Monday, March 25, 2024

The Zone: Hard Target by James Rouch

The Zone 1
Hard Target
by James Rouch

The Zone is a then-future war series set during World War III in the Zone, a stretch of Europe blighted by chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Interestingly it's not exactly post-apocalyptical, maybe more mid-apocalyptical.

A brief novel, we open with a tank battle, the middle has half the cast reconnoitering a refugee whorehouse while the others hang around, and ending with a raid on an underground tank garage.

The crew are a combined force of American and British troops fighting Russians in a hovertank called the Iron Cow. It's presumably written from the British point of view, or at least by a Brit, what with the US Armoured Infantry Division.

Like historical exploitation fiction, a lot of war fiction uses real life historical atrocities as a cover - "war is hell" and "that's the way it really was". Some of the more vicious stuff you get the feeling that the author, or the intended audience, have more of an attitude of "I wish I was in a war so I could do atrocities." The Zone is that kind of book.

The characters are similar to the Piccadilly Cowboy characters, ranging from amoral to psychopathic. They all have disdain for non-combatants and refugees and bemoan the fact that they can't mow them down. A good chunk of the text takes place in a whorehouse with descriptions of how diseased and disgusting the women are taking as much space as how horny the men get. I wonder if that's a particular British thing. I saw it in the Commander Amanda series, where they felt the need to counterbalance the sex scenes with shame and STDs.

When the series was reissued around 2012 it was marketed as alternate history

Available from Amazon

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Last Ranger 4: Rabid Brigadier by Craig Sargent

Last Ranger 4
Rabid Brigadier
by Craig Sargent (Jan Stacy)
1987 Warner Books

Martin Stone and his dog Excalibur join forces with an insane military dictator, who in a shocking turn of events turns out to be the wrong kind of insane military dictator. Stone starts a war with the mafia and biker gangs and has to stop a nuclear missile.

More restrained this time, with most of the story stalling during training sequences and Stone being tempted by the illusion of stability. It's becoming increasingly apparent that it takes some plot convolutions for Stone to end each story with his bike and dog intact.

Available from Amazon

Saturday, March 23, 2024

K'ing Kung-Fu 1: Son of the Flying Tiger by Marshall Macao

K'ing Kung-Fu 1
Son of the Flying Tiger
by Marshall Macao (Thaddeus Thallejah or maybe Sandy Sidar)
1973, Freeway Press
Cover by Barry Smith

Chong Fei K'ing is the orphaned half-American, half-Chinese son of the Flying Tiger, an American pilot who assisted the Chinese in World War II. He's being trained in Kung Fu by master Lin Fong, mostly just hanging around the desert.

K'ing is joined by another boy, Kak, who is more impulsive and has a dark side. They are challenged by an evil American master and things get very Jedi. There's a backstory involving an Atlantis/Shangri-La city destroyed in a war between the good Blue Circle and evil Red Circle. Fong warns the kids not to kill the Red Circle challengers or they will turn to the dark, um, red side. This despite the fact that they've killed scores of Stromtr-, er, opium smugglers.

It's all very, very Star Wars, three years early. I doubt very much that Lucas was inspired directly like he was by, say, Far Out Space Nuts. I imagine both were influenced by episodes of Carradine's Kung Fu.

We're in origin story mode, with little else going on, so I suspect future installments will have more plot. The fight scenes worked well for me, not quite blow for blow, but it didn't rely on one-strike kills like Mace. The fight prose combined exotic martial arts moves with brutal violence, can't go wrong with that.

This series was advertised as having monthly releases. There were six in the series, with a phantom seventh that was announced but never released.

Years ago this was one of the first books I bought for Kindle, probably available as a bootleg in the more wild west days of ebooks.

