Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Goodnight My Love and Peeper: A Tale of Two Hyams

Peter Hyams is an interesting director; largely ignored, his films are always on cusp of greatness. Above-average fairly conventional films that are done exceedingly well. He never quite made it to the upper-level of the directors club. But he made solid movies, his take on the buddy-cop film produced two of the best examples of the genre: 1986's "Running Scared" and 1974 "Busting" both stand up extremely well have interesting action and easy-going charm. Hyams career is an odd collection of films he bounces between genres and mixes them; the outer space western "Outland," the bonkers fantasy-satire "Stay Tuned" or the action-adventure-horror film "End of Days." He is also responsible for Jean-Claude Van Damme's best movies, so points for.

Hyams described himself as a "Chandler freak," he must be because he made two films within a few years of each other that are total love-letters to cheap detectives and film noirs. One is the TV movie that put him on the map: "Goodnight My Love." Which he followed up with "Peeper." They both rode the 70's wave of 40's nostalgia that gave us a number of great detective and crime movies. Hyams does love Raymond Chandler but Hogan, Boyle and Tucker seem like detectives straight out of Dime Detective magazine, not quite the knight that Chandler wrote about. Maybe detectives from the pens of Norbert Davis, Frank Gruber, or Merle Costiner, writers with a bit of the tongues in their cheeks. Maybe even Robert Leslie Bellem mixed in there for spice.

Get it? Spice? Bellem wrote for the Spicy pulps. God, I'm a nerd. 

"Goodnight My Love" is the better of the two movie, even if it shows it's television roots in production, it's got that great studio-feel and recreates 1946 pretty well. I'd love to see a nice clean print of it to see how good the film looks. Hyams is also a cinematographer and a fine one, he makes good looking pictures. Sadly the old VHS rip that's on Youtube is fairly, uh, shitty. The movie works past the format. Hogan is a grouchy P.I. played by Richard Boone is sleepy and bored. Barbara Bain is gnawing on the scenery as the femme fatale that no one buys. Victor Buono made a career out of being the 60's-70's Sidney Greenstreet and he plays the 60's-70s Sidney Greenstreet. The whole film is stolen right out from all of them by Michael Dunn as Boyle, Boone's sidekick who's a dwarf and is always hungry and underestimated. It's a standard twisting missing-person's case with twists and turns and dead bodies. Boone and Dunn play off each other well, they really remind me of Frank Grubers eccentric con-men-detective-duos. Their so down-on-their luck and can't even afford a hamburger when Bain walks in with enough cash to make their mouths water. They know she's lying but, hey, money. Boone gets conked on the head a lot and mostly tries to nap. It follows the hard-luck duo through near misses at the hands of gangsters and dangerous women. It's an fantastic little film that has unjustly has fallen through the cracks.

"Peeper" is the big-budget cousin to "Goodnight My Love," it mines the same territory 40's L.A. with a oddball detective at its helm. This oddball detective is the very British Michael Caine sporting glasses, bow-tie, fedora and lapping up murder and mayhem while on a (also) missing person's case. This one is leans on "The Big Sleep" fairly hard. It's based on "Deadfall" by sci-fi author Keith Laumer that was a contemporary (70s) private eye novel. Its odd that they'd time-jump a then-modern novel to make a period piece instead of just adapting an era correct book, but that's Hollywood for ya. Making things overtly complicated since day-one. The screenplay was by W.D. Ritcher of "Big Trouble in Little China" and "Buckaroo Banzai" fame and it's a lively script with a lot of wonderful ideas and set pieces in it, but it never matches up to "Goodnight My Love" in terms of execution. Caine is always great and he plays a British 40's private eye exactly like he should, his voice overs are spot on. Natalie Wood is amazingly charming as the Lauren Bacall part of the picture. David Thayer takes on the Sidney Greenstreet part in this one, Buono must have been busy. Timothy Carey and Don Calfa (in Peter Lorre mode) work great as a pair of goons out for Caine. The thing that is mostly remembered and its a stroke of genius is that the main titles are spoken aloud by a Humphrey Bogart impersonator. It sets the mood perfectly. It's a lot of fun to be hold, really only paling in comparison to what had came before.

You'd probably have to love the genre to understand the greatness in the to films, an outsider wouldn't appreciate the little details and call-backs. I wonder if Hyams has another 40's detective movie in him. I'd love to see it. It's his own shared universe. Tucker, Hogan and Boyle could probably all go watch a ballgame over beer, hot dogs and tea and get along fine. They are all cut from the same rough cloth. If there was a hundred movies that filled this universe I would watch them all. I've watched both movies a handful of times each and will continue to watch them. It strikes me as an long-gone era in this world of multi-media franchises, where studios made quirky little movies for niche audiences. It probably struck Hyams in the time that they didn't make movies like they did in the 40's and he tried his best to recreate it. He succeeded whole-heartily.

"Shady Lady" by Cleve Adams Plus Robert Leslie Bellem

Cleve F. Adams was a old school writer his series character Rex McBride is an old school too. Tough as a nickel steak (or something) and that can turn people off. 'Ol Cleve has been shoved to be a foot-note in the mystery field over time, mostly remembered for one quote: "an American Gestapo is goddamned well what we need.....The only way you can lick these guys is to fight as dirty as they do...bite and gouge and use a knee where it will do most good," in "Murder All Over" published in 1943. So, yeah, fucking harsh Rex. To be fair Rex's main character trait is being an asshole (or at least acting like it) and that's a fitting quote for his character but Rex plays it fast and loose so it may of may not be his true feelings. I don't know if Cleve Adams was a racist or whatever but it pretty much everyone was in the time frame, so there you go. That being said in all the other examples of his works I've never came up against anything that was overtly racist (I mean outside of the normal examples of the time period) so maybe Rex and Cleve have gotten a bad rap. Rex goes out of his way to say that a racial slur is over the line in one book. I guess everything in life and books is complicated.

That out of the way the Cleve Adams books I've read I enjoyed. The McBride books stand up and rush to the finale, boiling over in cynical ultra-hard-boiled prose that makes you feel the dingy, sweaty, rough and tumble time-frame they were set in. "Private Eye" from 1942 in particular stands out as a fantastic "Red Harvest" riff, the tough P.I. strolling into a town and mixing it up. Primo Cleve Adams and Rex McBride is the first book, "Sabotage," that's some damned fine rut-gut reading. Dashiell Hammet's shadow looms large over Cleve. He used a lot of Hammet's plots as jumping off points and plugged his own peccadilloes in them and produced some really fun books.  As John Spain he wrote the Bill Rye series that used "The Glass Key" as its starting point. BUT Cleve has a style all his own, the stories unfold smooth as butter and keep slowly getting the tension ratcheted up. Rex is a tough guy but he's no Superman. He gets in over his head, he gets worried, he gets duped and he will fall for the wrong dame. He drinks like a fish, shoots fairly fast and has an eye for the women. Now, who could resist reading that?

