I generally like Doc Savage novels and this one was no exception. Originally published in 1940, this is the pulp era and of course these books can onl...moreI generally like Doc Savage novels and this one was no exception. Originally published in 1940, this is the pulp era and of course these books can only really be appreciated in that light. This time Doc and his crew take on mysterious flying thingies that cause death and destruction wherever they land. The mystery of just what they are and who is behind them takes them to upsate New York as well as to Europe and the Alps before the mystery is solved. Pat Savage is not in this one but all of Doc's five main associates do make an appearance which is a treat because that doesn't always happen in the later part of the series.(less)
Many people have remarked that this is not the best of Raymond Chandler's Marlowe novels. For me it was still very enjoyable and another great example...moreMany people have remarked that this is not the best of Raymond Chandler's Marlowe novels. For me it was still very enjoyable and another great example of what draws me to early detective fiction in the first place. I did think the actual mystery was pretty straight forward and a bit less complex than previous Marlowe books I've read. And I also noticed that there seemed to be fewer of those classic phrases that Chandler is known for. Many of them are still there but just fewer of them.
This is the 4th of the Philip Marlowe novels and I can't help but wonder if Chandler was trying something a little new here. The natures of the approaches of the two types of police agencies we see, for example, are polar opposites of one another. How they interact with citizens and how they approach a case and, most prominently, how does the general public regard these two police agencies. He presents several types of stereotypical characters throughout this novel, from the client himself, a pompous self-important businessman, to the bully and corrupt cop, to every single female in the story competing for the role of femme fatale. But this is Chandler after all and so perhaps these characters aren't stereotypical at all; didn't he pretty much invent them?
So still great fun to read even if slightly off pace. For me, that is what matters. I'm excited to have read half of all the Marlowe books now but also sad...because I only have half of them still to read. (less)
This is a collection of 18 of Howard's short stories/novellas, most of which were published in the early 1930's although several of them not until aft...moreThis is a collection of 18 of Howard's short stories/novellas, most of which were published in the early 1930's although several of them not until after his untimely death. Unlike most of his better known works such as Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, etc., these stories are all historically based adventure stories. Lots of swashbuckling adventure here but no magic or supernatural elements. They were largely written towards the end of Howard's career and so we are treated to more refined writing than we tend to see with his earlier stories.
This volume includes several unpublished fragments and synopsis for other stories Howard had abandoned for one reason or another. There is also a nice afterward written by Howard Andrew Jones that really puts these stories in context. Apparently, the market for this type of historical fiction was slim at that time; if that were not so we would probably have many more of them as it seems Howard really enjoyed writing them.
Several great heroes are introduced in these stories, among them Cormac FitzGeoffrey, Cahal and Haroun, Sir Miles, Giles the Rogue, and the titular sword woman, Dark Agnes. One story here-in also marks the first appearance ever of Red Sonya. She was Howard's creation and written in a realistic historical context, not at all the chainmail bikini heroine of the comic books that she would soon become. Indeed, one can't help but wonder if Howard had lived a normal lifespan, just how many of these characters would have become as successful and iconic as Conan.
A must read for Robert E. Howard fans and highly recommended for pulp-era historical fiction enthusiasts as well.(less)
This book compiles three of Robert E. Howard's longer Conan works, including the only full length Conan novel that he ever wrote, "The Hour of the Dra...moreThis book compiles three of Robert E. Howard's longer Conan works, including the only full length Conan novel that he ever wrote, "The Hour of the Dragon." It also contains "The People of the Black Circle" as well as "A Witch Shall Be Born" which contains probably the most famous scene in all of Conan literature: the one where he gets nailed to a tree, crucified really, and left to the mercy of the hungry vultures and the elements. As the title implies, all three stories are from Conan's later days, when he is king.
As in all of these Del Rey editions of Howard's work, the book also contains several untitled synopsis (synopses? synopsizes?), fragments, etc. as well as a thought-provoking essay on Howard and his life and times as it pertains to the included stories.
I think the noble nature of Conan really comes out in these stories, particularly in "The Hour of the Dragon". When Conan has the opportunity to conquer a neighboring kingdom he says, "Let others dream imperial dreams. I but wish to hold what is mine. I have no desire to rule an empire welded together by blood and fire. It's one thing to seize a throne with the aid of its subjects and rule them with their consent. It's another to subjugate a foreign realm and rule it by fear." As Patrice Louinet says in the essay, "Whoever had the idea of retitling Howard's novel, 'Conan the Conqueror' had evidently not understood its theme: Conan is anything but a conqueror by nature."
Enjoyable reading and, of course, absolutely required reading for Conan enthusiasts.(less)
I can't believe it's taken me this long to read this one but when I saw it on the library shelf, I grabbed it. This short novel is on most 100 Great N...moreI can't believe it's taken me this long to read this one but when I saw it on the library shelf, I grabbed it. This short novel is on most 100 Great Novels lists and considered one of the most important crime novels of the 20th century. I can see why, given its tight narrative storyline and engaging characters. First published in 1934, it launched James M. Cain's writing career and it has been filmed at least 6 times. Obviously, it has had a huge impact on crime fiction in general.