From Amazon

Friday, March 22, 2024

Matthew Scudder 1: Sins of the Father by Lawrence Block

Matthew Scudder 1
Sins of the Father
by Lawrence Block
HarperCollins, 1976

Scudder is a former cop turned unlicensed private detective. After a sex worker is killed and raped by her roommate, who promptly kills himself, her estranged step-father hires him to find out more about her life. I'm torn on this one, as it has excellent writing and characterization and horrible plotting.

Scudder is the tormented alcoholic type, upset by an accidental death, though also unashamed of being corrupt (accepting bribes, framing suspects, etc). Instead of dark secrets, Scudder's digging seems to make the situation less sordid as he went, and the accompanying dime store Freudianism didn't help.

The mystery, such that it was, was a complete cheat - no evidence, not even motive, just pulled it out of thin air.

From Amazon

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Strange Talents by Bernhardt J. Hurwood

Strange Talents
by Bernhardt J. Hurwood
1967, Ace Books

Two different people predicting world wars and getting the dates wrong. A psychic IDs a coat thief, unconfirmed as it was return anonymously. A psychic directs a man to where he can buy a treasure map which he then doesn't dig up. A mom who worries about her child constantly happens to be right a couple times.

A couple move from house to house, mysterious fires following them wherever they go that have no rational explanation. The book leaves out their kids.

Captain Gerald Lowry was the first soldier blinded in World War I, but can steer a boat, play cards, and walk around unaided. Almost like he wasn't blind. He became an osteopath and claimed to have special healing powers, which didn't help when he lost a malpractice case for breaking a girl's leg.

Alexander Jacob is covered here for his magical abilities, including generating grape vines and being able to stab swords through people with no effect. No mentioned is his claim to fame in the mundane world, being involved in a scandal selling the 7th largest diamond, an affair that inspired the novel Kim by Rudyard Kipling.

From Amazon

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Kung Fu: Year of the Tiger by Lee Chang

Kung Fu
Year of the Tiger
by Lee Chang (Joseph Rosenberger)

Eurasian martial artist Mace is visiting from Hong Kong to find his uncle is being forced to pilot his boat for mafia drug runners. Mace and his cousin decimate the gangsters with their Kung Fu skills and recruit the Coast Guard to make a rescue, leading to a Rosenberger trademark of a fight on a large boat.

Mace's style is to use exotically named moves that maim or kill in one strike. At one point Mace kills his enemy by screaming at the right pitch, which hits a vibration that melts his enemy's brains, which begs the question of why he doesn't just do that all the time.

From Amazon

Monday, March 18, 2024

Last Ranger 2: The Savage Stronghold by Craig Sargent

Last Ranger 2
The Savage Stronghold
by Craig Sargent (Jan Stacy)

Martin Stone is a post-apocalyptical survivor wandering the wastelands of America on his bike with his dog Excalibur, looking for his kidnapped sister. He encounters fat cannibals, bikers, cultists with stun guns, and his nemesis The Dwarf.

The Church of the New Darkness rules Pueblo, which Stone infiltrates to rescue his sister. He meets up with local resistance and takes on the church with an old stash of dynamite.

Over the top, like the rest of Stacy's work, maybe a touch more juvenile with the tough guy talk.

Available from Amazon

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Shell Scott: Blood Ballot by Richard Prather

Shell Scott
Blood Ballot by Richard Prather
Menace, Nov 1954

Scott assists a political candidate against his mob connected opponent. More action than mystery, and slightly less horny than Mike Shayne as far as dames with their legs.

Dead Giveaway
Shell is hired by a mousey newlywed to find her missing husband, and who has been poisoning their milk. Shell hooks up with a mermaid act along the way.

Hot-Rock Rumble
Shell's hired to recover jewels from a mistress and gets framed for hit and run for his troubles.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Unsolved Mysteries ed Rose G. Mandelsberg

Unsolved Mysteries
ed Rose G. Mandelsberg
From the Files of True Detective Magazine
1992, Pinnacle

Twenty five articles from True Detective and associated true crime magazines. Ranges from well know serial killers like the Cleveland Torso Murderer and the Green River Killer to local cases. One of the traits of the unsolved reports is that they spend more time on dead end leads and the messy nature of investigation, while solved cases tend to report more of a straight line.