Cleve was a pulpster through and through and at the same time he was producing novels he was cranking out novelletes and shorts for the pulps. These were G-Man, private-eye and tough guy and gals stories. Being a pulpster and not letting a word go to waste some of his work is culled from shorter works."Shady Lady" is one of those. Now this book came out in 1955 in a Ace Double with a Harry Whittington novel. Cleve Adams died in 1949. Unfortunately no one was using a Quija board to stitch this book together.  The pulp-master to end all pulp-masters Robert Leslie Bellem put the book together for Cleve's wife, as the story goes. Bellem created Dan Turner, Hollywood detective and wrote scores of pulp magazines nearly by himself, including the comics! These are told in a wild, wacky, wonderful way of odd-ball slang, nearly-nude women and fisticuffs. The Dan Turner stories are a world onto themselves. An alternate dimension of screwball-hard-boiledness. It was this collaboration that made me want to read "Shady Lady," I had no idea how the two writers could mesh together.

"Shady Lady" is the sixth and final Rex book, published over ten years later then the previous and sadly its a minor effort. Bellem played it straight and wrote like Cleve and Cleve was dead so it never seemed to kick into high gear. There's still passages and descriptions that prove what a good writer like Cleve (or Bellem) could do. Rex is following the shady lady of the title who has connections to a dead embezzler and uncovered money. Rex is working for the reward because he owes his bookie a lot of bread. They get to the Shady Lady's home town and get wrapped up in the local election that proves to be a hot one cause plenty of people end up dead and Rex gets blamed for a few of them. There's crooked fat sheriffs, virginal sisters, a Communist taxi-driving brother, gunmen, politicians, civic ladies and dirty little secrets. It's all fairly standard, Ace Doubles are often like that but every now and then they a totally awesome. "Negative for a Nude" by Charles Fritch is a helluva Ace Double, sadly a lot of them were cash-in jobs for disposal bargain time-wasters; that's what "Shady Lady" is: a time waster. You could waste it worse there there's still enough fun and tough antics that keep the ball rolling but it just pales in comparison to early Rex books.

Monday, November 25, 2019

"Dark of the Sun" 1968

You make a movie about hard-bitten mercenaries and I'm there. You make those hard-bitten mercenaries Rod Taylor and Jim Brown? Whew. I'm in hog-heaven. My love of James Bond led me to 1978's "Wild Geese" starring the then Bond Roger Moore with Richard Harris and Richard Burton, that's one of my top-ten movies of all time and it paved the way for me to watch about anything about mercenaries with titles like "The Professionals," "The General Died at Dawn," "Dogs of War," "Men of War," "The Last Grenade," "Professional Soldier," and so on. I knew of "Dark of the Sun" for years but it alluded me. Shame on me.

Now, I'm not getting the morals of being a professional solider i.e: murder for hire basically. Throughout history there has always been a demand for them, so that's on human nature.  I enjoy mercenary fiction for the same reason I prefer private eye fiction to say a police procedural: being anti-establishment stories about the outsiders and underdogs fighting cash and maybe what's right along the way appeal to me. In the actual mechanics of the writing they usually fall into the "men on a mission" category of war-fiction which is a nice combination of a spy adventure and a war tale. You may not know who the heroes can trust, they get shot at from both sides of the conflict, double-crosses are abound, everything that can go wrong will and at least one of the characters will doubt their allegiance to the all-mighty dollar and might just do the right thing. It's all good stuff. Alistair MacLean is the father of the modern version of this type of story though he never really wrote a soldier of fortune tale, but books of high adventure like "Where Eagles Dare" and "The Guns of Navarone" certainly set the tone for most stories of professional soldiers. Besides that real-life merc and charted accountant Michael "Mad Mike" Hoare published a memoir in the late 60's called  "Congo Mercenary," and popularized the interest in the profession anew.  In the 70's through the 80's there were a few Men's Adventure series built on men in these professions like the amazing John Benteen Fargo books, Peter McCurtin's badass Soldier of Fortune, Jerry Ahern (as Alex Kilgore) kick-ass They Call Me Mercenary, Peter Buck's Mercenary, Peter Leslie's Soldier of Fortune etc. etc. Wilbur Smith wrote in the High-Adventure mold, while I haven't read "Dark of the Sun" the few that I have read a very good examples of the genre. 

Rod Taylor is a badass mercenary hired to built a train with his buddy Jim Brown to go down deep into enemy terrority and save stranded townspeople...sorta mostly they have been hired to retrieve an ass-load of mined diamonds for a Dutch company. And yeah, sure they say, save the people along the way. To do this they have an old Nazi tagging along, a drunk doctor, .50 machine guns mounted on the train, and an army regiment. Jim Brown has morals he cares about the country because he was born there but raised and taught in America. Rod Taylor is a merc through and through, he's in it for a payday and maybe a little action from Yvette Mimieux who got picked up along the way. The old Nazi is a dick who wants the diamonds for himself 'natch. Kenneth More is the drunken doctor bringing more to the part then was probably necessary but he was an old school pro and his part reflects it. Jim Brown is the moral compass of the movie and it's a part he plays well he exudes confidence, and righteousness. You know Jim Brown will always do what his morals dictate. It's a hard part to nail but he does it with ease. Rod Taylor was always a little better actor then you'd think he'd be; being that he was pure beefcake.  Rod was made for these kinds of parts and he really moved hard into action pictures after this one. He could have played most any paperback hero of the era. In fact he's the big-screen's only Travis McGee in "Darker than Amber," and Boyise Oakes in "The Liquidator," that's range folks! Plus he's who I picture when I read a Doc Savage. Taylor and Brown play off each other well with a natural unspoken macho-man friendship that anchors the film.

