Sunday, August 2, 2020

Quick Shots: "Scarlet Goddess" by Ennis Willie (the One Where Sand Fights the Devil and Sasquatch)

Whoa. Now here's a book that puts hair on your chest, probably regrows it on your head too. It had been a rough week for me: death in the family, global pandemics, etc. etc. After finishing "Travis" by M.E. Knerr I wanted more of the same type of book. Something that would let my brain relax and enjoy the sexy violence. Something that moved, didn't care if it made a whole lot of sense and that thrilling things happened in. I returned to old acquaintances: Sand and his buddy Ennis Willie.

"Scarlet Goddess" seems to be the first Sand Shocker and boy howdy is it a shocker. A lot of people compare Sand to Mike Hammer or the single-named (like Cher) Parker. I see the similarities but I wonder how much of the pulps Ennis Willie read. Hammer's famously considered the illegitimate son of Carroll John Daly's Race Williams and maybe Sand is too. Carroll John Daly like cowboy-action in an urban setting, thrill-a-minute stuff and so did Spillane and Willie. Its easy for this leap of logic when talking about these characters, since they throw logic down in the gutter and fill it with .45 caliber holes. I bring up Pulps for another reason (other then my obsession with them) "Scarlet Goddess" reads like a hot-and-heavy "Weird Menace" pulp, you know the kind where the supernatural is bleeding into the crime story. It's something that seems to be more common in this sleaze/proto-Men's Adventure books then I had thought, more on that when some books arrive in the mail. What can I say? I'm on a tear with these smut/proto-Men's adventure books of the 50's and 60's.

Not my photo. Sorry.
So, what is Sand up to this time, you ask? Well after getting suckered by a pretty dame (been there)
and suckered into "helping" (been there) a friend Sand gets tangled into a wild caper with cults,fire opal that may contain the devil and Sasquatches running amok. Sand's his usual flippant tough guy self and really barely bats an eye at the quasi-supernatural stuff going on. He may not fully believe it but he doesn't spend a lot of time dwelling on it. Though I can't say Sand spends a lot of time dwelling on much, the pace wouldn't allow it. I talk about pace and speed a lot on the blog, it's fairly obvious that I probably prefer a rapid-fire story to a intricate well-thought out one. TV killed the radio star AND the junk-food novel, but there's still a few of us banded together in pursuit of a relaxing high-octane pulp read. Sand is the perfect example of a pulp-story just a few years newer then the heyday. Sand's on a course of bloody vengeance which keeps getting interrupted by willing-saucy-dames plus plenty of opportunity to show how much of an utter-badass he is and the supernatural stuff is something that seems very fresh within the formula. It's not a perfect book, the "surprise" at the end is fairly obvious but hey, who cares when it's been this much fun getting to it. Max Allan Collins spoke of the supernatural stuff in his foreword of the Ramble House edition and I avoided the book for a bit because of it. I wasn't sure how it would mesh together. I was stupid because it's an Ennis Willie book and the man could write an entertaining book in his sleep. It rides the line with the fantastic and makes you wonder if it was going to pull a "Scooby Doo" ending or double down. I won't spoil it, but I'm happy with how it went down. Plus it's got the coolest cover of the Sand books.

Ennis Willie recently passed away at 81, I'm glad he got to see a resurgence of his work and the impact that his novels had on people, something that sadly a lot of the guy toiling away in the low-rent publishing world never experience in their life-time. You really can't have more fun with a book than you can with a Sand Shocker. It's a shame that all the stories and novel with the big guy aren't reprinted. I wonder if Ramble House is going to do another book, they'd have my money. But I'll be happy with the two awesome collections "Sand's Game" and "Sand's War" and the eternal
hunt for the original printings.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Travis by M.E. Knerr - The Lost P.I. Series

I often go on little jaunts down blind book-alleys. I'll buy a book by a new (to me) author and think that it looks mighty fine. But in my book hunting I'll see the other books in the author's library and in a blind-book-buying-rage I'll end up with those too. To top if it by the time they show up in my mailbox, I'm distracted by other lovely books or nose deep in a novel already. That's how piles of books end up by my wayside. Haunting The Thrilling Detective Website, I stumbled onto Mike Travis and then a little more snooping on Mysteryfile here and blam-o I had four novels by M.E. Knerr coming to me from across the globe. AND to address the Elephant in the room, it's not possible for "Travis" to be a Travis McGee knock-off. "The Deep-Blue Goodbye" came out in 1964 a couple years after Knerr's Travis.

