Thursday, September 23, 2021

QUICK SHOTS: The Man from WAR #2: Mission: Tank Force by Michael Kurland


An early morning cat induced wake-up call and a pending COVID test gave me plenty of time stretched out on the couch on a crisp fall morning with no pressing engagements. Although suddenly from a shelf in my office a book started yelling at me. A few years ago I read a book called "Mission: Third Force" and it knocked my socks off. That is if I was wearing socks, usually I don't. Anyway, Michael Kurland wrote that book as the start of a three book (should have been longer) series about Peter Carthage a, uh, troubleshooter or agent for Weapons Analysis and Research, INC. The second book was calling me this morning. I've only resisted this long in reading it by shear will power because now there's only one more W.A.R. book to enjoy. I read the book cover-to-cover, so I suppose I did have a pressing engagement. 

Michael Kurland has written a fair amount books, a lot of science fiction and novels about Sherlock Holmes arch-rival Moriarty among stand-alone's. Stuck in the late-60's boom of spy-fi novels is this three book series that is very different from the sea of Bond-clones. Peter Carthage works for W.A.R. which is a company that provides weapons of war, training and plans for their clients. Also will fight them for the right price. Say, like in "Mission: Tank Force" you are Sheik in a country that just struck oil and your British protection is running out and there's vultures circling, you can call W.A.R. and they can help you out. Carthage and his comrades got to such a place to teach a fresh country the art of tank warfare and battle opposing force as radically different as a former Nazi and a supposedly the supposedly 900-year old Hasan Sabbah and his drug-induced army of killers. The action is tight and well throughout but it's the fun, devil-may-care employees of W.A.R. that are the real draw. Their banter and friendship is palpable and the dialog is witty and crisp. Along the way, there's tank-fights, drugging's, ambushes, trick shooting snakes, and beautiful women hitch-hiking in the desert. 

Kurland writing Moriarty novels is a easy stretch, the W.A.R. books have a old-fashion quality of sweeping adventure but bring to mind examples like Alexandre Dumas to Manning Coles' Tommy Hambledon and Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mixed the with adventurous spirit of Leslie Charteris's early Saint novels. But more importantly they are just incredibly fun, well-written examples of different type of espionage fiction. This a series that could have last ten more books or could easily be picked up today and continued. The first two seem to available cheap as eBooks and paperbacks reprints. The originals sport of great paperback artwork and can be found fairly cheap too, so either way just GO OUT AND BUY 'EM!

Friday, September 17, 2021

QUICK SHOTS: Race Against Time #5: Duel for the Samurai Sword by J.J. Fortune


Many years ago when I was shorter I very much enjoyed my school's libraries. I think that's where a lot of my life-long book reading journey started. Also my book "hoarding," I distinctly remember checking as many books out as I could and not reading all of them before they had to go back. It started in elementary school, but what I vividly remember is my small town's middle school library. The white metal shelves in the middle and up along the walls, the shining metal built in book ends, goofy posters of Garfield telling me reading was cool and all the various sized books. There I found Sherlock Holmes and The Three Musketeers (among many others) and I always had my nose in one of those paperback-hardback Frankenstein's. I read contemporary ones too, R.L. Stine's Fear Street (and the knockoffs) and the fairly new Hardy Boys Casefiles (as I have reviewed on here before) and Nancy Drew Files both of which started in the 80's as the slightly older more "mature" version of the characters. To be fair I only read the Nancy Drew one's to help me figure out what girls were. I guess it helped. I married a woman who loves Nancy Drew, go figure. But also random books like the "Race Against Time" series which had haunted my brain all these years. 