This must have been a shocker of a picture in '68 it's brutal and hard-boiled in a way so few movies are. I mean there's a chainsaw fight. But the truly unsettling scenes of the rape and pillage of a town that our leads have failed to save is shocking fifty years later. I know very little about the actual conflict that is fictionalized in the movie so I cannot comment on the factual basis but it's unsettling in the film. The action is of the old Hollywood two-fisted variety in the film is handled very well, lots of jumping from tall things onto various moving vehicles, heavy machine guns blast at fighter planes that strive the train, and bloody fist fights lead into chainsaw fights. Jack Cardiff was mostly a cinematographer (he lensed "The African Queen" for one) and it shows. It's a nice looking picture. Unfortunately it's not perfect the Yvette Mimieux sub-plot is forced and doesn't really go anywhere. Kenneth More's character is sorta tacked on as well and there's a bit of slog in the middle of the picture. In the hands of say Robert Aldrich, Don Siegel or J. Lee Thompson it would have been a stone-cold classic war movie, but as it stands its just a perfect little cult-type film. The problems are not out-weighed by the great stuff in it, it's a real exploding roller coaster ride of a movie. It's not quite up there with "Wild Geese" for me but it's top-tier soldier of fortune action.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Pepperoni Hero #1: Sandwiches are Not My Business by Bill Kelly

I don't know what this novel is. I don't think Bill Kelly knew what this novel was. It's too funny to be a straight novel, too hard-boiled to be a spoof, it's lays in the middle in a grey area of goofiness and danger.

Pepperoni Hero (yes, real name) is a "adventurer" maybe? I dunno, he's a guy who knows shady people and does shady things for cash. He's a Chicago Travis McGee by way of the Marx Brothers. He's got the houseboat (in Chicago!) and the requisite army badass backstory. He drink gin and sexes on a LOT of ladies. Again, Pepperoni Hero is his real name, I can't get over that. I LOVE THAT SO MUCH. I want to own a sandwich shop called "Pepperoni Heroes" and grace it's walls with the lovely artwork of this three-book series.

  • Pepperoni Hero #1: Sandwiches Are Not My Business 
  • Pepperoni Hero #2: Peanut Butter and Jelly is Not for Kids
  • Pepperoni Hero #3: Tuna Fish is Not for Eating

The series was put out by Zebra Books which put out some of the oddest examples of Men's Adventure fiction. Jerry La Plante's "Chameleon," Robert Franklin Murphy's "The Girl Factory," "Big Brain" by Gary Brandner were all oddballs on the shelf. Most of their series didn't last over three books, that is until you get to some of Jerry Ahern's output. But Zebra did one thing right, theses has some of the coolest 70's covers ever put in print.

Okay, so Pep can gamble like a madman and an old army buddy wants him to gamble with an evil brother-in-law to clean him out...for some reason. This is the plot of the novel. In order to get to the plot you read through tons of backstory and little side-missions that Pep has done. Most of these are more interesting then the novel. It's almost a Mosaic novel about Pep, it kinda of darts too and fro relating sexual escapades and ass-kickery. Then it ends, sorta but it sets up the next book Pepperoni Hero #2.

The book reminded me of Ross H. Spencer's novels of drunken stumble-bum private eyes, those two have a loose narrative and you ride along with them for the humor and the characters. They had funny names too: Chance Purdue, Lacey Lockington, Birch Kirby, etc. etc. Later I got the Pepperoni Hero vibe from "Decoy #1: The Great Pretender" by Jim Deane, rambling, sexy and goofy. Maybe if you like Warren Murphy's Digger/Trace books you might like it too, but that's a stretch if you're picky.

All that makes it sound like a bad novel, huh?

I don't know if it is. Bill Kelly could write. If he wanted to write a novel that reads like a drunk man is recounting his life to you over gin in a seedy bar, he damn-straight wrote that book. If he was doing it as a joke on the reading public, he sure did that too. Or maybe he just tossed off a book for fun after reading a bunch of John D. MacDonald and this is what he ended up with, it got published and he wrote two more. The world may never know. It's not a book for everyone, in fact I'm sure I'm in the VERY small minority that would even consider picking up #2 after reading it. But I did. I have the whole series. How cool am I?

Glutton for 70's punishment.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Manor Eyes: "Texas Wind" by James Reasoner and "Some Die Hard" by Stephen Mertz

Manor Books never hit the big time. They had a few Men's Adventure series that are worth noting,  Andrew Sugar's bat-shit crazy Enforcer, Keller by Neslon De Mille (before his name took up more space on a book's cover then art) others with names like Aquanauts,  Bronson, Kill-Squad, Kung-Fu Featuring Mace, Nookie, Mondo, etc. etc. But along the way they published the first novels of James Reasoner and Stephen Mertz (writing as Stephen Brett) both are old-school private eye novels of a the highest quality. Both authors have had good careers in books with numbers on them, Mertz in the Bolan world, plus M.I.A. Hunter and others. Reasoner in westerns mostly with series like Longarm and Trailsman. Its clear they both love their private eyes though, both books are great tributes to the characters that came before but yet build on the concept of "one man vs. them all" that is the central theme of detective fiction and put it through the lens of their respective times and places.

"Texas Wind" is the best Mike Shayne novel ever written, but of course it's not it being the only novel-length appearance of Cody a Fort Worth private investigator. I couldn't help comparing the two as Cody and Shayne are some of the best representations of the classic version of the American Private Detective out there. I think Mr. Reasoner will appreciate the Shayne reference (if he ever reads this, yeah right!) as he cut his teeth writing Shayne some of the best novelettes for Mike Shayne Mystery magazine and has an affection for the character. Shayne has gotten the tag of "generic P.I." which is unfair in my opinion as Shayne lives in a clearly written world and he himself is fairly different in setting, temperament and habits then the cliched detective, that being said Shayne was ghost written and after a while the edges of his character were smoothed away. In a lot of ways Cody is a generic P.I. on the surface, a loner with an answering service, freshly bought Remington prints for his office, .38 and a sense of right and wrong. In lesser hands the book wouldn't be as FANTASTIC as it is. Cody pounds pavement, asks question, sinks his teeth into a case about missing college student and doesn't let go. Along the way he tangles with mafioso, gets beaten, shot at and at one point has a severed finger in his glove box. Cody is Shayne with sharp edges and a breath of excited first-novel writing that is sometimes magical.

