When private eye Doak Miller goes undercover to catch a woman attempting to hire a hitman to murder her husband, he doesn't count on falling in love wWhen private eye Doak Miller goes undercover to catch a woman attempting to hire a hitman to murder her husband, he doesn't count on falling in love with her. There's just the little matter of getting her husband out of the way...
When you get home from work to find a mysterious package containing the upcoming Lawrence Block book on your doorstep, you drop what you're doing and get readin'.
The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes is a modern take on the classic noir tale of a man falling for a woman and then bumping off her husband, only to be consumed by madness and guilt. Doak Miller is a former cop and a lady's man who finds himself face to face with his fantasy girl. How will he attempt to bump off her husband?
Block's writing is as crisp as ever and there's a lot of sex in this book. It's like Lawrence Block ripped a page from the James M. Cain playbook and thrust it repeatedly into one of his early smut novels. Not only does The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes read like a sexualized modernization of Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice, the character of Doak adds some additional wrinkles I won't give away here. As more is revealed of Doak's true nature, you have to wonder if anyone will make it out alive.
The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes is a worth addition to the Hard Case Crime Series and everything I've come to know and love about Lawrence Block's Hard Case novels. Four out of five stars.
When I finished the ARC of The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, I hinted that I'd be willing to read any more Lawrence Block books that needed reviewinWhen I finished the ARC of The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, I hinted that I'd be willing to read any more Lawrence Block books that needed reviewing. Several days later, this arrived in my mailbox.
Borderline: Four drifters wind up in Juarez and find that some borders, once you cross them, cannot be uncrossed...
Borderline is the story of four drifters whose lives intersect once they reach the border towns of El Paso and Juarez. Marty is a gambler. Meg is a divorcee looking for thrills. Lily is a hitchhiker looking to start a new life. And Weaver is a cold-blooded serial killer.
So yeah, Borderline is bit of dirty good fun, a lot of it taking place in a Juarez cathouse or points nearby. While there's nothing indicating it in the ARC I'm reading from, I suspect it was one of Block's porn books for the 1960's.
For a short book with a lot of sex in it, there's enough crime in it justify including it in the Hard Case line. Weaver supplies most of it but the other characters aren't angels. There's also a fair amount of suspense. I spent most of the book wondering how Weaver's tale was going to intersect with the rest of the cast, near misses upping the tension accordingly.
Like I said, dirty good fun.
The Burning Fury: A lonely lumberjack drinks in bar, trying to control his dark urges. Then a woman shows up...
This was a quick tale. I was pretty sure how it was going to go but it didn't make the ending any less brutal.
A Fire At Night: An arsonist appreciates the fire he started and watches firefighters try to stop it.
Again, another quickie with an ending I was pretty sure about but the ending was still chilling.
Stag Party Girl: A groom to be is getting death threats from an old flame and hires a PI named London to be his bodyguard. But what will happen when someone winds up dead at his bachelor party?
This one turned out to be a pretty good murder mystery. Ed London had to figure out which of the guys at the bachelor party shot the stripper after she popped out of the cake. It seemed Karen got around...
Lawrence Block kicked off the Hard Case Crime series and his entries never disappoint. Four stars, though this might have more smut than some Hard Case readers are comfortable with....more
Catch and Release is a collection of Lawrence Block's short stories. As usual, I'll attempt to comment on them as I go without revealing too much, whiCatch and Release is a collection of Lawrence Block's short stories. As usual, I'll attempt to comment on them as I go without revealing too much, which is difficult when it comes to short stories.
A Burglar's Eye View of Greed: Bernie Rhodenbarr gives his thoughts on greed. It's a nice little window into his personality and makes me want to resume reading the Burglar series.
A Chance to Get Even: This is the story of a poker player who doesn't know how to bet more than he can afford to lose and keeps trying to climb out of the hole he's dug for himself.
A Vision in White: A man develops a fixation on a young beautiful tennis player.
Catch and Release: A former serial killer explains his catch and release philosophy, thinking of himself like a fisherman. Best short story of the collection. Chilling and creepy.
Clean Slate: This was a story that eventually grew and became Getting Off: A Novel of Sex and Violence, Kit Tolliver's systematic killing of every man she's ever slept with to restore her spiritual virginity.
Dolly's Trash and Treasures: This is a sad and creepy story about county workers trying to help a hoarder whose family has run out on her.
How Far: This is a one act play about a woman who wants to get her ex to stop bothering her. It's all dialog and all Block so it's pretty slick.
Mick Ballou Looks at a Blank Screen: Mick and Matthew Scudder talk about what happens after death and the Sopranos finale.
One Last Night at Grogan's: Mick Ballou closes Grogan's and invites Matt and Elaine to spend one last evening with him there. Still as touching as the first time I read it.
Part of the Job: A man searches for another man who's jumped to the competition with an important set of plans. This one was all about the ending, which I will not spoil here. The story behind the story is that someone gave Block a magazine with the story published in it and Block never remembered selling it.
Scenarios: Scenarios is an interesting tale of what might happen when a man meets a woman in a bar.