I had vague notions of a novel about a kid and his Indiana Jones-like Uncle who rushed around the world having adventures, but couldn't remember much past that. No titles or the author. Just something lost in the my book-addled mind. Then BINGO one day while checking the new arrivals at one of my local bookstores a tiny-little spine caught my eye. "The Duel for the Samurai Sword," the 5th novel in the series called "Race Against Time" by J.J. Fortune. The gist of the series is that a kid named Stephen and his Uncle Richard Duffy get into adventures and have to race against the clock to return Stephen home before his parents find out about all the derring-do they do, do. I don't remember any sword fights or hunts for Atlantis or having a cool gadget watch when I was getting baby-sat. Shame.

Richard Duffy is a supposed to be an engineer but mostly he had been a high-flying adventurer over the years, doing a bit of this and that. Basically whatever needed to make a good plot. Like in "Duel for the Samurai Sword" where he had spent some time learning Kendo from Master Ohara in Japan and eventually becoming the Master's prized pupil. But there's always an evil guy in the dojo, Sakuma who's so bad he turned into a Yakuza boss. Well, the Master is dying and he wants to give the sword to Uncle Duffy, but Sakuma wants it and is willing to kill for it. So, yeah what we have here is a full-tilt chase, Stephen and his Uncle just trying to stay out of Sakuma's grasp until their plane leaves. Along the way the Master's daughter is kidnapped, we learn a little about Japanese culture, have car chases and tons of fighting. One of the more entertaining aspects of this series is that Stephen is a movie buff and often compares things to movies. Really, I mean this is a young adult book that name drops 1978's "The Yakuza" starring Robert Mitchum. Probably the only one too. Shame. 

Obviously this ain't a deep book, but it's pleasant, quick and breezy. A nice palate cleanser between bloodier books. That being said it's very much a Men's Adventure series albeit for a younger crowd. The series last 10 books which is fairly commendable for books with no I.P. like The Hardy Boys, but the print runs must have been short cause they ain't the easiest to track down, they are a lot of fun if you do though.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Serial Reflections: John Easy by Ron Goulart


California is a crowded place to be a Private Eye, especially in the 70's. You have all the sons and daughters of Marlowe beating the trail down, what could an author do to stand out? Answer: Be Ron Goulart. Goulart is a seasoned professional. He was a seasoned professional in the 70's writing the continuing adventures of Kenneth Robeson's The Avenger, Vampirella, Flash Gordon, Lee Falk's The Phantom, not to mention his detective work in the fields of Golden Age comic books and pulps. Then there's his wild and wacky sci-fi adventures. In the middle of this he set his own P.I. creation upon the paperback world: John Easy.

Easy's a easy going guy. He packs a .38 in a shoulder holster, has an office and a suffering secretary, tools around in his dusty VW Bug and finds beautiful women, catches murderers and encounters oddball characters that populate a semi-surreal California. He's a archetype-character with enough foibles to be interesting but no tragic backstory or dark secrets that plague more modern heroes. He's just a semi-regular guy who who'd you like to ride shotgun with on some crazy adventures. The 70's oozes from the pages of these slim paperbacks. They are half-way between a Carter Brown and a Ross MacDonald, but fully Goulart's own voice. Goulart knows all the tricks, his collection "The Hardboiled Dicks" is could be a text book in a correspondence course on writing punchy crime fiction. House within that tome is stories by greats like Frederick Nebel, Richard Sale, Lester Dent (one of his two GREAT Oscar Sail stories), Raoul Whitfield, and others. But I bet the one Goulart liked best was Norbert Davis's tale about the shady Max Latin. Davis could be hard-boiled and hilarious in the same sentence. The Easy books are sort of like that but filtered for modern (70's) audiences. Easy's can crack wise and crack skulls and pick up the dames while doing it.