"Some Die Hard" is about Rock Dugan (GREAT NAME) a colorful Denver-based hip 70's detective trying to figure out a flying locked room mystery. Dugan's a right tough guy with a .44 magnum, a stunt-man background and a love for books. Right after you meet Dugan he's reading a Perry Mason. I love things like in books. Influences on your sleeve. Dugan has to solve the death of a man who went up in a sailplane only to come down in it dead with a knife in his chest. Probably the only locked-sailplane mystery ever. Dugan's story has the hallmarks of a classic Gold Medal private eye paperback, crooked cops, the mob, rich evil people, etc. etc. But I got the Mike Shayne vibe from it as well. See back in the early Shayne days when eye-patched David Dresser (it makes a cool author photo) was still writing them Shayne had the hard-boiled "Black Mask" edge to him tempered by a bit of the screwball and a bit of the "classic detection/locked-room" bit; i.e. gathering the suspects into a room at the end of the book and verbally spewing the tale of his investigation until the killer was apparent.  This is a humdinger of hard-boiled tale that twists and fires on all .44 cylinders. Plus it's dedicated to Don Pendleton of  "The Executioner" fame. Super side-note: Pendleton wrote a awesome P.I. series of his own about Joe Copp, so add those to your list too.

Both writers have spoken about how Manor was a screwy place to write for so that probably killed the chance of Cody or Dugan appearing in other books, much to my chagrin. Cody did appear in some short stories in various places (including, you guessed in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine) they were all collected in "Fort Worth Nights," and it along with "Texas Wind," is readily available in paperback and ebook. Though Dugan was one-and-done, Stephen Mertz does now have a series set in the 70's about a tough-guy private eye named Kilroy that can be seen as a spiritual successor to Dugan. That's a terrific series, lean and mean detective stories that a few-and-far between these days. "Some Die Hard" and the Kilroy books are all in paperback and ebook too. So, you can have a lot of quality writing at your bloody little fingers pretty quick. The original paperback of "Texas Wind" and "Some Die Hard" aren't readily available. "Texas Wind" in particular is a pricey book, I got lucky when I picked mine up from one of the massive online booksellers, I rolled the dice on a no picture Amazon listing and came up lucky. It only took like fifteen years of looking. Yeah, man I lead a life worth living.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The D.C. Man #1: Top Secret Kill by James P. Cody

Phew. Man, this was a damned good book. I read about the D.C. Man books from Paperback Warrior and have been looking for them for a while. It was worth the wait. Its an expensive series to collect and I'm a cheap bastard so it took a while to track down a couple of the book. One I got in a big lot of books from eBay and the other from Etsy of all places, sometimes looking for presents for you wife REALLY pays off. Now I have zero-to-little interest in Politics so this action-adventure series about a Washington lobbyist who kicks some ass is an unlikely love but it's SO MUCH BETTER then 90% of paperback fiction I couldn't help but fall for it.

This first book had a solid set of stock of characters including a real, vulnerable yet tough main character in Brian Peterson a troubleshooter with a military intelligence background, too all the minor characters who are all well thought out and interesting. There's nice twists on stock characters, a caring yet happily married secretary is a sharp contrast to the love-lorn secretary in many private eye novels. His reporter buddy has a real drinking problem, not just the standard "hard-drinking reporter" cliche. Peterson's got a lot of friends in all walks of life, some help him out, some get killed for their trouble. The D.C. Man's world is well-hard; full of high-class prostitutes, embassy intrigue, and foreign and domestic spies. There's clear thought out violence, mystery and a nice quest for vengeance the whole package teeters nicely between all out Men's Adventure and a good crime series.

Peterson has the prerequisite for a good Men's Adventure series: A dead family. Usually it's not a big deal for one of these tough vigilantes, their family was only there in the narrative to piss him off by dying. But Peterson's families death was average, a regular way for people to die and he didn't go on a quest for vengeance. No, he fell to pieces went to the beach drank, got fat, and banged his way through a few months then returned to D.C. to resume his lobbyist career. But his heart wasn't in it and he found a niche in cleaning up dirty little messes for politicians and the like. He's a regular broken tough guy who packs a .32 revolver with a couple other guns for backups, has a cool built in wall safe, drinks his scotch with a lime and eats a lot of steaks.

  • D.C. Man #1: Top Secret Kill
  • D.C. Man #2: Search and Destroy 
  • D.C. Man #3: Your Daughter Will Die!
  • D.C. Man #4: French Killing

I kept thinking of another book while reading this one, "Death of a Citizen" by Donald Hamilton, the first in his long running Matt Helm badass novels. It's a stone cold classic, not just in the crime/adventure/mystery category of fiction but in all of fiction. Seriously it should be read in college classes, make them a lot cooler. In "Death of a Citizen," an old spy's life is up-heaved and he has to go to work again doing dirty deeds. They both are espionage stories with a hard-boiled detective slant and characters that leap off the page. "Death of a Citizen" like "Top Secret Kill" came out of the gate as nearly perfect set-ups for a series with main characters who you wanted to follow along for years to come. Luckily, Matt Helm had a shit-load of books but sadly D.C. Man only had four. It's a shame. I haven't read the other 3 (yet) its such an interesting set-up for a series that the possibilities are endless being able to flip-flop through sub-genres.

James P. Cody author of this bloody, sexy thriller was actually an ex-priest named Peter T. Rohrbach which is a fun thing to type. The discovery of backstory was handled by Paperback Warrior, I suggest you read their article cause it's all sorts of interesting. I wish Rohrbach had more badass books in him but he didn't seem to, the rest of his writing career seemed to by about history and religion.

Serial Reflections: Hardy by Martin Meyers

Between the Hardy books and the Hardman books I pretty much buy any books from the 70's put out by Popular Library. No doubt trying to find something that pleases me as much as these two series do. Or trying to recapture days of the my misspent youth reading them. Wait, my misspent youth was just reading musty paperbacks. Geez, nerd alert.

Patrick Hardy is a fatty who likes to eat, watch movies and read. So, he's me under a false name. He also has a big dog, a barber shop chair, VW Bug, a private eye license and an eye for the ladies. So there's differences between us, I let you figure it out. Seriously someone buy the right and cast me in the movie version.

Hardy's also a coward with a funny backstory. He was fat kind who didn't have to worry about being drafted because of his weight. Then one day he's at the wrong place at the wrong time and gets plugged in the gut and when he gets out of the hospital he's thin enough to get drafted. But he's still a coward. Enter a loopy Army plan to hypnotically train cowards to be killers when under extreme stress. It worked, Hardy can kick some ass when need be but it's all his body going on auto-pilot and it scares him shitless. Anyway the program was a bust and the Army was still probably trying to figure out that Captain America super serum so they gave up and they shipped all the guys someplace and all of them died in a accident, except Hardy. After ALL THAT he ended up being a M.P. and when he got out he set up shop in New York City as a soft-boiled private eye. Phew.