See the Woman: An elderly former cop recounts the tale of an abusive drunk and the wife that kept making excuses for him.
Speaking of Greed: A group of poker players swap stories about greed in this novella.
Speaking of Lust: A group of poker players swap stories about lust in this novella.
Welcome to the Real World: A retiree's routine is disrupted when another man suggests he play golf instead of just practicing at the driving range. As with P.G. Wodehouse, stories about golf are more interesting to me than actually watching it on TV.
Who Knows Where It Goes: An unemployed man tries a different line of work and thinks about how things change. Without spoiling too much, this could have been a very early Keller story.
Without a Body: This is the story of a murder and the aftermath from the victim's point of view.
The afterword tells the stories behind the stories; what Block had in mind while he was writing it, who he wrote it for, etc.
I'd say Catch and Release, the titular tale, was the best of the bunch but I didn't think any of them were duds. Unlike some Hard Case reprints, this one had the Hard Case feel throughout. Another winning Hard Case from Lawrence Block! Four stars!...more
Quarry's in Stockwell, Missouri, hoping to squeeze the target of a hit into paying him to kill the men paid to bump him off. But is Quarry working forQuarry's in Stockwell, Missouri, hoping to squeeze the target of a hit into paying him to kill the men paid to bump him off. But is Quarry working for the wrong man? And why is someone so sure Roger Vale killed Candy Stockwell?
I unexpectedly received this ARC from the fine folks at Hard Case Crime.
Quarry is back and still running the kill the killers game he's been running for a while now. Set in the Reagan years, Quarry digs at a sleepy Missouri vacation town's underbelly and gets a look at some human vermin.
The writing packs a punch, par for the course for Quarry books. Quarry's still a bastard but you end up liking him because the people he's after are as bad or worse. Or so he tells us. There may be a touch of the unreliable narrator in Quarry.
As usual, Quarry kills and fornicates his way through a detective caper. I have to admit I was out in the woods for most of the book in regard to what happened to Candy Stockwell. I think Quarry was too but that might be because he can't keep his penis to himself when there's an available vagina in the vicinity.
In a time when people are complaining about Hard Case printing books that don't fit the mold, it's nice to see the forefathers like Lawrence Block and Max Allan Collins back in the mix. Max Allan Collins' books are hit or miss for me but The Wrong Quarry is like a shot in the face from two feet away. Four out of five stars....more
On the heels of a breakup, college student Devin Jones takes a summer job at an amusement park, an amusement park haunted by the ghost of a woman murdOn the heels of a breakup, college student Devin Jones takes a summer job at an amusement park, an amusement park haunted by the ghost of a woman murdered on one of the rides. But what does that have to do with a woman and her dying child that Devin meets walking on a beach?
Stephen King throws the Hard Case line another bone with Joyland. Much like The Colorado Kid, it will undoubtedly draw much needed attention to the line despite not being like the other books.
Joyland is the story of Devin Jones trying to get his shit together after being dumped by his girlfriend. What better way to do that than to slave away at a carnival for 12 hours a day? Once Devin learns of the murder, he starts investigating. Well, the investigation is incidental. Mostly he works at the carnival, saving a couple lives along the way and meeting a kid with muscular dystrophy that he takes a liking to, as well as his foxy young mother.
Stephen King's writing is firing on all cylinders in this one and it's a relief that he wrote a story that's less than 800 pages for once. There are some anachronisms but they didn't yank me out of the story. I thought I knew who the killer was but King managed to pull the rug out from under me just before the big reveal.
I liked Devin a lot. He felt like an authentic 21 year old to me, something that a lot of writers can't seem to do. He was also pretty relatable. I think I had an early onset of the 21's and it lasted until I was about 24.
A quick side note: I like that King named a traveling circus after Manly Wade Wellman. I wonder how many people caught that reference.
The only gripe I have with this book is that it doesn't feel like a Hard Case. However, since it will let Hard Case keep the lights on for quite a while with the money it brings in, I'll let Uncle Steve off with a warning this time. Three stars....more
69 Barrow Street: Artist Ralph Lambert lives at 69 Barrow Street with a woman he both loves and hates. But what happens when they both get infatuated69 Barrow Street: Artist Ralph Lambert lives at 69 Barrow Street with a woman he both loves and hates. But what happens when they both get infatuated with the girl who just moved into their building...
Here we are, the first book in this Ace Double style Hard Case. Much like Hellcats and Honeygirls, these are books from Lawrence Block's early years writing smut, so if you're expecting the awesomeness of the marvelous Matthew Scudder series, you'll be disappointed.
On the other hand, if you like a bit of sleaze, you'll be entertained.
69 Barrow Street is the story of three people who live in the same apartment building in The Village. Ralph Lambert is an unemployed artist. Stella James is the buxom blond living off her inheritance and abusing Ralph as she sees fit in their twisted relationship. The applecart of their domestic "bliss" is upset when a lesbian named Susan Rivers moves into the building and Ralph decides to paint her.
Parts of the story are hilariously dated, like the talk of homosexual neurosis and early sixties slang. The tension builds as Ralph starts having feelings for Susan and Stella starts a bizarre relationship with another woman to cope.