  • If Dying was All (1971)
  • Too Sweet to Die (1972)
  • The Same Lie Twice (1973) .
  • One Grave Too Many (1974)

The 70's were a weird time for private eyes. They were morphing from the cookie-cutter paperback heroes built on the Marlowe or Hammer pre-made mix of the 50's and 60's. Some got more psychological and dived deep into "why" people commit crime. Some took "The Executioner" cue and had numbers on the covers and lots of action, rarely were the main characters in these books actual detectives but say "The Sharpshooter" by Bruno Rossi still worked like a P.I. novel just with more blood and guts. Others like Easy, Brad Lang's Fred Crockett, L.V. Roper's Renegade Roe, Alan Reife's Tyger and Cage books stuck more to the formula and produced the next wave of paperback heroes like Brett Halliday's Mike Shayne, Henry Kane's Pete Chambers, or Richard Prather's Shell Scott. These are meat and potatoes characters. All of them could have headlined a weekly TV show coming on right after "Mannix." After Robert Parker happened a lot of these types of characters dried up and the wave of Spenser/Hawk knock-offs flooded the market, some of them are great, a lot are lame.

Easy is a 70's guy, he's got a little of the left-over groovy 60's vibe. I appreciate book covers, but I think what's in the book is more important but MAN, the covers of these book nailed the tone and fell of these novels. The turtlenecks, the sports jackets, ascots and sultry women. Goulart did a lot of work in short periods of time. His "ghost-written" work is a bit hit or miss but when his heart was in a novel it's a lot of fun. The Easy books are uniformly quick fun reads with decent mystery plots and fast bursts of action. I could have read ten more of them if Goulart had written them. Later he wrote a series of books where Groucho Marx is a detective which I should probably read as I'm a sucker for Golden Age of Hollywood mysteries. He also wrote a wonderful stand-alone called "The Weissman Originals" about a slippery detective named Rudy Navarro who with the help of art dealer Briggs tangles with the mafia on the trail of original art stolen by those asshole Nazi's during W.W.II. Also check out "Ghostbreaker" a half of an Ace Double that collects his humorous take on the paranormal investigator genre. 

The book are easy to get a hold of as an ebook or audio book but they can be a little harder to track down in their original form. It took me a few years of occasionally looking to find the final book (and the only one who's cover sticks out like a sore thumb) but I've never paid more than 5 bucks (including shipping) for one, so don't break your bank.  

When I see the anyone talk about the Easy books (hell, a lot of Goulart's work) it's to knock it as fast hack-work. I don't see it, Goulart is just writing quick and clean with his tongue in his cheek. I suppose a lot of people aren't in on the joke (or just don't find it funny) but if your in the right mood any of is books will give you a hour or so's worth of fun. Who could ask for more?

Monday, August 9, 2021

QUICK SHOTS: Tokyo Zombie by Yusaku Hanakuma


I do enjoy a good zombie tale. In fact my high school years were a marvelous time of countless watching's of "Dawn of the Dead" the 1978 one, "Evil Dead" (close enough to zombies) and "Return of the Living Dead" plus the sequels and rip-offs. From Italian fare like "Zombi" to a couple of truly bonkers Japanese pictures called "Stacy" and "Wild Zero" which my local library had for some awesome unknown reason. But by the time Brad Pitt is starring in a zombie picture I kinda got bored with the whole thing, save yearly watching's of "Dawn" and "Return." So, who knew lurking in the depths of that same public library was this little manga called "Tokyo Zombie" that's just as bonkers and loveable and some of my favorite zombie-tales.

"Tokyo Zombie" is a pleasantly juvenile take on zombies, martial arts, pigs, class relations and the apocalypse. It stars two jiu-jitsu experts Fuji and Mitsuo who accidently kill their boss and go bury him in the garbage-made mountain called Dark Fuji which is the epicenter of the rise of the zombies due to toxic waste. Interestingly what happens next is a much crazier version of what George A. Romero would do himself later with "Land of the Dead." The rich stay in control and live in a walled city and use the lower class as slaves. Which is probably fairly actuate. Sigh. Any-who. In "Tokyo Zombie" the rich are bored and their only entertainment is zombie fights, professional-wrestling style bouts between human fighters and well, zombies. There's fighting, pig-first revolution, good dogs, zombies, gore, wild death and mutilation. Drawn in a intentionally in a style called "Heta Uma" which means "good - but bad." It's very cartoony and simple way that is still very effective. It's a lot of fun and not an ounce of it is serious. 