Pretty cutting edge stuff for its day, especially when the femme fatale of the piece, Cora, asks the leading man, Frank Chambers to kiss her and bite her lip so that it draws blood. The story mixes sensuality and violence (pale by today's standards) which engages the reader and keeps the swift-moving plot hurtling towards the conclusion. The crimes, attempted cover-ups and the ultimate resolution have been copied and altered many times since this novel first appeared but reading this now gives one the sense of originality and is, simply, a great read.
I picked this one out simply because it's a Lawrence Block novel. It's my third read by this author and I’ve found them quite entertaining prior to th...moreI picked this one out simply because it's a Lawrence Block novel. It's my third read by this author and I’ve found them quite entertaining prior to this. No doubt my reaction is due mostly to the subject matter: 1960's beat scene Greenwich Village stuff. Just not my taste but it’s my own fault for giving it a try.
As I said, it was Lawrence Block novel so I had high expectations. The author does a decent job of trying to make a story out of these characters but I just didn't enjoy them or the setting. We follow three losers through the story, none of which have much in the way of a personality I wanted to root for and no purpose in life other than to try not to be bored. Lots of drugs and sex, but no rock 'n roll. Several scenes that tried to relate some kind of marijuana-induced existentialism thoughts were downright stomach-turning. No mystery in this one either; we witness all the crimes being committed and it's just a matter of time before it all comes crashing down. The ending seemed chopped off as if the word count had been reached and the deadline was here. (less)
My new favorite Chandler novel...still the same classic pot-boiler PI formulaic plot (by the inventor of the formula), but somehow a smidgeon better t...moreMy new favorite Chandler novel...still the same classic pot-boiler PI formulaic plot (by the inventor of the formula), but somehow a smidgeon better than the first two I've read. A story of blackmail, murder, and classic manipulation of one human being by another, this one seemed a little easier to follow and perhaps reflects Chandler's overall writing skills improving (as opposed to merely incredible dialogue and scene description and plot).
James M. Cain is often mentioned, along with Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, as one of the Big Three of the original hard boiled crime genre f...moreJames M. Cain is often mentioned, along with Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, as one of the Big Three of the original hard boiled crime genre from the 30s, 40s and 50s. His most famous works were undoubtedly The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, and Double Indemnity, all of which were published in the first half of his career. And now, 35 years after his death, we are treated to a lost book, written in his final years...that 'one last book that he had in him' as it were. According to the afterword in this book, written by editor Charles Ardai, there were quite a few draft manuscripts uncovered, and so we owe quite a lot to Mr Ardai for his editorial process in piecing together this tale.
As for the story itself, if you have never read a Cain novel, this would be a nice introduction to his style. It fits well with Cain's earlier popular work, still just as hard-boiled and guttural as always. He was known in his day for pushing the boundaries and it's easy, as a reader today, to put yourself back in that time and imagine the shock value of what is on the pages here. In fact there are parts that are a bit uncomfortable even by today's standards. It's been said that after reading one of his novels, you may want to shower, and I suppose that could still hold true. The intriguing thing about this novel is that we read the story from the main character's first person point-of-view, the femme fatale of the piece, Joan Medford. While Joan truthfully explains every action that she takes during the story, in an honest and logical manner, her victimhood contains a subtle subtext. Is she telling us everything? It's like hearing from your best friend about a murder or three that she was involved in...would she be totally honest with you or only tell you the parts that make her look innocent? This works well and leads to a very nice page-turning story right up until the end. It's hard to say much more without spoilers so suffice it to say that I am very happy that the good folks at Hard Case Crime brought this novel to us. (less)
This was my first Lawrence Block novel, an author that I might never have tried if it hadn't been for some friends right here on Goodreads that highly...moreThis was my first Lawrence Block novel, an author that I might never have tried if it hadn't been for some friends right here on Goodreads that highly recommended him. This is a stand-alone novel; I wanted to try one like this first to see if I liked it. Card sharks, con men, femme fatales, a con with several twists...what's not to love? (Plus I liked the cover art). I also knew that since the story had been picked up by the "Hard Case Crime" inprint, it would likely be a good one. Indeed, I was intrigued right from the beginning and really liked the main character, possibly because the story is told in the first person which usually sucks me in anyway. But there was something about this guy's nature that made me want to root for him and hope he would make the right decisions.