There's a fair bit of smut as well, though it's fairly tame by today's standards. Still, it gets the job done. The relationship between Ralph and Susan is pretty well done, especially considering this was a smut paperback back in the day. The ending was good, heartwarming for one party and extremely twisted for the other. This story is a strong three, part Fatal Attraction and part Chasing Amy, and the ending makes it Hard Case worthy.
Strange Embrace: Producer Johnny Lane's leading lady winds up dead, her throat slashed from ear to ear with a straight razor. Soon, the rest of the cast is getting threatening phone calls and Johnny is beaten up in an alley by thugs. Can he figure out who's behind the murder before his entire cast winds up dead?
Okay, if I had any doubts about this collection and its place in the Hard Case line, they went out the window with Strange Embrace. This one was a Hard Case from start to finish.
Even though he's a producer of plays, Johnny Lane makes a convincing and plausible detective lead. The cast, such as it is, are fairly well developed, especially since this was originally a lesbian smut paperback. I had an idea who the killer was but like he does to me over and over again, old Lawrence had me doubting myself on a couple occasions.
Like the first story, some things seemed hilariously dated but Block's writing improved quite a bit in between these two books.
Since I haven't already mentioned it, I'd like to say that while I normally don't care for Robert McGinnis's Hard Case covers, the two on this one were both top notch, although they didn't have much to do with the tales within. Be careful though, you probably shouldn't read these in public. One of the covers has nipples on display!
Four out of five stars based on pure entertainment value. If you're a fan of Lawrence Block, nab this now before you have to pay the jacked up prices Subterranean books normally command once they go out of print!
Reporter Adam Jordan is fired for filing a false story but lands on his feet writing for Real Detective Magazine. When a beauty contestant is found muReporter Adam Jordan is fired for filing a false story but lands on his feet writing for Real Detective Magazine. When a beauty contestant is found murdered on the beach, Adam starts investigating. But will what he finds be worth dying for?
Like a few other reviewers have already mentioned, this book had all the winning ingredients. The writing was superb, the lead character a likeable scoundrel, and beauties turning up missing is a compelling tale. So why only a 2? I felt like something was missing. All the pieces never quite came together for me, like a soup that hasn't simmered long enough.
Still, it wasn't a waste of time. Joseph Koenig knows his way around a noir tale. I love the idea that a writer for a true crime pulp would solve a mystery. I'll be tracking down his earlier works. Hell, I caught myself enjoying False Negative just for the prose while it was meandering all over the place. It did have its moments, though. I didn't figure out who the killer was until sometime past the halfway mark. Koenig did a good job steering me all over the place.
So, yeah. I'm giving this a two. If it hadn't meandered all over the place and seemed unfocused, it would have been an easy three....more
A secret agent takes the place of hoodlum Vic Lowney and hits Philadelphia with one goal: taking down a counterfeiting ring. It would be dangerous enoA secret agent takes the place of hoodlum Vic Lowney and hits Philadelphia with one goal: taking down a counterfeiting ring. It would be dangerous enough without the counterfeiter's mistress making him a proposition of her own...
I have a confession to make. While I am a sf/fantasy fan from way back, I have somehow managed to avoid reading Robert Silverberg until now. If his usual fare is as good as the detective stories he wrote to pay the bills when the sf market was tanking, I'll have to give him a shot.
On the surface, Blood on the Mink isn't anything out of the ordinary for the Hard Case line. In fact, at first glance, it was one of the books that made me question Hard Case's selection policies. "I've got this author I like that I just found out wrote some crappy pulp novels" or "I really like this author. What book can we get the rights for for cheap?" Fortunately, it quickly laid my fears to rest.
Blood on the Mink is an endless web of double-dealing and double-crosses. You've got the two counterfeit operations, Ricky Chavez, the engraver's daughter, and Klaus's mistress, all with their own agendas. Even though the main story is only 157 pages, Silverberg drags the reader through a miles long obstacle course of plot twists. By the end, I had no idea what was going to go down.
The characters are fairly standard archetypes. Greedy hoods, for the most part. The women in noir novels are either whores or virgins. Carol Champlain and Elena fill those roles to the letter. The only variable is Nick, aka Vic Lowney. He reminds me of Roger Zelazny's man with no name in My Name is Legion more than anything else.
The writing does its job. There were a few quotable lines but Silverberg's noir prose isn't going to make anyone forget about Raymond Chandler. Like I said, it got the job done.
While I wouldn't want this to be anyone's first Hard Case, it's a worthy addition to the line. It would probably also appeal to Silverberg's longtime readers. Whether or not that value would go beyond curiosity remains to be seen. I'll give it a 3. ...more
Aging comedian Koo Davis is kidnapped and held for ransom by the People's Revolution Army. But will the PRA let Koo live even if their demands are metAging comedian Koo Davis is kidnapped and held for ransom by the People's Revolution Army. But will the PRA let Koo live even if their demands are met?
Donald E. Westlake wrote The Comedy is Finished sometime during the 1970's but decided not to publish it for a couple reasons. I'll be completely honest. For the first half of the book, I wasn't completely sold on The Comedy is Finished and was planning on giving it a 2. Then Westlake worked his magic.