Yusaku Hanakuma doesn't have any other translated work which bums me out. If you like zombies or weird and wild comics this is a lot of fun and a real quick enjoyable read. I'm a late bloomer when it comes to Manga. I guess I've always felt a sense of being overwhelmed. Where I grew up with the glut of American comics as a kid and feel some sort of foot-hold; manga is the undiscovered country and "Tokyo Zombie" proves that I need to dive deeper. Also it proves that libraries are pretty rad. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

QUICK SHOTS: Mutants Amok #1by Mark (David Bischoff) Grant


The 90's were a weird time for Men's Adventure fiction, a lot of the gun-ho stuff with mercenaries and vigilante's had fallen to the waste side. They were replaced by more and more Science-Fiction themed series. No doubt a natural progression from the post-apocalyptic series of the 80's. There were series like "PSI Man," by Peter David, "Horn" by Ben Sloane, "Cade" by Mike Linkader, "Tracker" by Ron Stillman, etc. etc. I guess everything had to be "high concept" for the extreme decade. "Mutants Amok" came around in 1991 and it's definitely a wild take on the the apocalypse. Mark Grant was a house name for David Bischoff for books 1-4. Dischoff was mostly known as a sci-fi and tie-in writer, penning novelizations for "Gremlins 2," "The Blob," "The Philadelphia Experiment," and working on properties like "Alien," and "Space Precinct" along with his own work. 

"Mutants Amok" reads like an R-Rated Saturday morning cartoon of my youth. Strong-jawed hero takes younger hero-in-training under his wing in a world full of mutants, robots, explosions, fighting and airplanes. If it had included dinosaurs it would have hit every 90's trope. It's got a comic book quality too it only with more sex and gruesome violence. In some ways it also reminds me of a Troma movie on the page, "Class of Nuke 'em High" gone wild; only a slightly more restrained. Thirteen year old Roy would have loved it with all his little heart. Thirty-four year old Roy still loves it with all his normal-sized heart. 

There's mutants running amok in "Mutants Amok." It's got a bit of a "Planet of the Apes"-vibe as there's a ruling class of mutants, divided by work/class, much like Orangutans, Chimpanzees and Gorilla's with a slave-class of humans in the Apes movies. Bischoff takes the ball and runs with it, crafting a wild and wacky world of some shaky-logic and every-damned-thing-plus-the-kitchen-sink full of mutant guts. It's clear that his tongue's in his cheek because its just SO goofy and light hearted. Our hero is Max Turkel who is a badass human rebel out to fuck up some mutant shit. He's side-lined throughout a lot of the book due to a plane crash, so he mentors Jack Bender a human slave who has a secret tree house hideout. The slow-build of Max and Jack's budding friendship/mentorship takes up the middle of the book. There might be too much of it; the book gets a bit sluggish in the middle. Plus there's quite a bit of "world building" to get through, luckily that's all mutanty-gory-fun. But with the kidnapping of Jack's girlfriend Jenny the book slides right into a climatic action scene with multi-armed Mutants (guns in all four hand, 'nach) and ninja mutants with swords. Bullets' fly, robots get cut with samurai swords and mutants get ran over.  Basically the book screams at you: "THIS IS A LOT OF FUN!"

And you should agree.


SPOILERS!!!!!


The book does end on a bit of an "Empire Strikes Back" note with Brain-General Torx (which makes me thinking of Brain-Guy from MST3K) who's been hunting Max down the whole book hauling Max off and Jack pledging to go save him and (maybe) rescue his lady Jenny. It's a nice grabber for the next book "Mutant Hell" but its also kind of a let-down to have this much of a "on the next episode of..." kind of ending. Luckily I have book #2 but that's it and these suckers are pricy and hard to find, a bit of a wet blanket.