Block has written a lot of books, many of them lengthy series with what I'm told are memorable characters. If this book is a barometer of his works, then I'll be visiting a lot of his stuff in the future.(less)
I liked this one even better than The Big Sleep, the first Philip Marlowe book by Raymond Chandler. The plot was cleaner and less confusing but all th...moreI liked this one even better than The Big Sleep, the first Philip Marlowe book by Raymond Chandler. The plot was cleaner and less confusing but all those memorable one-liners just kept on coming. If you like a little noir in your reading portfolio and haven't tried Chandler, then you owe it to yourself to give him a try.(less)
I've been working on reading through these short stories and novellas for the past 9 months, taking my time with them and making sure I didn't rush th...moreI've been working on reading through these short stories and novellas for the past 9 months, taking my time with them and making sure I didn't rush through them too quickly. I also didn't want to get burned out on them. There are a total of 63 works in this complete collection, presented in the order in which they were written (not necessarily the same as the order of publication). There are no collaborations here, just the total body of work that HP Lovecraft produced on his own.
As with any collection of so many stories, their quality ran the gamut from merely OK to masterpiece. It was very interesting to read them in order; I could see how he developed as a writer and I could also better understand how the Cthulho mythos evolved and expanded. There is, of course, no doubt about the great impact this author has had on horror fiction specifically, and the larger speculative fiction genres in general. That alone would grant this collection 5 stars. I granted 4 stars due to my overall enjoyment of the collection. The vast majority of the author's work reflects his preferred narrative style and I think only one or two stories here contain any substantial dialogue. For me that cut down on the enjoyability factor quite a bit but I do recognize the era in which these were written.
My favorites include: The Tomb, The Statement of Randolph Carter, The Rats in the Walls, The Call of Cthulu, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dunwich Horror, At the Mountains of Madness, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and The Shadow Out of Time.
A note on the e-book itself: first of all...it's free! It's also put together very well, with a linked-in table of contents which allows you to jump directly to any story. And at the end of each story there is another link back to the TOC. That certainly makes it easy to navigate. The formatting is spot-on and, unlike many e-books I read, I didn't find a single misspelled word. I also appreciated the TOC listing the date each story was written, to assist in understanding what was going on in the author's life at that time. In fact before I read each story, I looked up the Wikipedia entry for it so as to absorb what sort of demons Lovecraft was fighting at the time, what likely influenced the story, and where and when it was ultimately published. It's also fun to see all the popular references in today's culture that reflect characters, places, etc. from Lovecraft's works.
This was my first hard-boiled crime novel and it was everything I was hoping for. I expected atmosphere and boy did I get atmosphere. Rain, fog, dark...moreThis was my first hard-boiled crime novel and it was everything I was hoping for. I expected atmosphere and boy did I get atmosphere. Rain, fog, dark of night, cigarette smoking tough guys and dangerous dames. It's all there. And talk about turning a phrase...I just love reading the descriptive passages because I know there would be another cool one coming right up. "Her face crumbled like a bride's pie crust." How much more descriptive can you get in so few words? As for the mystery itself...more complex than I would have expected given the newness of the genre when it was published in 1939 (and more nudity).
So why not 5 stars? The plot seemed a bit too convoluted and a couple of times I lost the thread of the investigation. That could be my fault though, losing the forest because I was too busy looking at the trees. I'll be moving on to the next Philip Marlow book soon though and will try to do a better job of keeping it all in perspective.(less)
This is, hands down, the best overall collection of short stories I have ever come across. And that's quite an admission for me because up until now I...moreThis is, hands down, the best overall collection of short stories I have ever come across. And that's quite an admission for me because up until now I have only been a so-so fan of Sherlock Holmes. I've read all of Conan Doyle stories years ago but never became a super fan. But after this marvelous collection by some extremely well know authors (and favorites of mine) like Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman, Naomi Novik,Stephen King,Tanith Lee, Laurie R. King, and Stephen Baxter, I'm feeling all fanboy now. FYI, these are not the traditional Sherlockian-type stories but rather tend to deal with aspects outside traditional Victorian England...like alternate histories, time travel, Steampunk, and the supernatural. Very cool.
Short stories, in general have never been great favorites of mine, as I prefer to really get into my characters but since this is all about Sherlock, Watson, et al, it's more like reading separate chapters of a longer book. Altogether, there are 28 stories in this collection, most of which are re-printed from other collections. But that is what makes this group truly remarkable. It seems like most of the time when I try to read a short story collection of numerous authors, I find that the editor has selected certain stories that will make him/her look good. "Look readers, I've collected all the forgotten bits that have here-to-fore been neglected or otherwise failed to find an audience. And now, in one massive volume, you too can be exposed to the most elite, hi-brow crap that everybody else has not found worthy to re-publish." Well, there's often a reason that it has remained hidden. I usually only find 2 or 3 really good stories in the typical collection, a handful of mediocre stories, and a bunch that should never have been published in the first place. Not so with this collection as I literally enjoyed every single one and was absolutely blown away by at least half. Also of note, there are several stories here that are original to this collection.
I guess I just click with Mr. John Joseph Adams, the editor of this collection. I plan to seek out more of his collections pronto.(less)