My reasons for not loving The Comedy is Finished at the beginning are two: the first is that the story is very dated and full of references to the 1960's and Watergate. Westlake's Parker books have an almost timeless quality while this one is very, very much a product of the time it was written. The second reason I wasn't in love with this book is that I found Koo Davis to be more obnoxious than funny.
The story really started clicking for me when the complications began arising and the wheels fell off the kidnappers' plans. Without spoiling too much, there were three plot twists I didn't see coming until it was too late. I actually caught myself getting behind Koo even though I wasn't a big fan of most of his jokes.
The writing is vintage Westlake and does a lot toward earning the book back some points. There were a lot of good similes, some even Chandler-esque. There's a decent amount of violence and a fair amount of smut as well.
For once, there's a posthumously published book I fully approve of. The Comedy is Finished is ultimately an enjoyable read and a worth addition to the Hard Case Crime Series. ...more
Kate Tolliver's life has been a never-ending cycle of sex, murder, and robbery since she was a teenager. Only five of the men have lived to tell the tKate Tolliver's life has been a never-ending cycle of sex, murder, and robbery since she was a teenager. Only five of the men have lived to tell the tale and that's something Kate means to remedy in the only way she knows how...
After a long hiatus, the Hard Case Crime series returns with a bang. Or, more appropriately, a long series of bangs. What better way to mark the return of the line than a tale from the man who kicked it off in the first place, the esteemed Lawrence Block.
Right off the bat, I have to say this is my favorite cover yet in the Hard Case line and possibly my favorite cover of all time. Take a few seconds to give it a closer look. I'll wait...
As the subtitle indicates, Getting Off is indeed a novel of sex and violence. Lots of sex, lots of violence. The thing that keeps it from straying into Cinemax territory is the ability of Lawrence Block. The man can spin a yarn, that's for sure.
Even though Kate's a psychopath, Block had me rooting for her the entire time, hoping that's she'd be able to cross the five guys off her list. While her back story is dark, Block doesn't play it up for sympathy. It's the character of Kate Tolliver that got me in her corner. She's foul-mouthed, violent, and sometimes hilarious. Also scary, primarily because she's so believable. (view spoiler)[Her relationship with Rita also played a big part in keeping Getting Off from being some sort of second rate Basic Instinct ripoff. (hide spoiler)]
Any complaints? Not really. There was a spot that I thought dragged near the end but I think that may have been due to me really wanting to see the last name get his hash settled. While this isn't a complaint for me, there's a lot more sex and profanity in Getting Off than all of the other Hard Case books not written by Christa Faust put together. I had no problem with any of it but I could see how some people would find it off-putting. Then again, people who look at the cover have some idea what they're getting into.
Welcome back, Hard Case! Don't be a stranger.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
While on the run from the feds after being betrayed, Morgan the Raider gets tasked with recovering some money from Cuban refugees in Miami. His searchWhile on the run from the feds after being betrayed, Morgan the Raider gets tasked with recovering some money from Cuban refugees in Miami. His search takes him through Miami's S & M undergound and into a web of sex, lies, and murder. But what does the mysterious masked dominatrix known as the Consummata have to do with things?
Posthumous collaborations are always a crap shoot, emphasis on the crap. Mickey Spillane wrote The Consummata in the 60's and then let it sit after a bad experience with The Delta Factor, the book preceding this one, being made into a movie. After Spillane's death, it was finished by Max Allan Collins. Should he have left it unpublished?
Yes. The Consummata is very dated, feels unfinished, and is rife with cliches. I know that Spillane is one of the first pulp detective writers but that doesn't mean he had the Midas touch by any means. Morgan the Raider is the standard tough guy smart mouth character that Spillane helped pioneer with Mike Hammer. Morgan's attempts humor fell flat for me on most occasions. He's like that unfunny uncle you have that thinks he's hilarious.
I'm going to breeze by the female characters since a lot of this book takes place in a whore house and even the women in the book who aren't prostitutes want a piece of Morgan and go straight for the parts that really bugged me.
The plot was kind of clunky, and like Dead Street, needlessly involved communists and nuclear secrets and the identity of the Consummata was fairly obvious. Even though Morgan did illogical things because the plot required him to do so, he was such a superhuman that there was no time that I thought he as going to get hurt, let alone killed.
The writing was really repetitive. Couldn't Spillane have thought of a phrase other than 'dark delta' to describe a woman's pubic hair? Or gone without describing it altogether? I counted three 'dark deltas' and I may have missed a couple because I started skimming about halfway through. The writing also had an unfinished feel and I get the feeling no felt confident enough to edit what Spillane had written prior to his death. Some good editing might have bumped this up to a three.