END SPOILERS!!!!!


All that aside, this was a helluva lot of dumb fun and I enjoyed every page of it. The sex, the action, the mutants, even the thinly veiled Hobbits called "Fobbits," that showed up at absolute random" all gave me exactly what I wanted out of a book titled "Mutants Amok." It's a shame that these haven't been reprinted in this modern age of "Paperbacks from Hell"-level appreciation of wild and wooly books these seem ripe for eBooks at least, considering the price they go for online.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

A Trip to Fear Street - "Lights Out" and "The Surprise Party" by R.L. Stine

Sorry again for the gap between this post and the last. I've cranked out a 90-something page feature length movie script for the microscopic production company I'm involved with over the last few weeks which has taken my whole attention. This one has a good chance of being our first full-length picture, a transition for us from short films to the big guys. I'm incredibly excited about it, now all I have to do is re-write and re-write it some more then probably write the novelization because that's a dream of mine. And all that's before we start the long, arduous process of actually MAKING the movie. But it'll be painfully fun and I can't wait. What kind of movie is it you ask? A horror movie. After my co-producers and I decided that we wanted a horror feature I decided to ease myself into it with some books.

Besides it seems like every summer I get in the mood for some horror in my life. I usually read a few horror books and take in more then a few horror flicks. Last year I took a trip down memory lane with one of R.L. Stine's YA horror novels, "Broken Date." It was like an old friend at the door with a six-pack of free beer. There was a point in my young life where I probably read more R.L. Stine then anything else. All from the school library in those little rebound paperback/hardbacks. Horror movies got me into reading and writing later via Joe R. Lansdale, but R.L. Stine was an important foundation to my love of horror and really thriller/suspense fiction in general. Everyone my age seemed to have read at least one "Goosebumps" or "Fear Street" or at least owned them for the covers, like my best friends who's long shelf full of "Goosebumps" made me envious as a child. Mostly cause, sigh, he didn't ever read them. Some people. 

So I started buying Stine's YA books, cause I didn't have enough books to buy. I'm mostly trying to track down his Fear Street titles (damned nostalgia, making them harder to find then they used to be as everyone my age seems to be buying them up) and other YA horror titles released in Stine's wake. I no longer remember which of the individual titles I read back in the day but images still are stuck in my head 20 plus years later, a testament to the impact of Stine's writing skill. When I started looking into the YA horror movement of the late 80's-early 90's I was shocked to see how many books written. Authors like Christopher Pike, John Peel, Diane Hoh, Joseph Locke, plus YA novels based on such R-Rated horror films like "Halloween," "Friday the 13th," and "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Crazy time. They also are some of the last examples of beautiful painted covers on mass market paperbacks. 

And obviously Netflix's new trilogy of R-Rated "Fear Street" movies wetted my appetite for these books. It's a very fun, throwback horror bunch of movies by the way so check them out!

Fear Street #12 "Lights Out" is one that I sort of remember from my
younger days, mostly because it had a total "Friday the 13th" vibe (going to far as to namecheck the series) since it takes place at a summer camp. I probably read it before I had ever seen a Jason Voorhees movie but like all 90's kids I was aware of all of the popular monsters/slashers of the era. It stars Holly who's a scaredy-cat in a teenage girl's body. She's totally un-prepared to be a camp consoler at her Uncle's Camp Nightwing but does it to help him out. Once there she's frightened by bugs, snakes, the woods, the other mean girl consolers and then by the murder of her boss. There's spooky vandalism, Nacy-Drewing, things that go bump in the woods, lots of teenage angst romance (which even bored me when I WAS a teenager) and a slam-bang finale. The "mystery" of who's the murderer and would-be-camp-killer is kinda obvious, but hey it's a YA book. Stine writes cleanly and is a master at the chapter cliff-hanger. He knows his audience and delivers a book full of fun if your in the right mood or of the right age. 