The simply titled "Travis" is often (well a couple of times on
the internet) marked as the one and only Men's Adventure/Sleaze/Private Eye Mike Travis mystery. Well with my manic book buying I discovered Mike Travis, that solider of fortune/boat bum appeared in at least one other book "Port of Passion." Well, down the rabbit hole I went. M.E. Knerr (sometimes Michel E. Knerr) didn't write a lot of books, but a lot of them were were for pretty low-rent publishers with short print runs so they're scarce and a little pricey. Not that I imagine people (other then me) are scrambling to buy these old paperbacks. Knerr published two novels in 1961 one with Pike Books "Brazen Broad" and "Naked Nymph," with Epic Books, the later being a Mike Travis adventure according on-line images of the back cover. It's a 50/50 on if "Brazen Broad" is a Travis tale. So, if you have anymore information let me know! Then in 1965 with Imperial Books Travis returned in "Port of Passion," something I didn't know until I cracked the book open to flip through it and my quest got started. Its seems Travis floated around publishers or maybe it was the same publisher working under different names/imprints. Knerr wrote some other books mostly about boats, space-sex, murder, dames and adventure. Also one about Sasquatch.

So, now that you and me know all that, how's the book? Was it worth all that info?  Well, yes and no. I personally had a great time with "Travis," but my tasters burned out years ago for this kind of thing. It's the literary equivalent of  Ray Dennis Steckler or Al Adamson B-movie, flashes of greatness bogged in the mire of working too fast and needing cash. M.E. Knerr certainly could write there's great lines of tough guy dialog that ranks up there with the best of the Gold Medal writers. Overall it doesn't rank with say a Crest, Lion or Gold Medal book, but it's certainly as good as a half of a Ace Double. The plot makes reasonable "paperback sense" i.e. it hangs together for reading and not for deep thought. Basically Travis is a tough guy for hire who gets hired by a buddy to find his missing drug-addict son and smash all the dope-selling in L.A. (HA!) To do this the rich and powerful guy pulls strings and sets up Travis with a P.I. ticket and a gun permit. Travis isn't a detective and it's fairly obvious that he's making it all up as he goes. I got vibes echoing one of my favorite 50's private eye series the Japan-set Burns Bannion books by Earl Norman. Like Burns, Travis is in over his head, sure he's a bad ass who can get pistol-whipped and bed the ladies with the best of them but tackling an actual mystery, eh, that's a bit much. Instead he makes fast friends with a local cop and then just goes and whomps on people and breaks into places until it's obvious who the villain is.

It's a whoot. It's a super-slim book that moves and moves and moves and then is over. It will not change your life but it's has just enough of the good stuff for me to enjoy the hell out of it. It got me to get more familiar with the Pike Books line and order more novels, which seems to happen most every time I finish a book. Knerr was a good writer and I'm anxious to dip into the rest of his library. It'll be interesting to know if Travis keeps up a the private eying or if it was a passing fancy and he continues his soldier of fortune-business. I'd like to know more about Knerr and his work, so if you got any more information drop me a line.
Other Fine Pike Books

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Quick Shots: Terror at Boulder Dam by Vince Robinson (Mike Newton)

Carousel Books was a short-lived publisher of which I heard it was imprint of a porn publisher, details are few and far between in my internet detecting. Please fill me in if you know any more.  The books a generally the same size of a mass market paperback but feel weird in the hand. The binding is sharper. It's like the first time you hold a Pan paperback or New English Library vs. a Gold Medal or a Pyramid Paperback. I don't know what that has to do with anything but I figured I should note it for the future generations to log in the history of the cosmos.