In spite of all that, I caught myself digging it a few times. Spillane wrote good action scenes, that's for sure, although the cliche density was pretty high. I guess I have to cut Mickey some slack since he invented some of those cliches. I'm giving it a 2 since I didn't actually hate it. I just found it to be flawed. I guess the new Hard Cases can't all be winners....more
Working in a diner, Angel Dare thought she left her past behind her, both her former career as a porn star and as a vigilante taking down the men thatWorking in a diner, Angel Dare thought she left her past behind her, both her former career as a porn star and as a vigilante taking down the men that left her for dead. All that changed when a former co-worker, Thick Vic Ventura, walked into her diner to meet his son, an up and coming MMA fighter, for the first time. Seconds later, Vic is mortally wounded by gunmen and asks Angel to take care of his son. Can Angel protect Cody and keep one step ahead of the men that want both of them dead?
Over a year ago, before Dorcester started going tits up, I pre-ordered this book, the second in the Hard Case line by Christa Faust. It was worth the wait.
This time out, Angel Dare's path intersects with the seedy underbelly of the mixed martial arts world. Much like the porn industry, there's a lot of unsavory elements lurking in the shadows and Cody is caught in the middle.
Angel is much as she was in the previous book: tough, crass, and more than a little randy. The dynamic between her, Cody, and Cody's trainer, Hank, was well done, as was Angel's conflicting feelings about Cody. The main characters went from the frying pan to the fire so many times it was almost like reading one of Norvell Page's old Spider pulps. The action was fast and frequently brutal.
Since Choke Hold takes place around the MMA world, you might think it has less smut than the previous Faust offering, Money Shot. You'd be wrong. Angel has needs, after all. (view spoiler)[One of my favorite parts near the end of the book is when Angel and company wander into an adult film convention while on the run from the bad guys. (hide spoiler)]
The ending was shocking and more than a little abrupt. If I had a complaint, that would be it. Then again, it's a Hard Case so you know things will likely not end well.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I enjoyed this even more than Money Shot. The return of the Hard Case Crime series is a success so far in my book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Quarry's working with a movie director to stop the guys hired to kill him and find out who hired them. Too bad the last person Quarry expected to seeQuarry's working with a movie director to stop the guys hired to kill him and find out who hired them. Too bad the last person Quarry expected to see again is complicating matters... his ex-wife.
The Hard Case Crime series is back and they've brought Quarry with them. Quarry is the same old methodical hitman he's been in the other Hard Case Quarry books. After reading the Perfect Crime reprints of the early Quarry books, it was nice to read one of the ones written once Max Allan Collins had a bit more seasoning. Quarry doesn't make the stupid mistakes that impared my enjoyment of the the reprints.
The plot is a pretty good one, although superficially it's a bit like Quarry's Cut. Movie man in trouble, Quarry comes in to save the day for big pile of cash. The addition of Quarry's much talked about ex-wife to the mix, while interesting, doesn't really do all that much for the story. It's like she was thrown in so the title Quarry's Ex could be used. I had a feeling I knew who was behind the hitmen gunning for Arthur Stockwell but it was still a good ending.
One thing I noticed about this one was some subtle humor. Eric Conrad is a dead ringer for Tom Cruise and I snorted when Quarry mentioned that Collateral Damage would be a good title for a move.
Any complaints? Well, for some reason I always find MAC's sex scenes a little creepy. Not sure why. Quarry's Ex is a good entry to the Hard Case Crime series. I wouldn't say it's my favorite Quarry, though....more
Reporter Sam Briscoe meets up with an IRA leader in Northern Ireland and agrees to bring a letter back to the States. Unfortunately, some don't want tReporter Sam Briscoe meets up with an IRA leader in Northern Ireland and agrees to bring a letter back to the States. Unfortunately, some don't want that letter delivered and follow Briscoe back to New York to prevent the delivery...
Interesting tidbit: Pete Hamil was one of the men that disarmed Sirhan Sirhan after he shot RFK. I have to think that might be part of why this was selected to be part of the Hard Case Crime library. As far as Hard Case Crime books go, this one is on the likeable side of average. Once the story takes off, there's a good amount of suspense. Hamill throws twist after twist at you. Briscoe's a fairly typical detective story hero; smart mouth, takes a beating, and never gives up. The IRA angle sets it apart from a lot of stories written at the same time. It feels like a movie Mel Gibson would have done in the early 90's or one that Liam Neeson would do today, now that he's getting the Mel Gibson action roles now that Mel's off his rocker.
So why only a 3? It took too long to get moving. While I'm interested in the IRA and the conflict in Northern Ireland, I'm not so interested that I need a metric shit ton of IRA history while I'm reading a detective story. Other than that, it's not too bad. I wouldn't say it's an essential Hard Case by any means....more
While hitchhiking to Norfolk to report for active duty, Navy Lieutenant David Young is smashed over the head with a tire iron and left for dead in a bWhile hitchhiking to Norfolk to report for active duty, Navy Lieutenant David Young is smashed over the head with a tire iron and left for dead in a burning car. When he comes to, burned and bandaged in the hospital, everyone thinks he's Larry Wilson, the man who picked him up. It turns out Larry Wilson had a lot of reasons for wanting people to think he died in a fiery car crash...
Donald Hamilton is famous for the Matt Helm spy series, of which I have read none. I think this one of the Hard Case books that was reprinted because it was the cheapest of the author's works to secure the rights for.
