Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dime Mystery Magazine: James A Goldthwaite Book 1

Dime Mystery Magazine: James A Goldthwaite Book 1
James A Goldthwaite, sometimes writing as Francis James

Some stock weird menace setups, but the execution felt a bit less formulaic than usual.  Lots of throats getting ripped out with bare hands - like snapping celery stalks!

Hands That Kill
A beastly strong womanizer was run out of a small Canadian town ten years ago.  His wife waits for him to return with the dog she's trained to kill him.  Now he's back, claiming to have learned mystical healing powers of the orient.  Someone with his immense strength is committing brutal crimes, starting with ripping the heads off rabbits and lining them up in teacups.  Now, the men that ran the mystic off ten years ago are dying one by one, their throats ripped out with bare hands, one left crucifed as a scarecrow, is face eaten away by birds.

The Devil's Highway
A lumbering, square headed brute is kidnapping people from a small town.  Weeks later they return, feeble minded and covered in whip lash scars.

Satan's Sisterhood
A series of suburban housewives start sleeping separately from their husbands before ending up dead in apparent suicides, their suicide notes forged by their husbands.  Is this connected to the fiend who tears apart neighborhood cats with his bare hands?

Mark of the Laughing Death
Hundreds of citizens find a brand tattooed on their chest before succumbing to Joker venom (four years before the Joker).

My Twin From Hell
A boy spends years in an asylum, driven mad by his father's brutal murder.  Now cured, he takes his girl to the worst resort possible.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Review of Kindle Unlimited

Since Kindle Unlimited began, I'd been keeping track of which titles in my want list were eligible.  When enough stacked up, I gave their 30 day free trial a go.

The good:
  • I tore through probably a good $50 worth of books, so there's definitely good value for money (even if I had paid the $10).
  • I took a lot more risks in my titles, reading or sampling some that I wouldn't have paid good money for.  For the most part, my instincts were right.
  • Some free trials can be tricky.  You could get cut off when you cancel, or they could bill you for the next month way before the trial ends.  KU clearly states the billing date, and if you cancel beforehand you can continue using it up to that date.
The meh:
  • I kept my list of titles in a Want list on the Amazon website.  If you access your Want list from the books tab on Kindle Fire, that version of the list does not give the option to borrow on KU.  You either have to do a separate search again from the books tab or borrow them though another device.
  • It would take upwards of 20 minutes to get my titles loaded on my Kindle Fire.  This is because the Kindle app is horrible.  If you start getting DRM errors, unregister your device and sign back in.  Collections are cloud based now, so you shouldn't lose anything.
  • I've got enough titles left over to justify another month, but just barely.  I can't see paying for this for a whole year.
  • This won't matter to most folks, but you can't pay for KU with gift card funds.  You might be able to use gift card funds to buy a KU Gift Membership for yourself, but those are in six month chunks.
To see if KU is right for you you can do what I did.  Keep track of KU eligible books you want to read in a separate wish list.  You can filter searches on Amazon by clicking "Kindle Unlimited Eligible" on the left sidebar, or add the words "prime eligible" to your search term.  When you have a month's worth of books, sign up for the free trial, and cancel whenever you want.

If you are considering the free trial of KU, consider signing up through my affiliate link to help me save up for a spinner rack.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Badge by Jack Webb

The Badge: true and terrifying crime stories that could not be presented on TV, from the creator and star of Dragnet
by Jack Webb
2005 Thunder's Mouth Press

Originally The Badge: The Inside Story of One of America's Great Police Departments; Prentice-Hall 1958

The Badge reads like notes from unpublished Dragnet scripts filled out with LAPD press releases.  The former is great - quick summaries of crime and investigation lasting a couple pages each, the proper length for the genre.  I like True Crime, but even the most complicated cases can be outlined in a few pages.  Instead of endless padding, Webb gives us his square/beat patter.

The latter is dull at best and infuriating at worst.  Webb has always been an LAPD apologist, and it doesn't age too well.  This was written when the LAPD had cleaned up in regards to payoffs and bribery and had to deal with racial profiling and civil rights violations (or refuse to deal with, more often).

James Ellroy wrote an introduction about how he bites Webb's style.  I swear Ellroy has a macro on Word that spits out a full paragraph on his dead mother at a keyboard shortcut - even the wording has become repetitive.

Available on Kindle for Amazon.

Click here to read a sample.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Warbots 8 - Force of Arms by G. Harry Stine

Force of Arms
by G. Harry Stine
Warbots 8
Pinnacle 1990

In the non-apocalyptic, not very different, future, Chinese, Russian, and Japanese troops fight over the availability of prostitutes in a small coastal town.  Enter the Washington Greys, America's elite force of Warbots.