Mostly solid, though it slips briefly into tabloid territory - one British article refers to urban myths of widespread sex trafficking from Europe to the Middle East as well as child snuff film rackets. Another has an undercover vice detective navigating the Portland lesbian scene.

A handful have been solved in the subsequent thirty years, notably the Green River Killer Gary Ridgway and serial killer Patrick Baxter. The Green River article has an anonymous psychic who claims to have directly discovered skeletal remains in the woods, but I couldn't readily find another claim for this outside the book.

Available from Amazon

Friday, March 15, 2024

Rage on the Page in a Cage

Time for the main event - a Rage in a Cage match between four teams. The rules are as follows: one author of each team fights it out in a four-author cage match. Defeated authors are handcuffed to the outside of the cage, while the survivor moves to the next round, joined by the next four authors (including one from their team). The team still standing at the end is declared the winner.

Let's meet our four teams:

Stranger Than Truth: True crime and the unexplained

Private Eyes: Series detective fiction

Karate Kids: Martial arts series

Road Warriors: Vehicle centered post-apocalyptical series.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

RPC US Title Match: Startling Detective vs Derrick Ferguson


Ferguson lost the Young Guns title, but makes up for it by defeating True Crime titan Startling Detective and becoming the new US Champion.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Startling Detective Yearbook 1966

Startling Detective Yearbook 1966, Vol 1, No 4

Blood Bath for a Baby-Sitter by Stanley Churchill - a babysitter is brutally stabbed with a bayonet

Rape and Murder Ends a Pep Pill Binge - A hairdresser on bennies kidnaps a couple teenagers in Dallas, raping and killing one, tormenting the other until he passed out and she escaped. Sentenced to death, but was commuted when the Supreme Court temporarily overturned the death penalty in 1972. The killer was alive as of at least 2019 and is still registered as a sex offender at his nursing home.

Bluebeard's Wife - Historical quickie of a career criminal who buried several people under cement

Cold Corpse in a Hot Car by Lawrence Gardner - capri pant wearing wife and her ex-con lover kill her doting husband

Love Had a Bitter Taste by Andre Connor

Heavily padded tale of an elderly arsenic wielding black widow.

Blue-Eyed Blonde Under the Bridge by Hal White

Multiple killings of women in Montana, though only one conviction is mentioned. An internet check shows the rest were unsolved as of a few years later.

Riddle of the Twisted Love Triangle by Keith Ramsey

A woman steps out, separates from her husband who promptly moves in with her lover. Hubby disappears while her boyfriend is shot to death by cops after a robbery.

When it Snows, It's Murder by Harold Edwards

A killer hires a teenage girl as a babysitter, posing as a client.

I Had To Kill by Ace Bushnell

Door to door salesman turned killer. Creepy detailed confession.

Murdered Teacher at Battle Mountain by D.L. Champion

A woman is killed after her car runs out of gas. The killer had a failed appeal, had his last parole hearing in 2009 and is now deceased.

None of the cases are particularly compelling, many of them invented narrative devices like internal monologues or details only known to the dead, and each story is compelled to describe the victims as attractive, or at least shapely, at every opportunity.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Dillon and the Alchemist's Morning Coffee by Derrick Ferguson

Dillon and the Alchemist's Morning Coffee
by Derrick Ferguson
2013, Pro Se Press

Dillon witnesses the theft of the mysterious Alchemist's Morning Coffee at an auction and goes on the hunt to recover it. Excellent bike on jeep chase scene through the interior of a massive palace riddled with explosions. Ferguson excels at cinematic action, and for me this one had almost a Lupin III feel.

Available from Amazon

Friday, March 1, 2024

RPC US Title Match: Startling Detective vs Derrick Ferguson


After winning multiple defenses, Startling Detective and Derrick Ferguson have each earned a title shot at the vacant US title.