Faking your own death with a hitchhiker's corpse is old hat in crime fiction. Hamilton puts a twist on it and has the killing botched. It was a good twist but the rest of the story didn't follow up on the promise. I never understood why Young felt the need to play along with Elizabeth Wilson, aside from her walking around in almost nothing and him being a red-blooded male, and without spoiling anything, I thought the ending was pretty far-fetched.
"But Dan," you say, "You gave it a three. What gives?" Hamilton's writing saved the day for me. The man new how to build suspense. While Elizabeth Wilson's character was fairly flat, Bunny and Doc Henshaw were pretty well done. Plus, he took a 50's plot involving communists and didn't make me laugh my ass off. Young wasn't a super hero and didn't walk around with guns blazing. That's was a huge plus.
Three stars but it could have easily been a 2 on a different day....more
Peter Mallory thought he'd left his life of crime behind six years ago but a week before his wedding, he's pulled back in. Mallory has to figure out wPeter Mallory thought he'd left his life of crime behind six years ago but a week before his wedding, he's pulled back in. Mallory has to figure out who's trying to kill his old boss in order to keep his fiancee from finding out about his criminal past. But what do the killings have to do with a family being killed in an inferno years earlier?
As I've mentioned before, the Hard Case Crime series has some duds in it, most of them from around the time this one was published. Fortunately, Baby Moll was a pleasure to read.
Baby Moll has a pretty good plot. You've got the crime boss who's going soft and wants out of the gang, the up and comer that wants to take his place, and someone who wants vengeance on the crime boss and everyone around him.
Farris knows how to build the suspense. For a slim book, there's a fair amount of action. Mallory goes through the ringer, as does most of the rest of Macy Barr's crew. The gunfight at the end was very memorable.
I tipped to the origin of the killer pretty quickly but that was mostly due to my recent reading of Hard as Nails, featuring a similar killer. I wasn't too sure which of the women the killer was though until it was too late.
"Why only three stars?" you ask. I'll tell you, Mildred. Baby Moll was a little too brief. I would have enjoyed a little more suspense. Aside from Mallory and the unexpectedly complex Macy Barr, the characters were all pretty thin, especially the women. All in all, it was still a pretty good read and a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon....more
Three college students travel to Mississippi to work for civil rights and don't come back, and it's up to New York private eye Joe Dunne and his assisThree college students travel to Mississippi to work for civil rights and don't come back, and it's up to New York private eye Joe Dunne and his assistant to find out what happened to them. And he gets a hundred thousand apiece for killing their murderers...
The Murderer Vine is a fairly good crime tale. You've got deception, murder, some sexual tension, and a shit storm of bullets at the end. The tension between himself and Kirby, who's posing as his wife, is what keeps the story going. It would make a pretty good movie.
Still, it's not all that great. Joe Dunne isn't that different from most detective characters. Since Dunne has a good idea of who killed the students before he leaves New York, there isn't a lot going on on that front. The reader is left waiting for him to get the drop on the murderers. If it wasn't for the ending, I'd probably give this a 2.5 because it was so predictable. The way the Southern dialogue was written got on my nerves after a while. I was glad when Dunne wrapped things up and headed north.
Not a bad read, especially for Hard Case fans. It's an easy three....more
When washed up football player Lee Scarborough gets hired to steal $120,000 from a banker's widow, how can he pass it up? Little does Lee know that otWhen washed up football player Lee Scarborough gets hired to steal $120,000 from a banker's widow, how can he pass it up? Little does Lee know that other people have their sights set on the money and the widow herself. And Madelon Butler, the widow, is the most deadly of them all...
A Touch of Death has many of the things I look for in a crime novel. There are multiple double crosses, gunplay, and the tension of being on the run. Madelon Butler is by far the most interesting character in the novel; beautiful, cold, calculating, and deadly. Lee had big hopes for the dough but wound up way over his head.
So why only a 3? William's writing seems really stiff compared to the other work of his that I've read, The Hotspot. It felt like he was afraid to really cut loose. There was no sex and only a little violence. The suspense was good but not as good as in the Hotspot.
The final verdict is that this isn't a bad read but is neither the best Hard Case nor the best Charles Williams book....more
An American con man named Curly gets involved with a beautiful English heiress on a French beach. Soon he gets into trouble and flees all over the worAn American con man named Curly gets involved with a beautiful English heiress on a French beach. Soon he gets into trouble and flees all over the world to escape it. But can he ever escape her?
Sometimes the Hard Case crime series coughs up a book that makes me want to seek out and devour every book by the author. This is not one of those books.
The Last Match is a meandering mess of a novel. While I enjoyed the first person narration by Curly, the plot was almost non-existent. Curly cons his way around the world and is constantly on the run, going to such exotic locales as Marrakesh and Peru. He has stints working at a casino, on a ship, and spends a bit of time in the clink. While the experiences were interesting, it felt like a connected series of short stories rather than a novel. The female characters are definitely a product of the times, from Bodda as a mindless sex object to Reggie as a ball-breaking virgin. There isn't a non-stereotype female character in the book.
