Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Report #61 - Bust by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr

Oh what fun!

Reads like an Elmore Leonard in that i never knew where the story was going to take me.  Random events and pure, believable, chance cropped up to throw the plans of the principal characters.

Visually this could very well be a Quentin Tarantino film; the violence is quick, brutal and unexpected.  There were great gobs of dark, dark humor in here too.  So if you like either Leonard or Tarantino this book is for you.

The good news is that it's the first in a trilogy.

So, what's it about?  One of the most unlikable guys in literature decides he wants to kill his wife because he certainly doesn't want a divorce and give up half his money.  Through his mistress he hires an assassin who calls himself Popeye.  And that's the only part of his plan to goes as he wants it.  From then on the book is like an amusement park ride - you just don't know what's going to happen next.

There is nothing I love more than reading about an idiot's life as it starts to spiral out of control and how he deals with it.

This was great fun and I'm already reading the sequel - Slide.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Book Report #60 - Black Jack Justice by Gregg Taylor

Oh, yea, baby! This is what I'm constantly looking for - vintage detective stories with well realized characters, snappy dialog, sassy dames, fedoras and heavy cars with fenders.

Gegg Taylor has been producing the Black Jack Justice podcasts for years and they have always, always been my very favorite audio drama on the internet.  Now Taylor treats us to the origin story of just how Jack Justice and Trixi Dixon - Girl Detective came to form their partnership.

The story starts off as a get-evidence-for-a-divorce case that quickly brings Trixi and Jack together as they uncover corruption in city hall.

This was just a great book and I can't wait for the next one, which Taylor has announced that he will be writing very soon.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Report #59 - The Spider Strikes by R.T.M Scott

The "original" Radio Archives cover.
Arguably the Number Three character of the pulp era, after The Shadow and Doc Savage.

Richard Wentworth is a rich New York bachelor who, with the help of his trusted servant, Ram Singh and his girlfriend Nita Van Sloan, fights crime with deadly consequences.  He's suspected by the police of being The Spider which adds a fun increase to the suspense of the stories.  Not only are you wondering how he's going to defeate the bad guys but also how he's going to avoid capture by the authorities.

Set in present day 1933, the story kicks off with Wentworth confronting a notorious con man on board a transatlantic ocean liner. The rest of the story is set in Manhattan where you can hear the jazz, see the potted ferns and taste the champagne of a man who has continued to thrive, even in the depts of the Great Depression.

The first two novels were written by Scott before being taken over by Norvell W. Page who then took the character to dizzying places.  I'm looking forward to these supercharged stories.  This first novel of the series was very much a battle of wits from two highly intelligent foes and relies a lot on deception by the use of disguises.

My favourite part of the story was when our two advisaries meet face to face and have a civil discussion on how they will defeate each other.

The story was wonderful.  It was sophisticated, quick-paced, violent and filled with believable characters.  It was definitely worth the 10 cents charged at the time and the $3.00 I paid for the paperback reprint, published in 1969, that I bought from a used bookstore.
My paperback copy

Partway through the book I spent another $3.00 to get the ebook version from a company called Radio Archives.  This version was fantastic; not only did I get the original novel and the original cover art but there was an historical essay about the the Spider stories and the pulp era.  Plus, and this was the real hook for me, the two backup short stories that were published in the original magazine.  This is the kind of stuff that can really add to the experience of reading vintage fiction and is a way of preserving stories that would be lost otherwise.

These guys are doing a fantastic job!  Look for Radio Archives HERE to browse all the titles.

Now for the short story reviews:

Baited Death by Leslie C. White: Holy cow! This was a serious bit of hard, hard boiled storytelling. A cop is killed and his partner takes justice into his own hands to avenge his death. This story alone was worth the purchase price.

Murder Undercover by Norvell Page: Another story about Revenge. Set in Washington, DC, the nephew of an Italian ambassador uncovers the truth behind his uncle's death.

Ford 8

Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Report #58 - The Spook Legion a Doc Savage Adventure by Kenneth Robeson

Doc Savage.  There is no way I can begin to tell you about this legendary fictional hero.

Start at Wikipedia then follow the links from there for further exploration.  Get there from HERE.

I've read a few Doc Savage stories before and I've always found the narrative a bit stiff but I've always been able to set that aside as it being an example of the style from its time.  First published in April 1935, Doc, Monk and Ham try their best to stop a crime spree committed by invisible groups of men.

This book did not lack for action, but I nevertheless found the first half exceedingly dull.  The trio would chase after the crooks as they moved from bigger to bigger acts of robbery.  Unfortunately Robeson/Dent kept trying to thrill the reader by revealing the acts of invisible (Gasp! Invisible!) men.

The story did not get interesting until Doc and Monk were taken captive and made invisible themselves.  Once the boys were interacting with the "invisi-bad-guys" I was turning pages and looking forward to finding out how it all ended.

Lester Dent wrote most of the 181 Doc Savage stories, some are better than others, this one is only okay - good if you can get to the last half of the book, but you have to read the first half to get there.

The original magazine - April 1935