Anywho, Vince Robinson wrote a few books for Carousel and sometimes he was Mike Newton, sometimes it seems he wasn't. Newton is a prolific author of books just in the Men's Adventure realm he wrote "The Executioner," "MIA Hunter," and "VICAP" to name a few. That leaves out tons of Westerns, true crime and other books. Check out his website to see everything he wrote. The short lived "Intersect File" series was a Newton/Carousel joint and I got an example of that series coming after burning through "Terror at Boulder Dam." Good pulp fun awaits me, I'm sure.

"Terror at Boulder Dam" starts off going 90 miles an hour and never lets up. I haven't read a a novel that moves this fast in a long while. Brad Kendall a Las Vegas private eye who name checks Dan Tana and Mike Hammer is beyond broke which is a warm safety blanket of a welcome for a P.I. fan when a beautiful show-girl saunters into his office with a missing brother. Brad is on the case and immediately gets into hot water and a warm bed with the showgirl. The trouble is a racist rich nut-job out to pull explosive high-jinks on the Boulder Dam. Along the Brad is an accessory to nasty brutal murder, gets into bar fights, accidentally joins The Sons of Paul Revere; the racist-nutjobs private army and since he's not a racist-ass-hat gets his private's tortured with electricity. This builds into a action-packed finale with Armalite's, .45's, Uzi's, flame-throwers, and a helicopter assault on a yacht. My kind of P.I.

Seriously this book is just plain simple fun, Newton seems to  slyly wink at the genre conventions and handles action with aplomb. I goes down like it was written as fast as it reads and there's obviously some loose-logic in there, but it's part of the charm.  It's a total B-movie of a book, check your brain at the cover and roll with the punches. The paperback is hard to come-by like a lot of the Carousel books, but Newton has put it up as an E-Book that's cheap and easy to obtain. I did and then stumbled onto the actual book, at a highway truck-stops used book shelves in one of the weird twists of fate.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Quick Shots: Dachau Treasure by Anthony DeStefano

Here's a short and to the point review (as short and to the point as long-winded me can provide) of "Dachau Treasure" by Anthony DeStefano who wrote the short-lived Mondo martial arts series. I have #3 in that series but haven't read it so this is my first taste of DeStefano's work a stand-alone Manor paperback riddled with so many typos I actually noticed and that's saying something cause I usually don't care.

"Dachau Treasure" opens up with Stosh Jacobs cleaning his .44 Magnum. BOOM. It got me there, probably. Stosh is the eye-patched bald guy on the cover. He got his eye-patch in the Dachau concentration camp as a boy. Now he hunts down and kills Nazi for they bounty on them. He's aided by his super 70's-brand "intellectual college boy" Eric, who acts like his nagging wife about how he should retire his life of badass Nazi-hunting, but is a good decoder and helper or something. Also along for the ride is the much more fun Alexoya a general thief and crafty/fun character. Anyway Stosh really wants the Nazi-jerkoff who took his eye and he gets a line on him and uncovers a bigger plot and starts hunting the stolen "treasure" of the Jewish people from Dachau to return it to the rightful people.

The first half of the book is rock solid Men's adventure with plus shag carpeting Stosh and his silenced-Webley revolver and his hot-rod Jaguar scream around beating and shooting information of of Nazi dicks. With brief intervals of  Eric whining about how killing Nazi's isn't the right thing to do. Stosh goes down to Mexico with Alexoya, tries some pot with some sweet ladies and with his buddy and some knock-off Smith and Wesson revolvers kills the man who took his eye. That part was a little rushed and it's a sign of what's to come. Seems like Stosh would have made a bigger deal about killing the dude he's been hunting for years, but hey, okay, I'm rolling along with the book enough.

Then the narrative slides into something else. There's a Nazi conspiracy. Stosh begins to wonder if he doesn't enjoy getting high and laid more then Nazi killing and it moves into the 70's conspiracy thriller novel: with Eric at the front. Eric is followed by mysterious Nazi agents through New York, runs one of them over with his car, hides out with his girlfriend and they have a couple good-long talks about how he shouldn't pick up one of Stosh's gun and protect himself if the Nazi's find him. They also smoke a lot of pot.  Stosh swoops in at the end to quickly save the day as DeStefano was rapidly reaching his minimum word count and the patented "Men's Adventure Rapid Ending" is in place.