Hardy's got all that backstory. But it really doesn't amount to much in the execution of the books. They maybe a fight scene in each book where he uses his "built-in badass" feature but its over quick and doesn't amount to much and much of the leg-work and fighting comes from his actor (!) buddy Steve Mercer, with Hardy acting like a horny slacker version Nero Wolfe sitting in his barber chair petting his dog and nursing his bum knee. The rest of the books are spent with Hardy telling you what he eats, watches, reads, how he sleeps with the various women that populate the novels and how he solves whatever little mystery he's wrapped up in. Really it's a lot about sandwiches and the late show, though he gives out solid recommendations. I discovered Manning Coles excellent Tommy Hambleton spy novels from Hardy. It ran for five books, "Spy and Die" being my favorite with "Kiss and Kill" being no. 2. Contrary to the covers he never touches a gun or drives a bitchin' Firebird. 
  • Kiss and Kill 
  • Spy and Die 
  • Red Is for Murder
  • Hung Up to Die 
  • Reunion for Death 
I shouldn't like these. They should be the classic case of "covers being better then book," but I LOVE them. Hardy's got a great voice and a lot of hound-dog charm about him. I'm just a narcissist and see too much of myself in him. The books are the "cozy mystery" version of a Men's Adventure novel, they are warm and welcoming into Hardy's world of lazy crime-fighting. Martin Meyers who was an actor, didn't write much more in the Men's Adventure world, instead he concentrated on writing historical mysteries with his wife as Maan Meyers. Since historical mysteries aren't my cup of rot-gut I haven't ever tried them. BUT 'ol Hardy did reappear in the 90's in a short story in "Private Eyes" edited by Max Allan Collins that shows him as older, but still the same and the again a little later in "Crime Square," edited by Robert Randisi. Sadly Meyers died in 2014 so Hardy won't be popping up again. Too bad.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Decoy #1: The Great Pretender by Jim Deane

For some reason Decoy #1 called out to me from a pile of books that I bought in an eBay lot. I didn't buy the lot for this book. In fact I got two copies of this book out of two separate lots of paperbacks that I got. I have a problem. I haven't even read the books that I got the lots for. I'm a fucking weirdo.

I was vaguely aware of this series and from the few reviews I had read I knew the general opinion of it was low. So, I have no idea why I just picked it up and dove in. Maybe it was the stained yellow paperback that caught my eye or Steve Holland's mid-section exploding while a boat tries to kill two people get it on in the corner. I've been to parties like that. I'm sure glad I grabbed it talk about a fun and loopy ride. It should have had a "Dr. Strangelove" title, maybe "Decoy #1: The Great Pretender or Nick Merlotti Lover of Breasts and Fucking Up Fuckers." Might be too long.

The title of Decoy is a decoy itself. Decoy doesn't call himself Decoy. I don't think the word ever appear in the text. Merlotti is called "The Great Pretender," which sounds like a child's idea of a magicians name, so I can see why Signet changed it. Though a series about a professional Decoy might have been fun, even if the job itself would probably suck. It also probably sounded good next to their "Narc" books by Marc Olden as Robert Hawkes. Either way Decoy is a nice self deprecating lead who is a master criminal on the hook by the Feds playing supercop (love that word) who packs a .45, talks about breasts and wine more the necessary, has wild hair brained schemes and who can dole out the violence when need be. He also reads Mickey Spillane books and doesn't think he quite measures up to Mike Hammer. Bu eh, no one does. I'm a sucker for characters who are readers. Gee, I wonder why. There's a line of humor that runs through the book that tells me that Jim Deane was having fun writing it. It's certainly not a dour book. You don't talk about boobies every couple of pages if your trying to write the "War and Peace" of Men's adventure novels. Or maybe you do, I'll get back to you on that.

Speaking of breasts in the 60's as a result of the James Bond craze there was a spike in humorous novels about spies that are mostly just soft-core porn books, emphasize on the "soft" the books themselves are usually pretty tame for today's standards. They had names like Coxeman, Cherry Delight, The Man from S.T.U.D., The Man from O.R.G.Y., The Lady from L.U.S.T., The Girl from B.U.S.T., Miss from S.I.S.S. It seems like I could have made a few of those up, but no they are all real. Jim Deane probably liked (or wrote, I know nothing about the author) some of these. Decoy has a vibe that these books put off, light on story but thick on female anatomy. The whole package reads like a hard-boiled version of a sexcapade book, you get all the heavy petting and a fair amount of ass-kicking.

I can totally see why others didn't care for it, its definitely not for everyone. In fact it might just be for me. Like I stated previously, I'm a weirdo but I fell for it hook-line-and-sinker and I had to order #2 instantly. There's only two books in the series so that sucks.

A Run in Diamonds by Alex Saxon (Bill Prozini)

Bill Pronzini, noted mystery writer who's "Nameless" Private Detective novels are legendary. I read a score of them when I was in my teens, at the time (also now) I looked for tough action packed books that would thrill me. The Nameless (so called because Mr. Pronzini purposely didn't give the character a name) books aren't that at all. They are quite and beautifully written down-to-earth stories of a regular beer-drinking schmo who collects old Pulps and solves mysteries.  They really are top-shelve books and the series has run consecutively since the 70's. No small feat. AND they still thrilled me.

Back in the 70's he got hired to start a Men's Adventure series about a badass named Carmody who hires himself out to badass things like body-guarding, black marketing and such. He's a true hard-case, very much in the mold of a character who would have been splashed across the pages of "Black Mask." In fact, when I read this I kept thinking of Raoul Whitfield's Jo Gar, a detective in Malina who appeared in that pulp. There's no real easy comparisons between the two characters other then being tough guys in exotic ports, since Carmody's beat is Majorca. But they spiritual connection was there for me. Or maybe I just got Pulps on the brain. Either way I like these types of stories, they are sort of like a good spy story but without a lot the governmental agency hang-ups that can slow down a story about shootin' bad-dudes and scoring with gorgeous women.

Basically it goes like this Carmody gets screwed on a diamond deal and goes out for revenge with only his wits and a Beretta. All of this is told in Pronzini's typical clean style. The action is well handled and brutal. Its really a damned shame that this wasn't a long running series, it has a nice pliable central character who's morally ambiguous and could get wrapped up in all sorts of a nasty schemes only to fight his way out. It could have avoided a stagnation of plots that appear in other series such as "kill a bunch of mobsters, then later killed a bunch of mobsters."