Warbots are - hell, I still don't know.  The term is used to describe all kinds of remote controlled military equipment, from tanks to bird-shaped spy drones.  They are not cyborgs or exoskeletons or mech-suits like the cover copy implies.  Some are mind-controlled remotely, others are controlled in the field with voice commands.  The guy on the cover there I'm assuming is what they call a "jeep", because we weren't confused enough.  They are larger than people but can move through a house, and that's literally all the description we're given.  That is also the only thing the Jeeps do the entire book - walk through a house.  The lavender loincloth does not come into play.

Love the military but hate violence?  Warbots is the series for you, with exactly one on-page death, by shotgun of all things.  Nothing resembling an action sequence until about 300 pages in, and even then everything happens off page.
"Let's split up.  I'll look for the kidnapped reporter.  Hey, look she's right there!"
"The fighting is all over now.  I killed eight people, by the way."
That's the biggest action scene - less than a page, half of which is describing how a warbot could shoot someone, which it doesn't.

There's another off-page action sequence told in the epilogue, which also wraps up a bunch of romantic angles that didn't exist until then.  Then what fills up more than 350 pages?  Logistics, diplomacy, and jargon-laden dialogue that makes ample use of the eight page glossary at the end.

Lots of female soldiers in the future who seem to only exist for off-page sex and a lovely, patronizing scene of them being left out of a mission because too many "ladies" had been killed.  And in the future, the official military terminology for the Chinese appears to be "Chink", with Mongol being an acceptable substitute.

Army Wives in mirrorshades.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Mother's Boys by Bernard Taylor

Mother's Boys
by Bernard Taylor
1988 St. Martin's Press

A man tries to start a new relationship after his divorce.  He has custody of his four kids, and his ex is a bit off.  She's especially close with her two oldest boys, both of whom distrust their potential new stepmother.

Dad is called away during a vacation, leaving his new girlfriend to take care of the kids.  They trick her into tying her to a chair and put on a long, laborious show trial for ruining their parents' marriage.  Sometimes there's a fine line between suspense and tedium.  This was just tedious.  Maybe I don't have the patience for the slow build anymore.  By the time there's any violence I was just happy the book was almost done.

Taylor played the incest card way too early - it might have made a decently creepy reveal near the end, but it's just kind of thrown out there early on and forgotten.

There was evidently a movie with Jamie Lee Curtis that doesn't look very good.

Available from Amazon for Kindle.

Click here to read a sample

New Avengers: Breakout Prose Novel by Alisa Kwitney

New Avengers: Breakout
by Alisa Kwitney
Marvel 2013

New Avengers: Breakout Prose Novel (New Avengers (Hardcover)) by [Kwitney, Alisa]

The Black Widow defects to SHIELD just as there's a breakout on the raft, the super-prison for super-villains.  The Avengers reform (after the events of Avengers Disassembled) to hunt down the escapees, starting with Carl Lykos aka Sauron in the Savage Land.

Most of the novel (as are the comics) is a slog through the jungles of the Savage Land, uncovering a poorly thought out, unrelated plot about a rogue SHIELD unit or something.  That and the budding romance between Hawkeye and Black Widow, with Spider-Woman as a barely participating third side of the triangle.

I've become a bit less tolerant of sexism and sexuality in my superhero comics in my years.  Not being prudish, just not the place for it.  In comics it's at least in the background.  Here, the author makes sure to point out how butts and breasts look in tight fitting outfits.

Turns out, of course, this was written by a woman, and a romance writer to boot.  Explains a lot.  Based on the comments on Amazon, there's evidently a market for romance-focused superhero comics, so more power to them.  If you want some fade-to-black Black Widow on Hawkeye action, this is your scene.

There are some unusual continuity choices with the character's background.  Hawkeye is a SHIELD field agent with no spandex experience.  Black Widow is introduced.  Luke Cage and Captain America are full-on SHIELD agents, to the extent that Cap turns his shield into the armory when not in use.  Spider-Man comes to us straight from his engagement to MJ being broken, which I think happened in the 70s.  This mirrors 616 continuity more than the cinematic universe, but this is clearly Downey Jr.'s Iron Man.  There's enough background in other places to prove Kwitney knows her comics, so I'm assuming these choices are on purpose.

Could be worse - I'm dipping my toe back into reading comics and forgot about Brian Micheal Bendis' David Mamet routine.

Available from Amazon for Kindle.

Click here for a sample.