Thursday, April 30, 2020

Black Cat by John Russo

Black Cat
by John Russo
1982 Pocket Books

Some good stuff from Russo.  After starting high with Midnight, I'd been disappointed with his other titles until this.  Like Midnight, Russo seems to be winging it and throwing in all kinds of elements.  We start with an adulterous writer, a 'Nam vet dying of Agent Orange, and an anti-colonial terrorist in Africa.

Russo throws in hitchhiker suspense, panther cult atrocities, stranded motorist schtick, animal attacks, and circus gothic.  Gory and dark, though the ending could use some trimming.

The Audible recording was OK, the sound quality wasn't the greatest and there's almost an hour of overlong pauses.

In Kindle for ebook and Audible audiobook from Amazon

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Space 1999: Breakaway by E.C. Tubb

Space 1999: Breakaway
by E.C. Tubb
1975 Pocket Books

Space 1999 was the spiritual successor to the far superior series UFO.  I bought and watched the entire series, mainly on the strength of trying to find an episode I remembered from childhood which ended up being from Jason of Star Command.  The only thing I remember from it is that it had Christopher Lee looking like this:

Christopher Lee in Space 1999. | Space 1999 tv series, Space 1999 ...

The shaky premise of the series is that nuclear waste is being stored on the moon.  It explodes which sends the moon and its space station travelling at FTL speed across the universe, a speed fast enough to fly past various planets and stars, but slow enough to interact with them.

Breakaway crams four episodes into 141 pages, almost all of it exposition.  We get electromagnetic sickness, alien possession, aliens turning up as dead spouses, and a black hole.  Adds nothing to the series - it mentions a couple of suicides which I don't think were in the show, but I'm not going back to watch.  The only characterizations we get is someone explaining that they were an old bachelor because "I was in love...once."  This happens twice - couldn't tell you if it was the same person twice or two different characters.

Not a big fan of the series, but it's strength was definitely visual, and that is completely lost here.

Space 1999 novels continue to be put out to this day (more on that later), and Breakaway was reissued and possibly revised.

Paperback from AbeBooks.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Gröna Lund: Lustiga Huset

The kind of Fun Houses found in Europe, where there must be laxer personal injury laws.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Final Justice (1988)


Dull cop drama, of the running-gun-battle-through-street-markets variety, missing all the elements of good Hong Kong action that were starting to emerge during this time.  Steven Chow's first film role.  All the good parts are in the trailer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Photon 1: For the Glory by David Peters

Photon 1: For the Glory
by David Peters (Peter David)
1987 Berkley/Pacer

Photon was Lazer Tag before Lazer Tag.  There were franchises of arenas

And home units

And a TV show

The TV show had two set of novelizations: a six issue series for younger readers, and a single installment of a young adult version.

Peter David (of Incredible Hulk, X-Factor, and many Star Trek novelizations) wrote the kid's series.  The Photon arenas are secretly used to recruit the universe's greatest players to become Photon Warriors.  There are also warriors of darkness, and they go to planets and whoever shoots a crystal first determines of the planet becomes good or evil.

For the first novel, instead of going to another planet, our warriors travel through time to stop Hitler from being recruited by the forces of evil.  The bad guys bully their way into Hitler's inner circle, while the good guys join with resistance forces.

Since this is for kids, nobody gets killed.  The photon guns shoot rifles out of soldiers' hands and such.  The bad guys are defeated by being shot in their breastplates, like the game, which sends them back to their original time.

There's a running moral about remembering history and paying attention to your elders - the lead has problems remember where D-Day was, though he know at least two verses of "Der Fuhrer's Face".

Definitely a kid's book - short sentences, simple words, and the narrator stops to explain things now and then.  Some attempts at humor and pop culture references David would be better at later in his career.

Paperback from Amazon

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Series Showdown: V vs Man from UNCLE

I enjoy the series V more, but the novel lost a lot of goodwill with me for repeating so much from the first novelization.  UNCLE didn't especially wow me, but it was more fun, and at least shorter.  Man from UNCLE moves on to round 2.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Blood Sisters (1987)

Sorority Girls spend the night in a haunted former brothel.  They dick around for the first two-thirds before being mildly killed off in the last.

Roberta Findlay is held in some esteem as an exploitation filmmaker, but here she comes across as a poor man's Rick Sloane.

DVD from Amazon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Man From UNCLE 1: The Thousand Coffin Affair

Man From UNCLE 1
The Thousand Coffin Affair
by Michael Avallone
1965 Ace Books

A nominal plot involving chemical warfare, this is mainly a series of capture/escape set pieces with very little linking them.  Lively enough, but got very repetitive as Avallone ran low on ideas pretty quickly.  Only so many times you can read Solo taking flight and having a rough landing, and two of his escapes consist of him being clever enough to karate someone.

A bit more adult than the series: Solo gets laid a couple times, some nude bondage, rotting corpses, etc.  Nothing crazy for 1965, but more than the TV show.

