Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book Report #36 - Branded Woman by Wade Miller

This is one of my many Hard Case Crime books that I've been collecting for years.  I only dip into them once in a while.  They are such at treat to read that I don't want to rush through them.

This story really showed its age.  There was some pretty stilted dialog and some rather narrow minded views of women.

This is a story of revenge, Cay Morgan is on her way to Mazatlan to kill a man.  She's a thief who got in the way of a rival know as The Trader.  He kidnapped her and branded her forehead with the letter 'T' as a warning to stay out of his business.  For five years she's been trying to track him down.

The story started off pretty nicely, exotic locale, independent, strong female character and sinister people around every corner.  Unfortunately the whole story unraveled at exactly page 152 where she instantly turns into a dish rag and wants to give everything up simply because she's finally found - A MAN!


No Way!


Up to this very moment she'd been smarter and tougher than anybody she'd come across but one roll in the hay and she loses every ounce of credibility!  It took me so completely out of the book that I couldn't enjoy the last 50 pages.  The book had a very satisfying ending but it just didn't matter because I lost all respect for Cay.

To be fair; this was written in 1952 so the stereotypes are not be much of a surprise; it's just that the scene on page 152 went completely against her character that it just blew it for me.

So, okay, here it is (I just have to share this) the last few paragraphs of chapter 21.

SPOILER ALERT!  If you still want to read the book (and you should, it's good) but don't want to know what I'm talking about, do not read beyond this point.

"Look at me," he commanded. She looked at him, and his face was a frightening sinewy mask.  "You've got something else now. Me.  I'm yours and you're mine.  I've taken you over and I've taken over your debts.  I'm not asking you to give up anything.  But from now on, I pay the bills for both of us."

"No, Walt!  Afterward, I can come to you,belong to you truly --"

His hand went out to the table, picked up his long-barreled revolver that lay there.  "This belongs to me.  So do you.  I'll handle you both."  He put the gun back and pulled her slowly to his chest, showing her his brutal strength.  "Do you believe me?"

She felt his mouth master her, felt her resolve melting into his reservoir of male power.  She cried desperately, "I want to believe you!  Oh, how much I want to believe you!".

"I'll show you."  He released her and went to the lanterns on the wall.  His eyes locked with hers, he said, "Now we can put out the lights, like normal people, for normal reasons."  She held out her arms to the darkness, and he found her.

"Beautiful," he said, "Any time -- in the light or in the dark -- you're the most beautiful woman in the world.  And you're mine."

"Yes," she said, "Yes, my darling."

I've needed you always, her trembling form implored him, and even as she clasped him to her she thought joyously, I belong to somebody, at last I belong to somebody!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Report #35 - Pacific Vortex by Clive Cussler

Oh my God - what fun!

Clive Cussler has a special place in my heart.  I read him a lot when I was a teenager (sadly a long time ago) and I grew out of his books in my mid 20's.  With my interest in pulp fiction it didn't take long to rediscover good 'ol Cussler who has not slowed down one bit.

This guy is in his 80's now and is only increasing his output by teaming up with all kinds of authors including his own son, Dirk.  The authors he's teamed up with are, Paul Kemprecos, Craig Dirgo, Jack Dubrul, Justin Scott and Grant Blackwood.

The basic story goes like this:  There is an area in the Pacific, north of Hawaii, called the Pacific Vortex, that has, for decades, has been known for ships disappearing with out a trace, just like the Bermuda Triangle.  Along comes a newly built American nuclear submarine and it too goes missing.  Our hero, Dirk Pitt, finds the captain's log capsule floating in the ocean and takes it directly to the US navy.  Thus begins the adventure and with the weight of the US navy the mystery of the Vortex is uncovered.

Pacific Vortex was the first Dirk Pitt adventure written by Cussler but was the sixth in publication order.  This is like American James Bond stuff!  Complete with an evil overlord in a hidden fortress of doom!  There are many tropes that Cussler uses that, like the James Bond films, if they are not present the book feels incomplete.  There is always a beautiful woman who falls, usually tragically, in love with Pitt, there is his best friend and partner Al Girodino and there are the cars.  Oh, the cars are wonderful and sadly the cars also come to tragic ends as well.  But not in this story  Here Pitt drives an AC Cobra into the sunset with nary a scratch on her.  Whew!