A lot of Men's Adventure books are simply "hack work," there I said it; lazily and quickly written for a buck. Sometimes that can be its own magic and sometimes it's just shit. Others are writers still honing their craft and learning as they go. Then there's good authors doing good work in a genre that they actually seem to appreciate. Bill Pronzini is too much a writer to write hack work. The world of Carmody is instantly colorful and as real as an action book can feel. Obviously there's not a lot of deep-thinking and self-analyzing. THANK GOD. But the novel moves, makes sense and provides a lot of entertainment in a short page count. Exactly what I want.

Carmody appeared in a few short stories as well in digest around the same time and in the 90's everything that had Carmody in it was republished as "Carmody's Run" by Bill Pronzini. It had all the short stories and a shortened version of the novel, as Mr. Pronzini states in the introduction that he was a little embarrassed about his earlier writing and "cleaned it up." That's the version of the novel I read and it's lean and mean. I need to track down the original paperback and give it a read to compare. I see some mention of a book from 1999 called "The Dying Time," credited to Pronzini as Alex Saxon, but can't seem to find any other info on it. Maybe there's a lost Carmody floating out there.

Mr. Pronzini has a few A.K.A. works including a nice two-book series about a pilot named Dan Connell who gets into frays and then has to extricate himself out of. He wrote these as Jack Foxx, "The Jade Figurine" and "Dead Run," both eventually published under his own name. They read like nice old B-Movies of the 30's, 40's and 50's adventures in the South Seas with crooks, dangerous dames and killers lurking about. Equally as good is a book called "Day of the Moon" he wrote with Jeffery Wallmann about a fixer/detective for the mob named Flagg. It runs along the same lines as say a Parker novel by Richard Stark or a Quarry book by Max Allan Collins. He's also wrote a bunch of westerns and stand-alone books, if his name's on a book it's a safe bet that it'll be good. 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

St. Ives (1976) Gentlemanly Bronson Badassery

Charles Bronson was THE badass of the badasses. But like all regular working stiffs he liked to take it easy now and then. St. Ives is Bronson taking it easy, he doesn't have to ride a horse or shoot a lot of people or get into TOO many fistfights. No, Bronson wanted to hang around talk-act to people like John Houseman and look at women like Jacqueline Bisset Who could blame him?

There was a time where Bronson was LITERALLY the biggest movie star in the world. He name put people in seats. It seems like such a far-away notion that a man that looks like you made him from chopped rock and who is a "presence" as apposed to an actor could really be that big. Of course it was the foreign markets that really love Bronson. He was a man's man. In an era of hard-case actors he reigned supreme over the likes of Steve McQueen or Lee Marvin, no small feat. The part that doesn't seem to be in the public perspective of Bronson is that he had a lot of laid-back charm, he showcased it some in the 70's this and "Breakout" show a different Bronson, one who gets the job done still but through being crafty as opposed to simply blowing people away. To be fair he only really had to successful gears: he could give you intense ass-kickery or laid-back ass-kickery. This is a Bronson is a author who sleeps late, eats deli meat in a cafeteria, and drives a classy vintage Jaguar. He also works a "go-between" for crooks. Transferring money for good. It pays good enough I guess to keep him in chicory coffee and very wide neck ties. But it doesn't keep him out of trouble.

St. Ives was created by an author named Oliver Bleeck who was actually an author named Ross Thomas who COULD MOTHER-FUCKIN' WRITE A BOOK. Seriously he started late in life, wrote his first book "The Cold-War Swap" in six weeks and won a Edgar for his trouble. Right out the gate. He had a colorful life of  politics, soldiering, corresponding and maybe spying. He went on to write a good number of books that are all damned good, written in a witty style of blood and guts that is hard to come by. Along the way he wrote a series about St. Ives under the fake name, but they are clearly his work. He also had to particularly good series following spies/bar-owners Padillo and McCorkle and another one about con-men Artie Wu and Quincy Durant.  

The 70's had a resurgence of love for the 40's crime/mystery film after "Chinatown" blew everyone's mind. You had "Peeper," "The Late Show,""Pulp," "The Big Fix," "The Outfit," etc. etc. A lot of them had Elisha Cook Jr. (of "Maltese Falcon" fame) in them. This one does too. He's always nice to see.  It's got a old-school ascetic with clear direction from J. Lee Thompson, who I'm forever in debt to for directing "The Guns of Navarone."  There's nasty rich people played very politely, run down hotels, cop-shops, stoolies, killers, the hero getting conked in the head; basically all its missing is a voice over from Bronson and to be in black and white.

Is it a great film? Eh, probably not. The plot is a thin-jumble on loop, parts of it are just going through the motions of "find dead-body, rinse, repeat" but I enjoy the hell out of it though. There is some good old-fashion thrilling sequences, including a elevator gag that made my wife gasp. It's nice to see Bronson have a lighter touch. Jacqueline Bisset is spunky and cool, she seems to be having fun playing Cops and Robbers. It's got call-backs to an era of cinema that I couldn't love more. Add a fantastic cast with the likes of Harry Guardino, Harris Yulin, Dana Elcair and Maximilian Schell hamming it up with a fantastically dramatic moustache. Plus bits parts by Robert Englund and Jeff Goldblum who seems gets his ass kicked by Bronson a lot. St. Ives will never be ranked in the great films of the 70's but rankings are for dicks.

I got through this whole thing without saying "No dice." Shame really.

The Sundance Murders by Peter McCurtin

Peter McCurtin is one of the select few that get to be a real person and a house name author all in one, plus hiding behind other pseudonyms like Bruno Rossi, Frank Scarpetta, and Gene Curry among others. He wrote crime stories, tough guy vigilante books, mysteries, westerns by the bucketful, stories of hard-bitten mercenaries and they all had his clean-cut sometimes witty stamp on them. Unless of course it was someone else writing as Peter McCurtin. Then it was a crap-shoot. The fly-by-night nature of 70's publishing is part of the fun of theses books for me.Some wild shenanigans are well documented at wonderful sites like Glorious Trash and Paperback Warrior. Both fantastic excursions into the world of Paperbackdom. McCurtin himself is tied to many examples of  Men's Adventure, names like The Marksman, the Assassin, The Sharpshooter, and Solider of Fortune.