The second trip is for book #2 "The Surprise Party." A year after the death one of their friends (shot by a rifle the woods, yeek) teenager Meg is trying to throw a party for her friend Ellen who's coming back to visit. BUT someone doesn't want the party to happen, cue threatening (home) phone calls, lunch bags full of blood (actually paint) and then some light attempted murder. There's spooky woods, jokes at Freddy Krueger's expense and a "Dungeons and Dragons"-like game at could be the root of some spooky stuff. It, like "Lights Out," functions more as a mystery/suspense novel then out-and-out horror. There's no supernatural element in either of them, but they both move along like a well-oiled machine of impending dread. I think by book #12 Stine had the formula down better and it's overall a little tighter then "The Surprise Party," but I might have just enjoyed the camp/slasher vibe of "Lights Out" better.

Look, the only reason for me to read these is pure nostalgia. Without I have no idea how much I'd actually enjoy them. It's interesting to be at the point in my life where cyclical nature of pop culture is focusing on the 90's. It also just makes me feel old. I enjoy reading them for the same reason I still like The Hardy Boys Casefiles series: they remind me of simpler times and the tell un-cluttered stories that are pure fun at full speed. "Fear Street" and "Goosebumps" before it set me on a path of loving horror fiction and monsters in general and for that I'll be thankful. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

My buddy Mike Hammer and "Complex 90" by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins


There a far too few writers like Mickey Spillane around, in fact there was only ever one writer (not author) like Mickey. He was a true American original who enthralled countless readers since his days writing them funny books (i.e. comics) but with the creation of Mike Hammer, Mickey found himself a winner and when I found both Mickey and Mike I found a life-long companion. Back when I was getting into private eye fiction and surfing the web for any recommendations I didn't know how to feel about Mickey. Too many folks looked down on him, some did it blatantly, some hid behind a bit of sarcasm or humor and then some folks flat-out loved him. There didn't seem to be a middle ground, which seems to fit the world of Mike Hammer and Mickey Spillane since they are men of extremes.

So, like I'm one to do I bought any Mickey Spillane I could find but held off reading him. Would Mike Hammer be too tough? Well, yeah he's the toughest S.O.B. Noir-Superman ever put on the page read "One Lonely Night" and see what I mean. Would the much degraded prose of Spillane be too much for me to take? Pssh. Other then my personal preference for short chapters, Mickey is one of the most compulsively readable writers I'd ever come across in my literary travels. 

I found myself in a hotel room, well a cabin by a lake with a Ex who'd be a fitting femme fatale antagonist. Earlier in the day, I had done what I usually do when I hit a strange town: find a used bookstore. This used bookstore wasn't actually very good. But there on the floor leveling a rack full of copies of "Twilight" was "The Erection Set." That might be hyperbole, but the dusty copy of the Mickey-stand-alone was the only thing I had to read in that cabin and femme fatales are finicky so I had time to kill. Man, I burned through that book, Dogeron Kelley and his problems that involved sexy-sex, guns, murder, and money were all I needed to be a life-long Mickey-fan, Mickey's-then wife naked on the cover didn't hurt either. I soon ran through the Mike Hammers and the rest (read "The Deep" and thank me, its underrated) and I even plowed through some of his Tiger Mann novels (I have one or two left for later consumption) who as enough like Hammer to work for me. 

