for me, was just a little less enjoyable than the first two. At a couple of places it seemed to stretch a bit longer than necessary. Even so, it was a page-turner all the way through. A bigger reason more likely was that, due to circumstances of the plot itself, we get to spend less time with Salander herself who has become one of my favorite characters ever. In fact it is not until the final quarter of the book, or even later, that she takes center stage.
I wish the author had lived to write more of these novels because I think there is much more to be told with these characters. I know the series continues on by another author and I plan to check out the fourth book soonish. I liked how the individual books were not copycats of each other: the first was pretty much a modern day who-dunnit, the second read more like an action thriller, while the third evolved into an engrossing legal/court-room drama. I was struck by just how different the judicial system in Sweden is compared to the US, especially the court-room protocols.
I once had a creative writing instructor remind me that the definition of “novel” is “new”. When reading a novel, the reader should experience and potentially learn something new. These three novels certainly did that for me and I shall be forever grateful for the experience. ...more
I liked the major themes of this novel, that of a wagon train journey from the town of Baker in Oregon Territory all the way to the mining town of SeaI liked the major themes of this novel, that of a wagon train journey from the town of Baker in Oregon Territory all the way to the mining town of Seattle in the year 1863. I also liked the rather unusual main character of Kate Harrow, a savvy madam intent upon transporting her three “soiled doves” to Seattle with dreams of getting rich off of the male-dominated town.
Most of the plot takes place on the trail itself, through rough country, crossing raging rivers and, of course, through Indian Country where a renegade band of warriors prey on passing wagon trains. I was expecting a fairly predictable story, and I got a lot of that, but there were enough interesting characters and some creative plot enhancements that the book held my interest. As with many westerns though, I wish they were longer in order to better flesh out the characters and explore the impacts on them that their actions might dictate. Instead we get quick summaries and abrupt endings, no doubt to fulfill the contractual requirements of page length requirements.
The author wearing the “Hank Mitchum” moniker this time around is Will C. Knott who wrote several books in this Stagecoach series as well as a lot of the Longarm, Trailsman, Golden Hawk, and Vengeance Seeker series of Westerns. He also wrote quite a few stand-alone novels and children’s fiction books. ...more
Imagine a world where an alien virus has impacted our planet shortly after World War II, endowing a small percentage of humans with extraordinary poweImagine a world where an alien virus has impacted our planet shortly after World War II, endowing a small percentage of humans with extraordinary powers. Some of those special people use their new gifts for the good of their fellow man and others use them selfishly. OK, actually, that’s pretty easy to imagine because it sounds similar in many ways to the X-Men or other comic book-style concepts. As such, it took me a long time to finally take the plunge and enter this multi-volume shared world of Aces and Jokers…but I’m happy I finally did so.
This is a shared world with highly talented authors contributing individual pieces of the puzzle to form a coherent whole story. I’ve tried other similar shared-world projects and always come away a little disappointed because it seems they always deteriorate into individual, stand-alone stories that might as well be in their own stand-alone universes. They tend to lose their connectivity over time. But this book was different. Each story included in this volume is part of a larger story that is well connected and obviously thought out beforehand. Events from one story impact characters from another story. I really hope this continues through the other 22 (at this point) books in the series.
So a shared world project of science fiction superheroes edited by George R.R. Martin is enough to get me interested, and the well-executed plot interconnectivity keeps me reading. But what really gets my juices flowing is the setting and style. Every one of the stories in this volume is clearly written with a love for the comics of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. I can’t really describe it other than it harkens back to a day when superheroes weren’t so common in literature and movies and we mere mortals were actually in awe of what they could do. It reminds me a lot of the feeling I got when I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. I’m sure for me, it is part nostalgia but it’s also a fascination and appreciation for well-written pulp-style adventure.
This book is a re-release of the original which was published in 1986. As such, nine stories within it are original and three additional stories from 2010 (one by Carrie Vaughn, one by Michael Cassutt and one by David D. Levine) were added in. Since these newer stories maintain that all-important continuity and connectivity with the larger story lines, I have high hopes for the rest of the series. ...more
I had very low expectations for this book based on the trend of the last 5 or 6 in the series and, unfortunately, my expectations have been proven proI had very low expectations for this book based on the trend of the last 5 or 6 in the series and, unfortunately, my expectations have been proven prophetic. This novel is a complete mess with no actual plot, characters that frequently break with how they would be expected to act based on previous books, and very little mystery at all (for a novel marketed as “mystery”). Just as in the last several books in the series, it’s far more about the day-to-day happenings of the quirky characters of the small town of Pickax and how our protagonist Jim “Qwill” Qwilleran lives his days as a wealthy philanthropist. And that quirkiness has really worn thin. Highlights of the plot include Qwill’s ongoing effort to come up with ideas for his twice-weekly column for the local newspaper, writing a biography of the local historian who recently passed away, following the construction of a new senior center in town as well as the conversion of a local mansion into a charitable museum. Oh and let’s not forget Qwill’s project to create an exhibit on art hats. Pretty exciting stuff here.