Like I said earlier, the writing is the best part and kept me from giving up around forty pages in. While I'm thinking about picking up David Dodge's To Catch a Thief, it's not high on my list of priorities....more
The Syndicate wanted to shut Joe Martin and his casino, Rainbow's End, down and brought in the best gambler in the world to put him out of business. CThe Syndicate wanted to shut Joe Martin and his casino, Rainbow's End, down and brought in the best gambler in the world to put him out of business. Can Joe Martin keep his casino? And does the girl who's stolen his heart have anything to do with the people who want his money?
Yeah, there are some awesome books in the Hard Case Crime series and some that are only okay. This is one of the okay ones.
I like the idea of an independent casino owner going up against the mob to keep his business. It sounds good, right? Too bad it was kinda boring. I don't find the idea of a guy playing craps with Syndicate money trying to break a casino very exciting. Sunny Guido (Guido? Really?) would have made an interesting love interest for Joe if she wasn't such a bland doormat. The subplot with Dee and Malcolm didn't really do anything for me. Other than Joe Martin, the only character I cared about was Sprig, security at the Rainbow's End. By the end, I just didn't care anymore.
It wasn't a horrible book. It was fairly well written. I just don't see the attraction of Las Vegas, I guess....more
Peter Ross is an American radiologist in Spain for a conference when he's strong-armed into performing an autopsy on a dead gangster. Something is plaPeter Ross is an American radiologist in Spain for a conference when he's strong-armed into performing an autopsy on a dead gangster. Something is planted inside the corpse's chest cavity and three gangs are vying for it. Can Pete escape the gangs before he becomes another victim?
I have mixed feelings on this Hard Case by John Lange, aka Michael Critchon. On one hand, it has more twists and turns than any Hard Case in recent memory. The writing is crisp. I didn't really know what was going on until the end. Plus, it had people being gruesomely attacked by a trained falcon.
On the other hand, I didn't care about Peter Ross very much and at no time thought he was in any real danger. Not knowing what the maguffin was for most of the book put a damper on my enjoyment. Most of the bad guys were odd for the sake of being odd, like the professor or the diminutive count.
Not a bad read but not a particularly good one either. I'd give it a 2.5 if I could....more
Spiderweb: Loser wannabee actor Eddie Haines falls in with a blackmailing ring led by the sinister Professor. But when Eddie falls for one of the ProfeSpiderweb: Loser wannabee actor Eddie Haines falls in with a blackmailing ring led by the sinister Professor. But when Eddie falls for one of the Professor's targets, he has to get out any way he can...
The first of the short novels in this collection was pretty good. Eddie's slide into life as a con man was well done, as was his romance with Ellen. The Professor and Dr. Sylvestro were suitably chilling yet still plausible. When Eddie decides to get out, his uphill climb was believably done.
Bloch knows how to write a potboiler. Let's see if Shooting Star is as good.
Shooting Star: One-eyed private eye/writer Mark Clayburn is hired to clear the name of Dick Ryan, a murdered western star. Can Clayburn find his killer and dispel the rumors of his drug use before Ryan's killer finds him?
For the first three-fourths of Shooting Star, I was enthralled. Clayburn got thumped over the head more times than Lew Archer as he looked for Ryan's killer. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, Bloch yanked the rug out from under me. Then the plot revolving around a marijuana-selling ring kicked into high gear.
Did you know that in the 1950's, muggle was another word for joint? Neither did I. The whole marijuana part of the plot was unintentionally hilarious. Every time Clayburn mentioned tea, reefer, or stick, I chuckled a bit. It was probably heavy stuff back in the day but soon entered Reefer Madness territory. Still quite enjoyable, just not in the way I was hoping.
Overall, I was quite pleased with this Hard Case double. Mr. Bloch and I will probably be spending more time together in the future....more
New Orleans detective Mike Shayne is hired by a little old lady to find her son who had enlisted in the army under an assumed name after working in MeNew Orleans detective Mike Shayne is hired by a little old lady to find her son who had enlisted in the army under an assumed name after working in Mexico as a miner for five years. Shayne's trail weaves a serpentine course through a web of lies and deceit, encountering equally dirty politicians on both sides of a mayoral race, a missing soldier, blackmail, unrequited love, and mistaken identity. Can Shayne solve the mysteries, get out alive, and get paid?
I devoured this in one sitting while my car was being worked on. It was a page turner of the highest order. Brett Halliday is a master of misdirection. I'd say almost 75% of the book was red herrings and false leads. While I suspected the old switcheroo had been pulled at some point, I had no idea how complicated things had become.
Mike Shayne seems like an ancestor of sorts of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder. He obeys his own code more than the law and is fairly flexible as far as rates go. He took the case initially for fifty bucks and then set about getting a more worthwhile fee during the course of the investigation. I'll be reading more of Mr. Shayne's cases in the future.
While it wasn't my favorite Hard Case, this one is definitely on the worthwhile end of the spectrum. Halliday will keep you guessing until the very end....more
Chicago cab driver Eddie Miles stops in an alley to take a leak and finds a young mutilated hooker close to death. Meanwhile, cabbies are being killedChicago cab driver Eddie Miles stops in an alley to take a leak and finds a young mutilated hooker close to death. Meanwhile, cabbies are being killed all over the city. Can Eddie keep from becoming just another victim?