I probably liked the book more then it sounds like. The first part was super-solid, nice fast well written action with heavy dollops of 70's grooviness and Stosh is a colorful character compared to the usual "Square-jawed hero" of these paperbacks. The book looses it's way but then wraps up in a pretty good action sequence. Its the Jekyll and Hyde of 70's Nazi-Hunting Men's Adevnture Paperbacks.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

"All Kinds of Ugly" The Long-Lost Final Hardman Novel by Ralph Dennis

Can you tell it's my favorite?
My memory is fuzzy. Jim Hardman and Hump Evans either found their way onto my bookshelf with a blind purchase of a gaudy paperback or I might have stumbled onto them via Thrilling Detective either one is possible. I was a teenager and reading private eye novels which I had developed a Jones for after getting hooked on Joe R. Lansdale's Hap Collins and Leonard Pines novels through his horror fiction. Hap and Leonard pressed their world views into my brain, they became a personal thing, tough guys who stood up for things and bantered like an old married couple. Hap and Leonard sent me looking for more and more and suddenly I was in a flame red El Camino between Montana and Texas with a Vietnam Vet named C.W. Sughrue ("Sug as in sugar and rue as in 'rue the goddamned day'") and the road was full of dirty wit, shocking  violence and deep sadness. I knew I wanted to be a writer then. I have a lot of writers that I like, some mean a whole hell of a lot including the oft quoted "Holy Trinity" of mystery writers: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ross MacDonald (though Mickey Spillane is much higher on my list then MacDonald) but they weren't my personal "Holy Trinity." The three guys I'd pick are Lansdale, Crumley and Ralph Dennis.

Ralph Dennis didn't have the luck the other two and some of everything is luck. Dennis wrote his Hardman books with Popular Library a mid-level publishing outfit. Not Pinnacle or Gold Medal, but usually a bit above some of the other paperback places. They didn't set the world on fire but he must have burned through type writers cause he wrote 12 of them in three years or so. More importantly they are each a hard bitten little diamond in the Atlanta rough.  Dennis knew he was writing pulp, there's enough ass-kicking and gun-fights to keep anyone interested but the characters are a lot deeper then their kinda silly named suggests. Hardman and Hump always makes my wife giggle. Hump and Hardman's relationship; a white pudgy ex-cop and a black former NFL player in the South in the 70's was certainly not the norm. Dennis was ahead of the curve and there's less of the usual racist and sexist stuff in the books then the average Men's Adventure tales. Partly cause they aren't Men's Adventure, they are simply crime tales with a lot of action and thrills. Hump and Hardman grow closer and become the only family either of them has that fully understands. Not that they'd say that to each other. They show it to each other in their actions and these a hard-drinkin' 70's men who wear their emotions buried deep in their heart.

After 12 Hardman's Dennis wanted to break away from the character. That's understandable, that's a lot of writing and he wanted that hardback life and some respect that he deserved. He didn't really make it. He wrote other books and the world remained unlit, so flame-less that they stopped getting published. The years passed and Hardman and Hump seemed to be forgotten. I never thought anyone else really loved them the way I did. Boy, I was wrong.

Lee Goldberg, a hell of a writer his-own-self did the Paperback God's good work and did that long play to get Hardman republished by his Brash Books, who reprint a lot of the good stuff. Eventually there was the unpublished books, a sequel to "Deadman's Game," a ultra-hard-boiled spy novel, another espionage tale "The Spy in the Box," and a standalone mystery called "Dust in the Heart." And in a twisting mystery tale of it's own (I won't spoil it, buy the damned book and read the afterword when you're done) a book called "The Polish Wife," which became "All Kinds of Ugly," the damned-near lost final Hardman novel.

It was a long work week. A week of shiftless reading, the kind where you pick up books and they don't grab you. Honestly I had bee avoiding the final Hardman, that'd be a special occasion, like a expensive bottle of whisky. Though, I had finally gotten around to buying the paperback so it was in my house lurking and calling my name from the shelf. It found it's way to my armchair and there was a bottle of beer on the upturned plastic wooden barrel I keep beside it for remotes. Then BOOM! I'm halfway through the book and two beers in.

