Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Flesh by Richard Laymon

by Richard Laymon
1987 WH Allen

An eel or something crawls into people's backs and turns them into bloodthirsty killers.  A thin pretext for a string of killings, but mainly the book is about a college student constantly breaking up and getting back together with her boyfriend.

Actually, since this is Richard Laymon, most of the book is people taking showers and deciding what clothes to wear.  I barely managed to make it through this one, and only by skimming through pages upon pages of showers and picking out socks.

We have a Sheriff's deputy who instantly accepts the premise of a kill-spree inducing parasite when he isn't killing pages in an irrelevant child custody subplot.  The college student has her roommates get killed off by a possessed horror nerd loser (little close to the bone there, Laymon) while she agonizes over whether her horny boyfriend is only interested in sex.

The killings seemed a bit sparse and tame for a Laymon book.  I really need to start at the beginning with Laymon and work my way up - the hefty page counts starting in the late 80s didn't do him any favors.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

TV Horror Anthology - Darkroom

Your host: James Coburn
7 episodes and 1 movie
ABC 1981-2

Short lived series with some nice moments, slightly hampered by the 70s Made-For-TV vibe.  "Closed Circuit" has a Videodrome thing going.  Robert Bloch's "The Bogeyman Will Get You" from his 1946 Weird Tales story is familiar from every 50s horror comic that copied it.  The series probably suffered in popularity due to it's depressing and downbeat nature, like Tales From the Crypt without the humor.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Predator by Andrew York

The Predator
by Andrew York
Jonas Wilde - The Eliminator 3
Arrow 1969

Jonas Wilde is the Eliminator, an assassin working for a secret branch of the British government.  As he's being forced into retirement, the entire staff of a local safehouse front are tortured and murdered, including the secretary he was having a fling with.

Wilde goes to Rome to track down the group responsible for the murders, infiltrating them pretty much effortlessly.  He ends up joining them under an alias and trains to become assassin.

A good third of the book takes place in a house during their going away party before the big mission.  Wilde tries to ditch his female company and send a message out and ends up killing one of the group.  Loooong discussions ensue as to whether to trust him, and against all common sense they do.

Wilde and company fly to New York where they spend the bulk of the rest of the book...hanging around another house.  Wilde eventually kills the rest, though his involuntary female sidekick manages a higher body count.

I hate to bash this too much because it's pretty well written, but too little happens and there are some conflicting tones that rub me the wrong way.

The book is decidedly "low budget".  The premise: a spy goes to three different countries to stop an army from carrying out a series of assassinations.  The execution: people hang around houses and talk.  It reminds me of riffs in the MST3K episode of Agent for H.A.R.M. about the low budget.  Thing is, this book is even cheaper on the sets and special effects, even though they're free because it's a book and you can make it up.

Not that every book has to have exotic locations and elaborate action set pieces.  This is where the tone conflicts come in.  Is this an over the top, campy James Bond style thriller, or a gritty, releastic noir.  It's got a little of both, and not in a good way.

Most of the story continues because Wilde is afraid that he can't surprise and overcome three different killers in the same house.  Yes, in real life, three to one is being hopelessly outnumbered.  However, for the world's greatest killer who can kill a man with one karate chop, it should have taken him thirty seconds.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Track 01 - The Ninety-Nine by Jerry Ahern

The Ninety -Nine
Track 01
by Jerry Ahern
1984 by Gold Eagle Books

Ahern ruined my joke about Track's hair bouncing and behaving...

...with a scene of Daniel Track using shampoo twice and conditioner once in his hair care routine, and everyone knows Pert is shampoo and conditioner in one.  There was a very slim window of the early eighties in which men actually had a hair care routine, and Track is very much a man of that era.

Daniel Track is 36.  He grew up as an orphan among the Chicago gangs, served in the CID of the US Army, and begins the series as a weapons trainer.  He is an expert in firearms and has a fourth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Doe.

We open with an action sequence fighting Bedouins in the desert with weapon dealer Desiree Goth and her black bodyguard Zulu (groan).  He sets Goth up as a love interest for later in the series.

Another unrelated action sequence of Track rescuing hostages from IRA terrorists and we're introduced to the series premise.  Nazi terrorist and master of disguise Johannes Krieger seeks to steal a hundred defective warheads from a convoy.  A convoy which is being guarded by Track's nephew George.  A convoy which is attacked literally in Track's backyard.

Track and his nephew agree to work for the Consortium, a cartel of insurance companies that has a financial interest in the world not being blown up.  They go after Krieger, enlisting the help of Track's childhood friend and gang leader Rafe Minor.

Ahern is definitely an expert in weaponry and he gets a titch indulgent here, spending a full page here and there to describe a character's loadout.  If the Survivalist has a fetish for scabbards and sheaths, here we have way too many brand names of shotgun slings.

This has been my favorite Ahern book so far, maybe because he seems not to take it too seriously.  The usual Ahern pros and cons are here.  Excellent plotting and pacing, but not as over the top as I like my stuff and kind of meh action sequences.

I haven't read the others, but it looks like each book is him tracking down one of the other 99 warheads, which is pretty ambitious.  There were 13 Track novels.  Ahern wrote the first 10, with Patrick Andrews wrapping up the last three.

I need to read #3 next - the nuclear detonator can only be defused by beating a video game, and luckily Track has the help of a 12 year old whiz kid.

Available in used paperback from Amazon.