Jack Clark, a Chicago cab driver, wrote Nobody's Angel and sold it out of his cab before Hard Case picked it up. That being said, the writing is light years away from where I thought it would be, good noir writing.
Having been to Chicago a few times, Clark really paints a vivid picture of the windy city. The story meanders a bit and not everything is resolved but the ending is satisfying. The little snippets of the fares Edwin takes during the course of the story and the bits of cab driver culture wound up being my favorite parts.
Nobody's Angel is definitely on the good end of the Hard Case spectrum and a good way to spend a few hours reading.
Actor Paul Cole gets caught in bed with another man's wife and suffers a head injury. Now Cole's long term memory is gone and his short term memory isActor Paul Cole gets caught in bed with another man's wife and suffers a head injury. Now Cole's long term memory is gone and his short term memory isn't anything to write home about. Can Cole get back to his old life in New York and remember who he was?
Memory was among Donald Westlake's possessions after he died a few years ago. Apparently he'd written it in the 60's but never got it published. Thanks to Lawrence Block and the Hard Case Crime series, it's finally seen print.
Since Westlake was primarily a crime writer, it's not hard to see why publishers were reluctant to take a chance on Memory. Rather than being a crime novel, it's more a of a literary one. There's a slight mystery element but it's more the story of a man trying to find himself after having his life snatched away. It explores the concept of identity and what it would be like to forget almost everything every day.
Paul Cole's life is a sad one, far from the hijinx of Dortmunder or the violent world of Parker. He suffers one defeat after another and continuously grasps at straws in an attempt to regain his memory. The supporting cast is fairly well-rounded. Cole's agent Helen is probably the most memorable.
Since this was the last published work of Donald Westlake, I feel bad only giving it a three but that's as high as I can go. It's a little on the long side and the mystery element felt tacked on. Plus the ending is pretty sad. Still, when it comes to a deceased author's work, you have to take what you can get.
On a side note, with this volume, I've now read the entire Dorchester run of the Hard Case Crime series, all 66 books....more
When Alan Bennig was 15, he had an odd encounter with a girl on a beach. They struggled, she fell, and he ran. Now, fifteen years later, Alan is consuWhen Alan Bennig was 15, he had an odd encounter with a girl on a beach. They struggled, she fell, and he ran. Now, fifteen years later, Alan is consumed with a desire to find out if he killed the girl. Will what Alan finds destroy him?
Witness to Myself isn't your typical Hard Case. It reminds me of The Confession a bit. Seymour Shubin really knows how to build the tension and give us an insight into Alan's tortured psyche and makes the reader care about him despite his flaws. That's really about all I can say without giving too much away.
While it isn't a typical Hard Case, it's definitely worth a read for fans of psychological suspense....more
Three days out of jail, Harry Healy gets talked into making a cocaine delivery. The delivery goes south and when Harry goes back to the guy he was worThree days out of jail, Harry Healy gets talked into making a cocaine delivery. The delivery goes south and when Harry goes back to the guy he was working for, he finds him dead, a bullet wound to the head. Worse yet, Harry's a suspect. Can Harry escape from the law or will he wind up just like his Dutch Uncle?
I'm not really sure what to think about this one. On one hand, I enjoyed the three separate threads; the cops investigating Manfred's murder, Harry trying to forget about the law nipping at his heels, and the killers enjoying their ill-gotten gains. There were some good twists. On the other hand, the threads didn't converge that well and at least fifteen pages felt like filler. Also, the subplot about Harry and the waitress felt tacked on.
While it was an exciting read at times, Dutch Uncle is strictly middle of the road as far as Hard Case Crime is concerned....more
Tony Romero rises from being a poor unwanted Italian kid to being a big player in the rackets, specifically, pimping. Tony kills and schemes his way uTony Romero rises from being a poor unwanted Italian kid to being a big player in the rackets, specifically, pimping. Tony kills and schemes his way up the ranks until he meets the one woman he doesn't want to put to work. Will he leave pimping behind for her or is he already too deep in his life's work as a Peddler?
Richard S. Prather has a rare talent, one that's seldom seen outside of Richard Stark and Max Allan Collins: he made me care about a lowlife douche like Tony Romero. Romero's a liar, a user, and a woman-beater, in addition to being a pimp, but I still wanted him to rise to the top of the rackets. Not that I wasn't happy with the ending...
There's a good amount of action and a fair amount of titillation in The Peddler, enough to keep anyone interested.
"What about the three rating? What kept it from being ranked higher?" you ask. I'll tell you. Nearly all of the female characters were exactly the same apart from physical descriptions. I didn't buy Tony falling for Betty, considering she didn't have much in the way of personality to distinguish her from the others. Other than that, I may have subtracted a half star or so because the dialogue is a bit outdated. Tony says God and Jesus in the same sentence and people are acting like he's the Demon God of Vulgar Language.
All things considered, The Peddler is worth a read. It's quick and, as part of the Hard Case Crime Series, is quite affordable.