Hardman goes to London to find a rich kid and escape his romantic problems. Marcy one of the only reoccurring characters in the books has left him and multiple beers at George's Deli haven't helped. Maybe a little work will and change of local. That's the jumping off point and Hardman meets the Polish wife of the would be title and gets buried neck-deep into a rich families problems. There's murders and tough-guy scenes, a lot of local color and a man who's growing older and sadder and doesn't think things are going to work out the way he wanted. The action starts in Atlanta and then moves to London. I didn't know what I'd think about Hardman in a different locale, so much of Hardman IS Atlanta, but my doubts all faded away. Hardman just drank in pubs instead of bars and his nose still got stuck in places it shouldn't. Hardman quickly finds the missing guy dead and is back in Atlanta with the Polish Wife in tow. There's echos of Ross MacDonald's Archer in the probing of the family but it's ultimately not about the rich family and a dash of classical "locked room" mystery even if it's in a horse stable instead of the parlor. It's about Hardman and the Polish Wife both brutally scrambling for what they want and knowing its the last shot they will ever have. The Polish Wife herself is a interesting and fairly likeable and relatable real human version of the "femme fatale."  You understand exactly why she does what she does and falls the way she falls. That's the beauty of Dennis's writing: pulp with real people. Everybody is someone you know, know of or don't want to know.

And in one evening, barely moving from my chair with four beers drank; the book was done. The last Hardman was read and that sure is something. 

Maybe it wouldn't mean as much without the benefit of the previous twelve books but it's an ending and you should probably read it last. It's not as action-orientated as some of the other books and there's a little bit too little Hump (isn't there always?) but it's a full-blown miracle that it exists. So, Lee Goldberg will have my eternal thanks, all of Ralph Dennis's library is easily purchased in paperback or ebook from Brash Books. The Hardman books are some of the finest examples of crime fiction in the 70's and finally some light it getting shown on them and it's about good-god-damned time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A Quintuple Blast of 70's Action

SO, I moved, I dunno, several thousand books last month from one house to another, plus all my other shit. It's as pleasant as it sounds. To break up the monotony and save my back, I read three slim paperbacks. Sorry about they super late reviews but sorting, organizing and cataloging has been quite the chore. But here's a bunch of reviews.

I started with "The Big Needle," after reading about on Paperback Warrior (a vastly more put together and comprehensive collection of entertaining reviews) I was intrigued because it was an early work of Ken Follett. The early pulpy works of authors who later became well-known can sometiems be excellent and other can be just a tepid and boring as most mainstream fiction. Paperback Warrior didn't care for this book, as I am VERY easy to please I came away from it wishing the final two chapters in the "Apples" Carstairs trilogy weren't so hard to find. I'd read them in a heartbeat.

Ken Follett as Symon Myles here creates "Apples" a swinging London building contractor out for revenge with his two girlfriends in tow. The book rolled over my eyes like a wonderful 70's Eurocrime movie, probably made with Italian and British money and probably staring Richard Harris, or maybe Michael Caine. Anyway Apples is a rough sort in a higher pay bracket, with a background in crime reporter and the military and most likely anything else the story might need at that point races off (literally) after finding out his daughter is in hospital after ODing. Not a lot of this book makes sense, I get that right out there in the open. Apples flip-flops from being pissed about drugs and drug dealers to banging any chick he can and the ideas about lesbian/bisexual are very back-asswards, but surprisingly Apples girlfriends are some of the better characters in the book. The story plays fast and loose with Apples trying to set up a drug buy to trap his prey, along the way he pulls a "French Connection" with a car packed full of heroin, drives in his super-cool Jaguar, does some businessman stuff, drinks and smokes weed. I think I like him because he's a lot hipper then the usual "drug-buster" character and Follett's tongue seems to be creeping through his teeth into his cheek throughout.