The Sundance Murders is a fun ride. Berger, a low-rent tabloid reporter who packs a snub-nose Walther P-38 goes to Arizona to find out if Native Americans are starting a revolution against the government, dressed like Ghost Dance Raiders and armed with machine guns. Along the way Berger gets in shoot-outs with Tommy Guns, drinks a lot, beds the only two women in the book and annoys all the local bigwigs. Its obviously got a lot of negative racial stuff that goes along with the story and time period, but it wasn't overly distracting to me. The racial accept of these books is a major turn-off for some people. I understand. The plot probably wouldn't fly today, but the Native American characters are all treated fairly well with the racial slurs kept to a minimum. When I read a racial or sexist line in a book like this I usually think, "Oh shit, that's just terrible," and move on, shaking my head at the attitude of the books. Casual racism and sexism pepper the books, if you can't get past it, I totally understand but I'm sorry cause your missing out on the rest which can be a lot of fun. The problem lies in that the general mainstream version of these types of books today are benign. They lack the pulpiness I crave like I crave Doritos. I want fast moving yarns filled with PULPY GOODNESS. So, I can look past the objectionable bits a little easier then most.

Berger is a fun character who's got enough sarcasm and humor to really make you root for him. I have a fondness for mysteries and action adventure books set in rural areas. The landscape pays a big part of the novel and lends itself to some fine action scenes. McCurtin wrote a lot of western books, including a great series about a badass named Carmody. This is a Western in modern dress for sure, what with the Ghost Dance Raiders and Berger the pistol-packin' stranger rolling into poke the bear. It also rest comfortably in a all but lost sub-genre of mystery fiction: the Hard-Boiled Reporter story. They read a lot like a classic private eye novel but with a touch of the tough cop novel because they usually have a boss breathing down there neck, so you get the best of both worlds. Actual Pulp examples of this are Daffy Dill by Richard Sale, Kennedy by Frederick Nebel and Flashgun Casey by George Harmon Cox. Berger would have sat right next to these characters at the bar, had a drink and spun tales. 

All in all it was a swift moving story with enough twists and gore to satisfy me. I'm nearly positive Berger was supposed to be another series character for McCurtin, he knew his market and that's what it called for but its a shame that no other Berger books appeared (that I know of) cause I'd devour it. Get it? Berger? Devour?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Serial Reflections: Hardman by Ralph Dennis

Ralph Dennis found me many years ago. I was in trouble. I loved private eye novels, but for my taste too many of them didn't pack enough punch. They didn't have real grit or well...hard men...

The world of number Men's Adventure fiction came to me via Ralph Dennis and Jim Hardman. Hump Evans was there too. They had guns, booze, chicks and problems following them. I was all in. These were real tough guys, they reminded me of the tough guys I knew in real life. Hardman had a beer gut, Hump may have played in the NFL but that didn't get him much past that. They did odd-jobs, the shit jobs that got people dead but maybe tipped the scale for the little guy too. They were tough guys but at the same time they were little guys punching up.

Jim Hardman is an ex-cop with a .38 Colt Police Positive in the closet. He likes to drink, grill, do a little gardening, get shot at and do some shooting. He's got a steady lady but he isn't too tied down and earns his dough through his rep as a guy who can get stuff done.

Hump Evans is his friend, they are close but neither of them would cop to being called buddies. They consider themselves "associates." Whereas Hardman simply does this line of work cause it's basically all he's qualified for Hump seems to do it pocket cash for spending on sweet women and some of the finer things but really Hump doesn't have any options either. His football days are past and it's the 1970's. It's a fairly forward-thinking partnership and its clear Dennis knew the racial issues he wasn't dwelling on in his books. He could just show you that two men who trust each other could do a dirty job together. Didn't matter what color their skin was.

The stories take place in Atlanta. I've only ever been to the Atlanta Airport, but I sure feel like I've walked the hot summer Georgia streets. Dennis knew his town and really knew his bars. Hump and Hardman (sounds like a comedy duo, I know) drink up the day when they are not working and when they are.  The book ooze the 70's pimps, dirty cops, drugs, killers, mobsters and hooker litter the pages. The duo aren't superheroes, hell they aren't heroes they are hard-boiled men in a hard-boiled world. I can't help but picture some small grimy picture from the 70's with Warren Oates as Hardman and Fred Williamson as Hump, would have been a helluva movie.

Though packaged like Men's Adventure and containing violent action, the books aren't mere "Executioner," stand ins. No, they are pure crime fiction, maybe if they were originally printed to reflect that Ralph Dennis would have had a bigger name and published more books. But either way the Hardman's became a cult darling of the paperback fiction world and yes it's as glamorous as it sounds. To me I was the only person who loved these books, there certainly wasn't any fanfare when I found them for cheap in a dusty used bookstore. But slowly the fire grew and people began professing their love for the books, mostly writers who counted Dennis as an influence. I count him that way too.

They hit me like only a few books ever have. They struck me like the first time I ever read "The Last Good Kiss" by James Crumley or got my first taste of Hap and Leonard from Joe R. Lansdale (a professed Hardman fan)  I burned through the books. Well, almost, I have one more book to read. I haven't read it on purpose for years, it something that clicks in my head. There was only one Hardman book in the world for me to read. I didn't think I could take not having anymore. So one sat unread. I reread but left that one, Hardman #5: Down Among the Jocks un-cracked having read the remaining. Here's a list cause you don't want to miss any, but they can certainly be read out of order.
  • Hardman 1: Atlanta Deathwatch 
  • Hardman 2: The Charleston Knife's Back In Town 
  • Hardman 3: The Golden Girl & All 
  • Hardman 4: Pimp for the Dead 
  • Hardman 5: Down Among the Jocks 
  • Hardman 6: Murder's Not an Odd Job 
  • Hardman 7: Working for the Man 
  • Hardman 8: The Deadly Cotton Heart 
  • Hardman 9: The One-Dollar Rip-Off 
  • Hardman 10: Hump's First Case 
  • Hardman 11: The Last of the Armageddon Wars 
  • Hardman 12: The Buy Back Blues 
Funny thing happened along the way to me being a weirdo and not reading ONE MORE BOOK. I joined a Facebook group, a lot of the people loved Dennis's books. One of them liked him enough t start a publishing company and spend a lot of time and effort to get these books republished. His name is Lee Goldberg and the company is Brash Books. If there's a Pulp God up there in a library in the sky Lee Goldberg is on its good side. All the books are back in print, ebooks and even audiobooks, including the rest of the Ralph Dennis library and his unpublished novels....

...and one long-lost Hardman book.

Time to read #5.

"The Yakuza" 1974

Since I've been married one of my goals is to show my wife the movies that really matter. Namely ones that star middle-aged badasses taking on The Yakuza.

The only one that fits the bill in my mind is the nearly perfect movie "The Yakuza," starring Robert Mitchum, directed by Sidney Pollack and written by a helluva trio, Paul and Leonard Schrader and Robert Towne.