CONFESSION TIME. I'm not too hot on Raymond Chandler. Or Ross MacDonald. Whoops. My bad. Sorry and all that. Marlowe's only seems to exist on the page to be a sad momma's boy/drunk man's ideal self-image and a bit of a whimp (how many times can he have his gun taken off him and still afford a new one) too boot. Lew Archer should have figured out the pattern to all of his cases real soon, cause surprise rich families suck. That may all seem harsh, but never fear! I do have complete collections of MacDonald and Chandler's work and every now and then feel romantic enough to crack one of their spines. I can absorbed the fine prose and long-winded prose just fine. Plus they've made damned fined films out of them. I digress. I bring them up cause they are two-parts of the "Holy Trinity" of mystery writers. The other? Hammett. I'm a Hammett man through and through, he never wrote a bad sentence and oozed reality. He was tough when he needed to be and sentimental with the perfect ratio. Now Mickey didn't deal in "real," Hammers (and the rest of his work) seems to exist in a wild world hard-boiled, comic strip and noir clich├ęs working in perfect unison. Hammer is a man to have as a friend, I mean. If something happened to you at least the baddies would eat slugs from a .45 for their trouble. So, my personal "Holy Trinity" is Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane and John D. MacDonald, cause you can't not love Travis McGee.

Like a lot of people I preferred the early stuff back when Hammer was a young WWII vet and his trigger finger was itchy as hell. "One Lonely Night" is Mickey and Mike at his pinnacle, followed closely "My Gun is Quick" and "Kiss Me Deadly." His later stuff is just as readable but the fire had died down a bit. I'm not saying you'll be disappointed but it's not where I'd start. As a old-friend "The Snake" or "Survival Zero" goes down easier. Still, you'll have to try to not be entertained with one of Mickey's books in your hands. 

All your real-life heroes die. As a writer, Mickey is one of my personal heroes. We probably wouldn't have seen eye-to-eye on everything but we would have hopefully enjoyed a beer together (maybe even a Miller Lite) and had a good time. Even if I never met Mickey, it feels like I knew him. There's too much Mickey in the books for you not to get some notion of the guy. When Max Allan Collins (another immensely readable author if there ever was one) a long-time fan and friend of Mickey took up the mantle to complete all the manuscripts, fragments, parts and pieces that Mickey left when he died, I was excited. Max is the only guy for the job. I bought them all, but they sat on the shelf. Maybe I was intimidated again. I read the stand-alone's and loved 'em, but the Hammer's were left unread. All your real-life heroes die, but your fictional ones only sometime do. 

I was at a crossroads again. Not shacked up in a cabin with a cut-rate femme fatale, but a nervous night-before a wife's surgery. It wasn't the first but like any husband worth his salt you get a case of nerves from planned injury to your spose. Spoiler, it turned out fine but I needed a old friend to keep me company in a waiting room. "Complex 90" seemed to leap into my hand. By howdy, some things a kismet. The book is a quasi-sequel to "The Girl Hunters," a novel I haven't read in ten years or more. Luckily my Blu-ray copy of the movie version was waiting in the wings which I watched in the middle of reading the book. Mickey Spillane IS Mike Hammer, Max encourages you to picture Mickey as Mike when you read the book in the preface. "The Girl Hunters" the movie is top-shelf Hammer-on-film too (it's free on Tubi right now too) so check it out. 

"Complex 90" is a rollicking action novel chock full of 60's flavor, i.e. Russian agent with stainless steel teeth who's boiling hot enough for you to forget he teeth look like the bumper of a Buick. Hammer is older and mellower, sure, but he does kill over 45 people over the course of the book. Jeez. Gotta slow down some time, I suppose. Velda is right there with him, backing him up like a .32 to a .45 and being one hell of a woman too boot. Pat Chamber, Art Rickerby and Hy Gardner pop up plus some new backup in the form of Korean War vet Des Casey. The baddies are obviously the Communists, out for blood and to save face for Hammer's whoomphing of them across Europe or maybe more. It's a Mickey book so the plot twisty and turns like a mountain road. Max seamlessly weaves in his own high-caliber work and practically wraps the whole thing up in a pitch-black noir bow. I haven't had this much fun with a book for a while. 

This book has probably sent me down a Mickey rabbit-hole. I've already starting picking up the Titan Mass Market reprints to replace my smattering of trade paperback and hardcovers for the Max/Mickey collaborations. Cause a Mike Hammer novel feels at home in a mass market paperback.