"The Big Needle" was a slim book, but "The Syndicate" by my friend and yours Peter McCurtin is practically a novella. The cover promises "Godfather" like insight into the inter workings of the dreaded Mafia, luckily that's just Belemont-Tower pulling your leg. James Broderick is a badass Mafia killer sent out by an aging Don to kill a dick-ass Nazi in ancient Irish castle built up like a fortress. Yeah, now that's a plot synopsis.

Broderick is a lot like most McCurtin's protagonists, kind of a wise-ass mixed with utter badass. That's about all you get or need to know. It's a wallop of a fun plot that probably could have used a second draft with a little bit more book injected into it. Maybe it was written in a booze-fueled weekend to catch a deadline by the balls. Yeah, that might be it. So, there's a Neo-Nazi bent on doing what Nazi's do best: fuck shit up and it's going to get in the way of the Mafia's operation. This is a nice idea and twist on the initial set-up. The fist bit plays like a spy story with a lone agent going to pick up his latest assignment from his boss, only the boss is the Don and instead of national interests its pure finical interests. Sooner or later this Nazi is going to cost he mob money and they aren't going to like that. Enter Broderick. So, tangles with goons, a Nazi-She-Devil or the Doctor Nazi-She-Devil variety, breaks out of a castle and kills who's gots to get kills. It's all over before you know it, which is a shame. Nothing is used to it's full potential but ts written in the McCurtin style which is professional action writing, it's okay but pales in comparison to his other work. It might have worked better within one of McCurtin's series works like as a Marksman, Sharpshooter or a Soldier of Fortune book.

The next book I read had some meat on it's bones "Lone Wolf #1: Night Raider," by Mike Barry or
Barry Maltzberg as it says on his taxes. I've been wanting to dip my toe into the pool of this particular series for a while but was informed that they HAVE to be read in order as it builds and builds over the series. So, I finally picked up a copy of #1 let it sit on a shelf for months, remember I wanted to read it and picked it up. That's how I roll.

Easily this is the best book of the five, it's a rock solid example of Men's Adventure Fiction. It's going up there in the hall of fame. Burt Wulf (get it?) is a Narc who's lady-friend is found dead by him after ODing. Basically his mind goes POP! and he decides to do the long road to revenge thing. It's not an original plot but Malzberg is a damned fine writer and continuously ratchets up the tension and lets Wulf's sanity slowly slip away. All the side characters are unique and interesting, with nary a stock character in the mix, like a mobster on a tear with a wife glued to the TV who doesn't pay attention to the world around her and the love he feels for his 10 year old Buick and Wulf's old partner, a African-American rookie who became a cop because people have to take notice of him when he's in uniform. Malzberg creates whole characters in little bits. The story is simple enough Wulf follows the trail of baddies, whooping their ass until he can move on the next one, much like a super bloody Mario Bros. Wulf's a dick and psycho but he's a thinker too and his solution to killing this episodes bad-guy is pretty clever compared to the simple "shoot-everyone" climax often used, but is also still satisfactory. It'll be interesting to see how Wulff gets crazier and crazier as the books progress. I also like that Wulf looks like Mr. Fantastic with a .45 on the cover.

Like a lot of fans of Men's adventure I'm an avid reader of Glorious Trash as it's practically the bible of the kinds of novels. It's a blog that has cost me a lot of money and much more joy. The review of Dean Ballenger's Gannon series has made my mouth water for a couple of years but I never held out much hope for tracking any of them down cause it's the same sad story, too few copies and too high of prices. With a coupon and a little (okay a lot) of cash I ended up with #2 "Blood Fix" and #3 "Blood Beast" and my tiny heart grew six whole inches. I dove head first in the insane world of the "little tiger" Gannon with his spiked brass knuckles, his .357, sweet Mercedes and a thirst for murdering the rich and evil. The rich is key word, the Gannon landscape has Depression-Era vibes, class warfare and out-dated slang fill the book. It's a book out of time simultaneously feeling, 20's, 70's and no time that has ever existed. It's a trippy R-rated comic book landscape with Gannon has a Batman/Punisher who boinks all the ladies and beats people to a pulp and shoots people to a pulp, ya know to help the downtrodden. IT'S AMAZING.

