Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Hot Rock by Donald E. Westlake

The Hot Rock
by Donald E. Westlake
1970, Simon and Schuster

Thief Dortmunder and his crew make multiple attempts to steal an emerald for an African country. Dry to the point I wouldn't know this was supposed to be a comedy if I didn't know in advance. I was expecting it to be a bit broader with bumbling characters, but everyone is mostly competent, if occasionally mildly quirky, and the humor is supposed to come out of the repetition.

As with the Parker novels I've read, the actual heisting isn't the highlight as much as the business surrounding it, and for me the heisting sequences fell as flat as the humor. Which is a shame because I loved the humor in The Man with the Getaway Face.

Available from Amazon https://amzn.to/3zoQyNN

Monday, April 29, 2024

RPC World Title Match: Ray Garton vs Donald Westlake


The irresistible force of Ray Garton meets the immovable object of Donald Westlake. This one's for all the marble.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Rage on the Page in a Cage

 The barney's done and Carter Brown and Larry Kent bashed the competition, winning for Private Eyes.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Afrikorps by Bill Dolan

by Bill Dolan
1991, Harper

Set in 2175, after the greenhouse effect ravaged the Earth in 2050. Select people lived generations in biodomes across the world while the survivors outside mutate and turn to savagery. In 2150, the Earth had healed enough for the biodomes to open and tame the wilderness with high technology and solar powered tanks, through mass slaughter and forcing people into reeducation camps. Captain Abe TC Creighton is drafted for a new mission - to stop African Marauders from invading Europe.

Some decent adventure through desert terrain. A little light on action, and since the Afrikorps outnumber and outgun their adversaries, you end up rooting for the Marauder underdogs for their cunning. Dips into horror with the savagery of the Marauders, led by an eyeball eating rapist.

The pacing was a bit off. It didn't feel padded, but it took half the book to get to Africa. It felt like the set up for a multi-book epic, but then hurriedly dispatched the main villains in the last few pages. There are other installments, but it looks to be more episodic.

And then there's the horrifically racist concept. The biodome survivors aren't necessarily valorized, we get the sense that their level of control is stifling, but they're clearly meant to be the good guys. Even when TC goes full Anakin and wipes out a village of women and children, he regains control at the end.

The general premise of African savages threatening to overrun civilized Europe in order to rape their women ain't great, and while Dolan might have thought to temper it by having a South African Afrikaner lead them, the theme is still the superiority of White civilization, even when they're evil.

The book conspicuously avoids mentioning race most of the time, which is odd considering most authors of the era felt compelled to mention a characters skin tone as often as possible if they weren't White. About the only time it is mentioned is to distinguish between a good albino tribe and a tribe of evil mutants who have devolved into primates. Not particularly subtle symbolism there, but nothing spoken directly like, say, the Turner Diaries.

From Amazon https://amzn.to/3SO8KK9

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Black Samurai by Marc Olden

Black Samurai
by Marc Olden
1974, New American Library

Robert Sand is trained as a samurai after being shot by "military racists" and later faces a Vietnam vet trying to bring My Lai to America.

I suspect I'll like further installments more - way too much origin story and seems to be more restrained than later books. This was an interesting experiment in how I process text - listening to the audiobook the action scenes felt glossed over but the rest was OK. Reading the same sections, the action was written fine but the dialogue felt juvenile.

Available from Amazon https://amzn.to/3uHQr0Q

Friday, April 19, 2024

Larry Kent 640: Naked Curse by Don Haring

Larry Kent 640
Naked Curse
by Don Haring
1966, Cleveland

Larry Kent started life as an Australian radio show I Hate Crime as a competitor to Carter Brown. Kent is hired to scare off a stalker, pay off a blackmailer, and find a missing son, only to find each client belongs to the same family.

Better than average plotting and better action scenes than most PI novels, with a decent body count. Despite the saucy covers this was less suggestive than a Carter Brown from previous decades, like it was a fade-to-black scene with a couple extra sentences removed on either side.

Available from Amazon https://amzn.to/3GpK5G0

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Al Wheeler 5: Booty For a Babe by Carter Brown

Al Wheeler 5
Booty For a Babe
by Carter Brown
Horowitz, 1956

Al Wheeler solves a mystery at a science fiction convention at a hotel. An eccentric professor who believed aliens controlled the flow of time is killed during a panel, and Wheeler locks down the hotel, mostly so he can drink hit on dames.

Available from Amazon

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Strange Powers of the Mind by Warren Smith

Strange Powers of the Mind
by Warren Smith
1968 Ace Star

Anecdotal feel to a lot of these entries, with names changed, mostly of predictions. A few good entries.

There's the Copenhagen Hypnosis Murders, in which a man made a fellow prisoner a hypnotized slave and supposedly forced him to kill - they both ended up in jail for the murders.