Mitchum is an old-school tough-guy. He's also that in the movie. Playing ex-cop/private eye/military intelligence man Harry Kilmer who travels to Japan to save a buddies kidnapped daughter and maybe reignite an old flame from his days in Occupied Japan. Mitchum is a guy who couldn't hide his life on his face. He lived it hard and it showed, he's often remembered solely for his detached coolness. But in his later work like this and "Friends of Eddie Coyle," he showed that he be coolly detached and utterly vulnerable. Kilmer is a movie loner who's actually lonely having his love and adoptive family ripped from him all those years ago. But being Mitchum he had shoot a .45 and a double-barrel shotgun simultaneously hit the Yakuza while he is doing it.

When a lot of actors try to be stoic it comes across as dynamic as a floorboard. Ken Takakura is stoic in a way that shows his rage, anger, lust, pain and hope. He's also damned good with a samurai sword. He's shown as a "man out of time," in the movie, his code of honor and discipline being at odds with the modern world (the 70's anyway) as a man who has walked away from the Yakuza and lived to not talk about it.

The Supporting cast is full of character actors, Brian Keith is always the bomb. He could be anything you wanted and make it look like it was his day-to-day, good, bad, indifferent, not to mention doing it all in 70's plaid and cowboy hats. Richard Jordan was the perfect young buck tagging along with Mitchum. He proves himself to a man who is quick with a gun but obviously wants more from life then being a hired gun. He also wears plaid pants. Keiko Kishi is letter-perfect as a woman who has had many years to live with what her life has become and the ideas of what could still blossom from it. My wife got a kick out of Herb Edelman being in it, better known as Stan on "The Golden Girls," and here being a man in over his head but dedicated to his friends.

The bad guys are bad, the good guys are mostly good, the motivations are deep and rich and what could have been pure melodrama is reigned into a difficult love story. Pollock was a great director who mostly made fine movies. This is never really counted among those but it should have been. There will never be another movie like this.

So, why is this on a book blog? See it's really a book. It's a hard-boiled Gold Medal paperback original. It had a painted cover of a tough guy holding a Colt with a slinky dame in a kimono on his arm and the looming death of the Japanese mafia creeping around the corners. The byline was a pseudonym.

Of course it wasn't a book, though it did have a tie-in book written by co-screen writer Leonard Schrader but it was spiritually a pulp paperback novel. Arms get chopped off, your buddy has an arsenal for you to pick your hardware up from, and the mobs on your tail. But it's too deep to just be an action movie but goes by fast enough not to get bogged down in "feelings," a waste of your breath to talk it all out, no just look at the man you've hated for 20 years and then go risk your life for him. Its a movie about destruction. Not just property destruction, but personal destruction. Destruction is what Gold Medal Paperbacks were about. Going too far and never being able to take it back.

The Hitman #1 "Who Killed You, Cindy Castle?"

I stumbled onto a good chunk of Kirby Carr's Hitman books and they followed me home where I quickly devoured the first in the series "Who Killed You, Cindy Castle?" It was an incredibly fast read, big type in a fairly slim paperback and a engaging over-the-top story about harvest human blood. 

Hitman owes a lot to the pulps, The Spider in particular but with more then a healthy dollop of The Executioner mixed in and told in a quasi-tongue-in-cheek manner. For example he wears a mask and strikes fear into the hearts of the mob but packs a lot of various lovingly described pistols with a little Ninja-type gear in thrown in as well. The Hitman (he has a real name but it's fairly forgettable) is in the trail of a string of murder where all the bloody is drained from the bodies. The Hitman immediately is convinced that it's vampires. There's very little question in his mind which is just FANTASTIC. So basically the mob (who should know better) is stealing and smuggling blood for a cult of "Vampires." This pisses off our Hitman hero because that's the kind of thing that does. He's just generally made at the mob like so many Men's Adventure heroes but add vampires? Really ticks him off. To help with his anger he dons his mask, loads up his holsters with various pistols and starts busting heads and asking questions.

Kirby Carr was really Kin Platt a noted author of children's novels, comic books, mystery novels, TV, about anything that involved putting words on paper. He handles the whole thing expertly, but you can tell he was hammering these sentences out.  It's also fairly obvious that he was having a lot of fun with the book. The comic book influence is there, it was easy for my to think about Mike Grell's utterly fantastic "Sable" comic or Max Allan Collins "Wild Dog," not that Platt was ripping any on off, it just rides that super-hero/Men's Adventure line, much like "The Punisher."

I enjoyed it on the whole, but it had problems. Platt spends too much time with the ultimately unimportant mob characters, though a lot of that was pretty amusing and it has the repeated problem that plagues so many of these type of books: a lot of build up to a rushed finale. You get full chapters about various mobsters taking about how scared they are of The Hitman, but also about how much they like to have sex and do criminal shit. Then The Hitman pulling a private eye moving around asking questions, finding out people are dead and then alternatively shooting them himself.  I might have missed the a few things, cause I could never really pin down if it was a "Scooby-Doo," type horror thing, i.e. humans are the playing vampires or if they really were a cult of Dracula's. But when it boils down to it I didn't care. It's a Kitchen Sink book; it was funny, it had horror elements, it had men's adventure derring-do and it was brutal as well. What more could you ask for?

Oh, man all that I forgot to mention The Hitman's badass Old-Man Ninja best friend? Good thing there's more in this series.

A Little Explaination...

Did you ever look up at the book you were reading in a cold sweat and realize that your hundreds of pages into it and no one's head exploded or a ninja-sword hadn't appeared and none of the sex was beyond explicit? There's still several hundred pages left and nothing has seemed to really happen yet in this door-stop of a book your reading. You think "well, there could have at least been a gun-fight or a car-chase or a car-chase with a gun-fight." But this book is a lot of nothing, full of fluff and no good-old fashion mystery, mayhem, blood, guts, love, sex, death, Russian spies, Nazis, and white-hot action.

Well, this is what this blog is about, mining the "popcorn" fiction that proves you can fit a full story in under a couple hundred pages. Books that have scantily-clad women, numbers, and guns on the covers. These are books by publishers like Gold Medal, Pinnacle, Manor, Zebra, Belemont-Tower, Leisure, Dell , etc. etc. They where sold a grocery-stores, sex-shops, truck stops, and news-stands provided a few hours of thrilling entertainment for one low price.

If any of these things catch you attention. Join me as I wad through the gems and turds of sleazy (and classy) paperback fiction.