A small town gas station owner is set-up with a false rape-charge by an insidious rich guy out to buy the land the gas station sits on cause a highway is coming right by it. The gas station owner calls Gannon who's pretty famous for ass-kicking to come help him. Gannon likes ass-kicking so he rolls into town and faces off with a nasty killer and all sorts of goons. People die in horrible ways, people act like no humans ever have and Gannon is near superhuman in his ability to murder folk. The women  have it the worse in the book and none of them are particularly believable, so if you have a problem with that you might want to skip it. I prefer authors with distinct voices and Ballenger had that in aplomb. More then anything it reminded me of a 70's version of Carroll John Daly's Race Williams and Robert Leslie Bellem's Dan Turner stories. All three writers liked lighting fast-paced stories, their own vernacular and tough guy heroes. I'll be shelling out the cash of Gannon #1 fairly quickly. It's a shame Ballenger seemingly didn't produce more then a handful of novels but he wrote a lot for the sweat mags. I suppose he wouldn't be everyone's taste but if you like you mayhem with a little knowing humor you could do worse.

Frank Scarpetta was a lot of different guys, "Slaughter-House" Scarpetta was Russell Smith, who wrote a fair number of Marksman/Sharpshooter novels. This was my first Smith novel and it won't be my last. This was a bloody, goofy seat-of-the-pants affair that through logic out the window and replaced it was brains on the floor, fishing line used a grappling hooks and .38's, .45s, .357s, and .44's blowing Mafia's hoods heads, chest, and necks apart. Philip Magellan is the Marksman when he's not Johnny Rock The Sharpshooter. They are the same guy, plus they are also Robert Briganti AKA "The Assassin." Go to Lynn Monroe Books for the full-scoop on the ins and outs of The Marksman/Sharpshooter/Assassin series and a lot of the work that Peter McCurtin did as a writer and as an editor.

Magellan goes back to a carnival where he was a trick-shooter and since his new occupation is mafia buster the mafia is pulling strong arm moves and wanting protection money from said carnival. Magellan is pissed off by this and shoots a bunch of goons and starts an all-out war between carnies and the mob (I wish, that'd been cool) but he does get a lot of carnies killed in the process including the woman owner who's son is along for the ride, as Robin to Magellan's Batman. He comes in pretty handy as he casually owns a sloppily deactivated mortar that comes in handy when they want to blow a mob-honcho's house to pieces. Also luckily Magellan knows a place where the mortar shells are kept and also has a key for the building. That's some good luck. The book moves a fast clip of shootings told in grizzly detail. Magellan doesn't get laid which is a change of pace from the usual paperback hero, he seems to get his rocks off with the mafia-murdering he does. Really the book didn't make a whole lot of sense but the characters were wonderfully colorful and the plot is simply "death to bad guys." As a potato chip, the book rates very high. Russell Smith has made me a fan, I'm glad I have more of his work in the series and one of his stand alone's "Montego" as Robert Dupont.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Triple-Shot of 70's Men's Adventure: Radcliff, The Liquidator, Shannon!

Paperback racks had a bit of a swell for the influx of "Blaxploitation" cinema in the early 70's with the likes of "Shaft," "Coffy," and "Superfly."  The good folks at Holloway House seemed to want to get in on Pinnacles "Executioner" action and brought out a couple of contenders. One being Joseph Nazel's "Iceman," a high-class pimp vigilante and Roosevelt Mallory's "Radcliff," a stone cold mafia hit-man who shouldn't be fucked with. Roosevelt Mallory should be counted along with the great work of Donald Goines and "Iceberg" Slim in the Holloway House line, or any publisher for that matter.