There's the story of Mrs. Sarah A. Hand who believed if she removed her head, both her head and body would continue living. She attempted to decapitate herself, and failing that, laid across a railroad track. She left a note to make sure her head didn't get squished because then it wouldn't work. Her experiment was a failure.

There are several predictions - all of the clairvoyants' previous prophecies have come true, of course, so let's take a look at the future predictions. Some have no date references, so they could still be true in the future, and some are so vague ("important political figures will be replaced") I couldn't point to any and say if and when they came true.

  • LBJ fails to be re-elected (got this one right, extra points that he didn't lose the election, he didn't run)
  • President Nassar of Egypt assassinated in 1968 (1970, heart attack)
  • Russia and China fight an all out nuclear war in 1970
  • Religious war in India between Buddhists and Muslims at the end of the 20th century
  • Eclipse in July and August, 1999 (got August right), in which a masculine female becomes ruler of Russia.
  • An American will lead England by the turn of the century (Boris Johnson was 19 years too late).
  • NYC and the Eastern Seaboard will be destroyed in the 1990s.
  • Lemuria will rise in 1968.
  • The Soviet Union will lose a war against 10 million Middle Eastern Muslims (closest was Afghanistan, in Asia with about 250k fighters)
  • America wins the Vietnam War in 1967
  • Armageddon by 2024, still time for this one

From Amazon

Monday, April 8, 2024

Rage on the Page in a Cage Round Three

 Piers Anthony gets distracted by some schoolgirls in the front row and gets schoolboyed by Carter Brown, who stays in the ring for team Private Eyes.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Outrider by Richard Harding

by Richard Harding
1984, Pinnacle

A century or so after the nuclear apocalypse, survivors gradually made their way out of hiding, connected by scouts called Outriders. One such Outrider is our hero Bonner, who survives an assassination attempt by his former buddy turned despot Leather, and learns that his girl is being held captive.

Bonner makes his way to Chicago to New York to DC, seemingly recognizing everyone he meets and joins forces. He ends up with the pyromaniac, Cooker, two mute barbarian types call the Mean Brothers, biker gang the Sisters, among others.

Very juvenile in tone, except for the cussing and violence. Some creative characters, but the action scenes often felt rushed, with a multi-state chase finale crammed into what felt like the last handful of pages. Probably the closest in feel to the Mad Max movies I've come across. Even had Radleps, radiation poisoned suicide troops, which prefigure Fury Road.

The author mainly worked in novelizations, including four Beethoven (the dog) tie-in novels.

Available from Amazon

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Al Wheeler 4: No Harp for My Angel by Carter Brown

Al Wheeler 4
No Harp for My Angel
By Carter Brown (Alan Yates)
Horwitz, 1956

Al Wheeler is on vacation in Florida and stumbles into a mobbed up club owner who may be involved in the disappearance of society girls. A little more serious than other Carter Brown's I've read, but still lots of style.

Available from Amazon

Jason Striker 1: Kiai! by Piers Anthony and Roberto Fuentes

Jason Striker 1
by Piers Anthony and Roberto Fuentes

Guy runs a karate studio. Looks like he enters a tournament, gets hit with the dim mak, and seeks spiritual treatment, but Anthony gets disqualified early on for typing one-handed as he gets vigorously horny over a seventeen year old.

I believe Fuentes provided the martial arts background, and the fights are meticulously detailed descriptions of individual moves which I 100% couldn't follow in my head.

Available from Amazon

Thursday, April 4, 2024

K'ing Kung-Fu 2: Return of the Opium Wars by Marshall Macao

K'ing Kung-Fu 2
Return of the Opium Wars
by Marshall Macao 
1973, Freeway Press

Picks up immediately after the first installment, with K'ing chasing Kak across China. Kak links up with the evil Red Circle, while K'ing recruits the help of the Blue Circle, including a Black kung fu practitioner called The Moor.

The pace picks up, with a wider variety of fight scenes than the first installment, including a fight through an underground opium den while high as a kite, but there needs to be more plot propping it up. I also have an aversion to series in which there's the same villain in each installment who gets away at the end.

From Amazon https://amzn.to/3I5PxOX

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Multiple Murderers II by Max Haines

Multiple Murderers II
by Max Haines
1995 Toronto Sun

Presumably taken from Haines' column Crime Flashback, shorter than true crime magazine features. A few bigger name serial killers and spree killers, but mostly more low key multiple murderers - the better for me to not hear about Dahmer or Bundy for the millionth time. Haines' writing style clicked with me weird - the first page of each entry was almost unreadable padding that became normal by page two, like he had to go back and fill out word count. He also felt compelled to report on the attractiveness levels of every person in the story.

Nothing remarkable, my favorite was a white trash noir of a woman who arranged a hit on her husband with two dirtbags in exchange for sex, which they exploited for months with no intention of carrying out the assignment, and how they're implicated when the target ends up dead.

From Amazon