The mystery, I guess, involves a suspicious death by bee sting but there is no resolution to it, just some hints at who was likely responsible and a mention that they had run off somewhere. That literally is covered in just two to three paragraphs out of the whole book. His cat, Koko still runs around at odd moments, rips corners off of books, etc. as some sort of way he provides clues to what is happening. Usually by the end of the book we come to understand just what he was trying to tell us (and Qwill) but not this time. It’s as if the book was hurriedly completed because the publisher called and said, “You’ve got 30 minutes to submit the final draft or you don’t get paid.”
But what really sticks in my craw the most is the ridiculous way Qwill reacts (or rather, doesn’t react) to two major, even life-changing negative events (no spoilers) that occur near the end of the novel. I would not have cared too much either if this was the only book I had read in the series. But as it is, I have now traversed the entire set of 29 full-length novels, and feel almost heartbroken at how little Qwill seems to have been effected. Doesn’t he care? It feels to me to be a complete slap in the face to loyal readers.
Despite assurances from publishers and the author’s family saying that she wrote this book herself (at age 90-plus years of age), I feel confident in my belief that Ms. Braun stopped writing them several books back. Perhaps she had outlines or worked with a ghost writer but the feel of the stories, the texture of the characters and the town itself changed a lot over recent books. If she did write these last books herself, then some sort of dementia must have set in to allow her series to deteriorate so far. Shame on those who tried to milk this cash cow for all they could.
As mentioned before, I have now completed the entire run of ”Cat Who” novels. There are a couple of short story collections out there that I may pursue if they relate more to the earlier books. They are very short so not a great loss if they suck. The series was really pretty good for much of its run and the mysteries were usually well done and even creative. I, as many readers did, became fully vested in Qwill and his two Siamese cats’ adventures as well as the regular cast of characters. The ‘redshirt’ phenomenon was well handled for the most part over most of the series…i.e you just know one of the new characters presented has to be the bad guy/gal but there were often a host of new characters introduced so the culprit was not easily determined simply by that method.
So overall, I’m glad I started reading the series but my advice to anybody considering them is to only keep reading for as long as you are enjoying them. Because as the quality begins to taper off, there is simply no reason to keep going. There is absolutely no reward at the end of this rainbow. ...more
This 5th novel in the Walt Longmire series may be my favorite yet. I’m not sure exactly why; all of the books so far have been excellent with wonderfuThis 5th novel in the Walt Longmire series may be my favorite yet. I’m not sure exactly why; all of the books so far have been excellent with wonderfully written, tightly focused prose. His characters, especially Walt himself, continue to be multi-dimensional, flawed to some extent and absolutely real. The plots are intriguing and avoid the cliché’s that often plague many modern bestselling mystery authors.
Perhaps this one really struck me due to the nature of the plot itself. This time Walt is the “stranger that came to town” and so he is forced to be the outsider rather than the well-known sheriff of over 20 years in his home county. The book employ’s a “split-time” narrative just as occurred in Another Man's Moccasins so we read of events in two distinct timelines, several days apart and thereby gather clues from both to shed light on the overall mystery. That technique can really be tricky and annoying to the reader if not done well but no worries here. Even though there are scenes involving the regulars like Henry Standing Bear and Walt’s deputy, Vic, this is mostly a Walt-centric novel. New characters are colorfully drawn and I especially like the way Craig Johnson treats animals as characters in their own right. The relationship between Walt and Dog as well as how Walt relates to the horse, “Wahoo Sue”, is fascinating. He also uses humor effectively to drive the drama forward.
I am one of the few readers I know who still enjoys reading old fashioned westerns, and I think that’s another reason this novel resonates with me. There are a lot of similarities to traditional westerns throughout the book, not the least of which is the climactic scenes where Walt is finally riding a horse leading the bad guy(s) in a merry chase, wounded and surrounded by gunfire.
Lester Dent is the author behind most of the early Doc Savage yarns but this time the “Kenneth Robeson” story is penned by William G. Bogart, a succesLester Dent is the author behind most of the early Doc Savage yarns but this time the “Kenneth Robeson” story is penned by William G. Bogart, a successful pulp writer in his own right. In fact this is the first of 14 Doc Savage novels he would write. He was also a prolific writer of short stories for the pulps. Many were used as backup stories to fill out issues of Doc Savage, The Shadow, and The Avenger among others. He is perhaps best known for his hard-boiled private eye stories featuring Johnny Saxon.
This particular novel was written for the 1939 New York World’s Fair and published in conjunction with that spectacular event. It’s a rather unique Doc Savage novel in that the entire story takes place in that single locale, rather than the usual multiple exotic locations approach. Overall, the plot was OK but lacked the panache of most of the Lester Dent plots. This is most evident in the rather banal nature of the “goblin” but I thought the weird mystery was pretty well done. Besides Doc, we get some of his aides in this one: Monk and Ham (as always) as well as Long Tom and even Doc’s cousin, the lovely Pat Savage. Monk and Ham have a bit more creativity than usual in their insults towards one another but this comes at the expense of the others, especially Pat Savage who does little more than act as a damsel in distress this time around.
Regardless of who writes them, I always find a Doc Savage novel to be a quick read but soothing in times of real-life stress. I can’t ask for much more than that. ...more