The rest of the series is written by a variety of authors.  I want to like UNCLE, it's in my DNA, but the show never really clicked with me the way James Bond or even Get Smart did.

Paperback from Amazon

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Pulp Continuation: Silver Age

The 1960s and 70s saw several pulp hero titles being reissued in paperback.  Along with the reprints, new stories were commissioned, and unpublished stories by original pulp authors were unearthed.

Walter Gibson wrote Return of the Shadow for Belmont in 1963.  Dennis Lynds wrote eight new Shadow novels between 1964 and 1967.  The Shadow is unusual in that the new original stories came first, and the reprints sporadically afterwards.

Ron Goulart wrote twelve new Avenger novels for Warner in 1974 and 1975.

The Doc Savage story In Hell, Madonna was written by Lester Dent in 1948, but was published in 1979 by Bantam Books as Red Spider.

In 1943, Donald C. Cormack wrote an unpublished Spider novel, Slaughter Inc.  It was rewritten and released as Legend in Blue Steel in 1979.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Man With the Icy Eyes (1971)

Directed by Alberto de Martino, starring Antonio Sabàto (senior, not the tramp stamped disgrace), Keenan Wynn, and 33-year-old Victor Buono.  Wynn did his own ADR, while Buono is dubbed by the same guy that did every Italian movie in the 70s.

An Italian journalist in New Mexico investigates a senator's murder.  Actionless, and the most stylish shots are of downtown Albuquerque. Tepid thriller, neither poliziottesco nor giallo, and not much of anything else.

Friday, April 10, 2020

ALESSANDRONI -"Sangue di Sbarro"

I'd say this is as close as you can get to being Shaft without being Shaft, but it's still Shaft.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

V 2: East Coast Crisis By Howard Weinstein

V 2: East Coast Crisis
By Howard Weinstein
1984 Pinnacle


This novel runs parallel to the LA set original miniseries, only set in New York. Probably a good 100 pages of material is repeated, the Visitors landing, setting up relationships with world leaders, attacking scientists as conspirators, etc.

A resistance movement forms, with the novel focused on an alcoholic baseball player and a diplomat. They team up with local gangs to raid an armory, and then the book fast forwards to broad summaries of what could have been interesting action sequences. They hold off on more action until the finale, as the resistance rescues a subway train full of New Yorkers being herded into feeding pens.

The Michael Ironsides character makes a cameo, and there’s a bit more about the fifth column among the Visitors who are on humanity’s side, but not much here, even for V fans.

Borrow for free from

Paperback from AbeBooks

Monday, April 6, 2020

Theme Park: Gröna Lund

Gröna Lund is a Swedish waterside park that dates back to 1883.  It features a compact layout from having so many attractions, including seven roller coasters, placed in such a small space.  The coasters intertwine with each other and several run the length of the park.  I couldn't see this kind of layout in America or other places, where yahoos would throw things at or from the coasters.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Series Showdown: The Omen vs Cybernarc

Cybernarc was good, and I'll probably revisit it, but the Omen had some nice surprises, and I'm curious what happens when the book series splits off from the movies.  The Omen moves on to round 2.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Designated Victim (1971)

After Strangers on a Train, but before Throw Momma From the Train - no train, but same plot.  A rich Tomas Milian wants to leave his wife after ripping off her fortune, and a Count wants his brother dead.  Some gay overtones and telegraphed twist ending, and almost nothing else.

DVD from Amazon

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Cybernarc by Robert Cain

by Robert Cain
1991 Harper

"Could a robot...hate?"

Christopher Drake is a Navy SEAL working with the DEA against Colombian drug lords.  He's also participating in a project to program a robot soldier code named RAMROD, or Rod for short, copying his brainwave patterns while he participates in training exercises.

Despite the opening sequence being a direct lift of Robocop, and the title itself coming straight from a thesaurus, the book has a contemporary setting, the project itself dating from the Vietnam era.

Drake's wife and daughter are raped and murdered in an especially nasty sequence.  Afterwards, his hatred and drive for revenge infect Rod's programming.  After a failed assassination attempt, Drake, Rod, and a team of soldiers raid the drug warlord's compound and lure out the CIA traitor.

The plot is a pretty standard military story, spiced up with ultra-violent robotic action as Rod throws tires through faces, punches out spines, and mows down scores of narco-soldiers.  It teases a little bit of buddy cop, robotic literalism humor, but doesn't really commit to it.

Plots involving CIA trafficking drugs were ubiquitous in the 1980s (Above the Law, The Presidio, I think even an episode of Riptide).  I always though it was weird when just a few years later everyone freaked out over the allegations in Dark Alliance, as if they were out of the blue.

Paperback from Amazon

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Probe (1988)

An eccentric genius and a frazzled secretary consult with the police solving crime.  Isaac Asimov is co-credited as creator, because he evidently needed help coming up with the idea of doing Sherlock Holmes again.

The whole show has the look and feel of something that came out five years earlier, especially in the treatment of computers as a novelty.  It doesn't go as far as Whiz Kids in that direction, and the forced quirkiness of the characters fails to add any charm or humor.