Thursday, January 30, 2020

Revenger/Stark 1: Funeral Rites by Joseph Hedges

Revenger/Stark 1
Funeral Rites
by Joseph Hedges (Terry Harknett)
1973 Sphere

John Stark, serving a sentence for robbery, is sprung from prison by the mysterious Company for unclear reasons.  He learns that his girlfriend, Carol Burnett (?!) was turned into a heroin addict to control her, and through her control Stark.  Things don't go as planned, and Stark sets off on a kill crazy revenge spree.

This series was reportedly ordered as an Executioner cash-in, but there's a lot more of Parker, with some British Noir and even a little Kitchen Sink mixed in.  Stark is unusual for a men's adventure hero - he had never killed or fired a gun before, and even lived with his parents at the time of his arrest.  I was expecting a mob hitman, but I think he was just the driver in a single job.

You can tell Harknett was pantsing it for the plot, with Stark running around with no clear direction, though I'm a fan enough of Harknett's writing style to go along for the ride.

Paperback from Abebooks

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Undertaker's Moon by Ronald Kelly

Undertaker's Moon
by Ronald Kelly
Originally Moon of the Werewolf
1991 Zebra


An ancient Irish werewolf family moves to Tennessee, where they intend to live in peace, only feasting on buried corpses when the moon is full.  The teenage son wants more, and recruits two drug dealing brothers to gather victims.  The werewolves are opposed by a coalition of the town horror nerd, a football player, gun store owner, and bagpipe playing hobo.

Fun stuff, appropriately gory, has a bit of a Salem's Lot/Fright Night/Lost Boys vibe, but for werewolves.  I listened to the Audible version - slow talkers usually annoy me, but the reader's gentle drawl was appropriate for the story.  No padding in the story, and if anything I'd have like to have seen more of the werewolf hillbilly drug dealers, but 15 hours is a bit of an investment for me.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Halloween III: Season of the Witch by Jack Martin

Halloween III: Season of the Witch
by Jack Martin (Dennis Etchison)
1982 Jove

2886282. sy475

The novelization of the not really a Halloween film that is better than all the actual Halloween films.  The idea was to turn the franchise into an anthology, it didn't work, and they went back to making more Michael Meyers movies that were even worse than the first two.

Straightforward retelling of the movie: evil Irishman combines Japanese microchips with shards of a stolen Stonehenge slab, resulting in Halloween masks, which when combined with a trippy video, causes children's heads to melt and snakes and locusts to pour out of their faces.

I haven't seen the movie in a while, but I don't think the book adds much to it, though it felt like the first half was entirely devoted to how horrible a father and the lead is, which led to getting his kids probably killed.

The script was originally by Nigel Kneale, heavily revised enough that he took his name off, but not so much that his brilliance didn't leave a lasting mark.

Original paperback from AbeBooks

Listen to the audiobook by Audiobooks for the Damned

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Lone Wolf 2: Bay Prowler by Mike Barry

Lone Wolf 2: Bay Prowler
by Mike Barry (Barry N. Malzberg)
1973, Berkley Medallion


Burt Wulff continues his war on drugs in San Francisco.  He kills a dealer, rescues a junkie, and fights off assassination attempts before he sinks a ship, stealing the cargo of heroin.  The horrible prose of the first novel has improved dramatically.  Not only is it more readable, it gains some depth in places, though sometimes Malzberg climbs up his own ass for a few pages.  Drug distribution networks are like franchise fast food joints.  And fast food is kind of like a drug, when you think about it.  Yeah, man.

Better action scenes, better plotting but only barely.  His assassins just know where he is, while the mob boss pulls a Bond villain and tells Wulff where the shipment is coming in because he plans on killing him anyway.

Best of all, Malzberg manages to evoke a mood, of Wulff being a walking dead man, driven but with no real purpose, like a more nihilistic version of early Mack Bolan.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Beneath the Planet of the Apes by Michael Avallone

Beneath the Planet of the Apes
by Michael Avallone
1970 Bantam Books


A second spaceship goes through the same wormhole and drops off astronauts at the same time and place, where they meet the same human woman from the first film.  Our hero Brent is captured, escapes, and goes into the Forbidden Zone of post-apocalypse New York City where he meets a bunch of Brain Guys who worship an atom bomb before an army of gorillas attack.

Fairly standard retelling of the movie, the only difference is that here Taylor accidentally sets off the bomb that destroys Earth instead of doing it on purpose as in the movie, reportedly from the original script.

Avallone does his usual bit of having dramatic paragraph breaks to pad out the page count.  I don't recall having issues with his prose in other books I've read, but it's pretty clumsy at times.  There's a running motif around the phrase "milk of human kindness" which comes up four times.  It ends with an appropriately haunting eulogy to planet Earth.

Included in Planet of the Apes Omnibus 1 in ebook from Amazon

Paperback from AbeBooks

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Spider 111: The Spider and the Flame King by Grant Stockwell

The Spider 111
The Spider and the Flame King
by Grant Stockwell (Norvell Page)
December, 1942

Oil wells are being exploded in a protection racket by the giant, masked Flame King.  Some diminishing returns on this series by the forties.  There's one good scene of Nita handcuffed behind the wheel of a runaway truck of nitroglycerin, heading towards town center during a demonstration.  She does the math and decides its better to run over scores of innocent people and drive the truck into the lake than to let the truck blow up in the center of town.

Also noticed Page used the term "oppressed minority" to describe Mexican migrant workers, certainly a step up in ethnic terminology for the pulps.

Available in ebook for Kindle from Amazon

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Visiting Hours by Kent Rembo

Visiting Hours
by Kent Rembo
1982 Pinnacle

Colt Hawker is a psychotic woman-hater who attacks feminist journalist Deborah Ballin because she supports a woman on trial for killing her husband in self defense.  After a failed attack at her house involving a dumb-waiter escape, he sneaks into the hospital and tries again.  He fails, kills someone else, escapes, then sneaks back in.  This happens three times.  In between, he rapes a neighborhood girl and stalks one of the nurses.

The film is only notable for Michael Ironsides' performance.  I've always been impressed that even though he always plays psychos, he plays each one a little differently.  On the other hand, William Shatner is hardly in the film, and acts even less.  Not scary, not gory, not particularly fun or watchable.

The book is better, more depth, better characterizations, and nastier.  There are a few extra scenes, possibly scenes cut from the original script.  Some more background on Hawker's traumatic childhood, more interactions with his neighbors, an implied fisting, and of course, Hawker's complex masturbation ritual.

In case you're wondering, he watches his chubby female neighbor through his window.  She turns on an aerobics program and stands in front of the TV, but doesn't actually work out.  Hawker turns on his own TV to match the same show, does bicep curls, and shoots off hands free in his sweatpants.

Includes photos and extensive cast biographies.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Crow 2: Worse than Death by James W. Marvin

Crow 2: Worse than Death
by James W. Marvin (Laurence James)
1979, Corgi

48141522. sy475

Crow stumbles upon a caravan who have been attacked by the Shoshone.  Most of the men have been killed, and help is days, if not weeks, away.  Crow uses his tactical expertise to hold off the attacks, while hunger and desperation lower the women to his level of depravity.

Short and nasty, though a little bit flat.  This time it felt like James was trying a little too hard.  Dead babies, cannibalism, oral emasculation, deflowering, rape, and eye socket bonfires.  That makes it sound more fun than it was.

Some references to Herne the Hunter, and every character had a name of another British author or pen name.