Reading an Iceman is a fun way to spend an afternoon, but reading a Radcliff is closer to looking down the barrel of a sawed-off double barrel, tension ratchets up and Radcliff is a whole lot of damned trouble and it don't seem to matter to him. Radcliff lives in the same type world that Richard (Donald Westlake) Stark's Parker lives a noir wasteland of thugs, dirty cops, evil men and women. "Double Trouble" is the third book in the series it's suitably gritty, a wild blast of funky 70s Men's Adventure. Radcliff is a badass assassin on the run after being set-up by the mob for killing several cops. It was a fast read that really hits all the right buttons. If you like the idea of slightly seat-of-the-pants writing writing for fast money, quick moving, very violent action and the feeling of being surrounded by shag carpet and wood paneling while reading it, then it's a book for you. It wasn't a perfect book it suffered a common problem with a lot of these books: too much build up and a rushed resolution plus some hyped stuff on the cover that didn't amount to much but it was entertaining enough to be forgiven, plus a little too much focus on the other characters when all I really wanted was Radcliff using his dual .38's to gets some payback. I got one more Radcliff and it's a shame that they are so hard to find because this was a fun hard hitting book.

Larry Powell was R.L. Brent for this medium length series called "The Liquidator," I picked up the
whole series almost accidentally before reading a single word of it, then to top it off I started with the second book cause I'm a weirdo. The good thing about most serialized 70's fiction is that they are made for you to have missed a book or two, so they explain everything you need to know in most of the volumes. "Contract for a Killing," told me Jake Brand was an honest cop who's brother is killed and he takes it personally (of course) and decides to take on the mob single-highhandedly. The Penetrator, The Executioner, The Liquidator, Lone Wolf,  Death Merchant and the like might have got the job done quicker if they had just teamed up to face the mob, but what do I know?

Brand is out of jail and looking for the hitman-dude who iced his brother and gets mixed up with the paid killers next hit, a woman who Brand wants to warn and basically use as bait to snag his killer. Brand spends the time on the run, gathering guns and whooping information out of people. Also sexing ladies. This is all standard stuff but Powell writes well and it unfolds at a nice pace, never bogging down with any filler-bullshit. Brand is a likeable enough version of the mob-killer archetype, the ex-cop/ex-con thing is a nice touch cause he's truly alone no cops or crooks would trust him. It builds to a nice ending that's a bit of a cop-out but it's that way to keep the series going. There's just enough of a ending to the volume for it to feel like a full book. Powell is now on my radar, I have a couple of Nick Carter: Killmasters he wrote and I'll have to move them up to the To-Be-Read pile. This is solid B-level stuff; it's not going to change your life but it's certainly better written then some.

Finally Shannon #1: The Undertaker is the TECHNICALLY the worst book of the three but I probably had the best time reading it. This is a utterly ridiculous book in the best ways. I think it belongs to the the unsung-genre of Men's Adventure Fiction: The Inaction Adventure book, right there with Hardy by Martin Meyers and Decoy by Jim Dean. Patrick Shannon our "hero" doesn't do much action stuff. In fact he mostly drinks, boinks ladies and fucks up until he defeats the baddies with I dunno, luck?

Jake Quinn was J.C. Conaway who wrote a bit of this type of stuff two female P.I. series that seem to be the same character roving around under different names, i.e. Janna Blake and Nookie, er, um. Also horror books, gothics, stand alones and this three book series, some under names like Jim Conaway and Ross Webb. I'll tell you I had enough fun with it that I bought a large sample of his work half way through. Why you ask? Because I'm certifiable. So, Shannon works for a top-secret spy agency, has a butler named Joe-Dad who's racial insensitive to two demographics, a penthouse, a Porsche, a untraceable Beretta and a stocked bar. Someone is kidnapping beautiful blondes of the street, starlets, figure skaters, models, that type of blonde. Shannon looses a girlfriend, snoops around, gets an old blind woman killed, looses more women, adopts a cat and plays with a god-damned Seal over the course of this novel. Also has sex with EVERY female character, including a lesbian because its the 70's and a pulp novel. Eventually (like the last 20 pages or so) he fucks up enough to get kidnapped and shipped in a coffin to a bad-guy island in a coffin and almost inadvertently saves the day tangling against a deformed villain/henchman combo and literally saving his penis. Also then has some more sex. All in all this is the stupidity, violence and twisted fun I want in a funky 70's paperback. Conaway seemed like he was "in" on the joke to me, which makes it worthwhile as pure entertainment.