This was pure pulpy fun!  Knowing that it was written in the 70's and published in 1983 the story actually stands up very well.  There are no glaringly obsolete technologies mentioned and the story feels just like a James Bond movie.  If you like action, adventure, exotic locations, beautiful babe, humor and men being men - you really can't go wrong with this book.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Report #34 - Perry Rhodan - Enterprise Stardust

Perry Rhodan, Book 1
K. H. Scheer & Clark Darlton

This is an interesting story in the world of publishing.  Begun in 1961 this German science fiction series has been in constant publication, written by a team of authors, for nearly 50 years!  To stagger the mind a bit more; it's published weekly!  The series is sold in instalments and many story arcs (or cycles as they are know in this series)  can range from 25 to 100 issues before the tale is told.

The universe of Perry Rhodan is revisionist; substituting Neil Armstrong as the first man on the moon with Perry Rhodan and his team.  Written a bit like the Doc Savage stories of the 30's Rhodan is the brains behind everything while his team members represent the best in his field.

In 1969 Ace Books began publishing English translations of the series in mass market paperbacks.  If you haunt used book stores, like I do, you'll see loads of these books still floating around.  The difficulty is in finding the early issues in publication order.  Ace published 118 books in the series before ending the project due to lack of sales.

I was able to find PDF editions of the books on-line and converted the first five books to EPUB and loaded them onto my new Kobo Vox.

This first story sets the stage in the series; Rhodan and his team crash land on the moon because some energy beam interfered with their remote controlled landing sequence.  Once safely on the surface Rhodan discovers another crash-landed ship.  This one is most definitely alien in origin.  They make first contact and discover they are in a position to help the aliens in exchange for advanced technology and Rhodan's desire to unite all the people of Earth, which would allow humans the opportunity to join a galaxy-spanning society filled with alien races united under one old (and failing) government.

You can see all the popular science fiction movies taking parts of this series and using them in their own stories.  First Contact, Galactic Empires, Humans discovering they are not alone - all of it is here.

Even more fun is the cheesy 60's and 70's attitudes that prevail and how 50 years of scientific progress renders these stories charmingly dated.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Bastard Mummy by Frank Zafiro - A short story review #1


Here's another example of why I like this author.  Zafiro has proven to me that he's a versatile author.

In this story he stays within the world of River City but delivers a classic locked-room whodunit.  Laced with a classic cast of characters, from the snooty academic to an ex-con, officers Elias and Finch try to solve the theft of a valuable mummy.

This was a nice light change of pace but never forgetting the grittiness of River City.  The ex-con, in particular, was written with enough understated menace that you could feel the author was taking it easy on the reader.  This story could easily have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Nicely done.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book Report #33 - Bimbos of the Death Sun


Wow! What a fun ride. The title is a bit misleading but that's the point of it. This is actually a murder mystery set at a science fiction convention. And believe it or not, this fun little book won the 1988 Edgar Allan Poe award for best paperback original.

Anybody who's been to a con will appreciate this story. What makes it fun is the fact that it's set in the 1980's (the book having been published in 1988.) with all of the "high tech" of the day.  The cast of characters, however are still among us - they are timeless and McCrumb treats the community with respect.

The story is very funny, in a self-deprecation way but the characters jump off the page which made this story a nice bit of fresh air.

I came to this book via a podcast that I recently found.  At some point Seth Harwood made a shout out to the Flash Pulp podcast.  Curious, I found it and started to listen to a few shows.  These people put out original flash (read short) pulp fiction and pepper the podcast with the occasional "behind the scenes" show.  It was during one of these shows that the hosts mentioned the new book club they've created and how Bimbos was to be the first read.

It wasn't easy to find a paper copy that I could get through the mail in time to read before the deadline of the book club.  So on a lark I did a search on the Kobo website and found it as a ebook!  I threw the book on my iPhone and read it in no time. (This ebook thing is really going to open up the back catalogs in a few years.  It's gonna be great!)

For anyone who's even a little bit geeky this book would be fun.  If you've ever been to a con (think the Calgary Comic Expo) and the book will jump right into your imagination.