Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Quick Shots: Blaster #1: "The Girl with the Dynamite Bangs" by Lou Cameron

It says number 1 on the cover, but there was never a number too. This Lou Cameron novel taunted me for a year before I found a copy that was cheap-enough to justify a "one and done" series. I like Cameron's stuff, in fact one of the first things that ever saw print with my name on it was a review of a "Renegade" adult western in Justin Marriott's fantastic fan-zine "Hot Lead." Lou Cameron was a prolific writer with a lot of books under his belt, westerns, crime, ti-ins, even comics. For books like this he's got a nice professional blue-collar--room style that's pretty fun-loving at times. It's very much a modern (at the time) take on Dick Walker aka Captain Gringo in the Renegade series, it gives you the same thrills, sex and the tongue-in-the-cheek appeal.

The titular "Blaster" is Boomer Green. You can tell he's a demolition expert since both of his nicknames describe explosions. Actually he's never called Blaster, I wonder if Cameron wanted the series to be called "Boomer." They did this multiple nickname bit a lot in 70's Men's adventure books. Boomer is a colorful lead character, sarcastic, eager to bed the ladies, packs a .25 caliber Baby Browning in his shirt pocket, and blow shit up. He's down in Brazil to break up a massive log-jam for a drug-addicted Ex-Nazi, his maybe-Nazi daughter and his drunk son. Boomer finds himself at the estate of the said Nazi's when it becomes clear that all is not right. Forces conspire against him, questions are raised about motives, people try and kill him. But that's all in a days work for Boomer so he takes it in stride. Cameron builds the tension well, Boomer literally planting the bombs as the book builds to explosive climax.

Cameron's an old pro and this is a "good-time" book. It's got a pleasant south-of-the-border adventure vibe with great jungle scenes, a bit of a "plantation novel" vibe with the household and the servants, and the action is handled expertly. The mystery of the forces against Boomer are built up nicely and dispatched nicely. Sorry for the spoiler, but like is the main character going to die in a book with a #1 behind the title? Cameron was a step above a lot paperback writers of the era and it's a shame there wasn't anymore Blasters, I'd read 'em.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

"Inside Out" 1975 Movie Reivew

I haven't done a movie review in quite a while, though I've watched a ton of them; don't you worry. My triumphant return to movie criticism is about a little seen 1975 caper picture called "Inside Out" starring Telly Savalas, Robert Culp and James Mason. I've been going a little crazy on the manufactured on demand DVD's, which is a godsend for odd little pictures to see the light of day on DVD. I've ordered "The Scorpio Letters" starring Alex Cord based on the Victor Canning novel, "The Double Man" starring Yul Brenner, Rod Taylor in John Gardner's "The Liquidator," "Assignment to Kill,"  "Avalanche Express" with Lee Marvin and Robert Shaw, and "Inside Out." I've been picking up various MOD titles since Warner's and MGM started putting them out. It's nice to cross off films that have been nagging at me to buy/watch for years. 

First off my main interest in this movie is the stars. I'm a big fan of Telly Savalas and Robert Culp. James Mason too, I mean you can't dislike James Mason. I'm such a big Telly fan that I have a vintage Kojak action figure. I was first stuck by him with "On Her Majesty Secret Service," he's truly the only Blofield that counts. Certainly the only one that is Bond's true equal; Donald Pleasence may have crafted the image of the character but he's quiet and demure and Charles Grey, whew boy...nah. Telly's nature swagger, toughness and intelligence came through in his Blofield. He's a presence on screen. He obviously is most famous for "Kojak," but he's works better on the big screen, he's bigger then life. He's a lot of fun in "Inside Out," playing a WWII-vet turned con-man/thief, a true hustler who doesn't worry about little things like money when there's five-star hotel rooms to stay at and manicures to get.  He's playing Telly but that's what I want to see. 

Now Robert Culp was a lot more then just an actor. As a director and (co)writer he made on of my favorite private-eye movies "Hickey and Boggs." It's a real shame he didn't get to direct again because he knew story telling. Obviously I enjoy him as Kelly in "I Spy," it's easily one of the best spy shows of the 60's, being low-key and less flashy then some of it's competitors it counts on good story and interaction and fine adventure to hook it's audience. It's a real-shame that Bill Cosby turned out to be such a slimy-bastard because it sure puts a smudge on Culp's career. The Culp written episodes of "I Spy" are some of the best. In "Inside Out," he plays a career criminal talked into returning to the life for the big score. He plays it a lot like Kelly facing the danger of it with a twinkle in his eye.

The movie? Eh, it's okay. The plot is a lot of paperback-fiction fun, basically there's lost Nazi gold (I seriously never get tired of Nazi gold stories) and in order to get to the gold they have to break the only old Nazi-man who knows its whereabouts out of a military prison. Jason Mason plays James Mason with a slight German accent since he's the ex-commandant of a German military prison where Telly once was imprisoned. Mason comes to Telly with the scheme remembering him as a crafty fellow. Telly ropes in Culp and the as with most heist pictures rounds up a couple more for their team. One is G√ľnter Meisner who was in Willy Wonka and played a Nazi's a lot in the 70's although he was actually in a death camp during the war, he's a welcome face; an actor you've seen a lot but wouldn't know his name (I do cause I'm a weirdo) and Doris Kunstmann as a nurse who Culp falls in love with after one boinking session, a morning-after game of chess and a silent montage lover's stroll. Plus Aldo Ray as a convenient buddy of Telly who is running the American's shift at the prison. The plan involves having Meisner, who's character is an actor, play Adolf Hitler and trick the old Nazi-man into giving the location of the gold. It's a fun scene and makes little sense when you think about it. The gold is unfortunately hidden in East Germany, though further complicating matters.

The main problem is that it's far too light-weight, there's never a hint of real danger, even when folks die. You never once wonder if our team will get the gold. Everyone goes along with the plan with like no hesitation, risking their lives and careers for the hint of the treasure. Every obstacle is meet with near instant solving and the few ties a "tension" falls flat. It's a shame it's a fun premise (which is totally ripped-off for "Wild Geese II") and has a good cast which looks like their were having fun making it, but the lack of real stakes makes it ultimately a little forgettable. It's a nice way to waste a couple of hours but I wouldn't seek it out unless you love Telly and Culp like I do.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

"A Slaying in September" and "A Drug Called Power" by Ian Mackintosh or a Quest Fullfilled

Ian Mackintosh created "The Sandbaggers" simply one of the finest espionage shows ever produced. It's a taut, pot-just-about-to-boil-over show about the ins-and-outs of gritty "real-life" spying. Nothing fanciful or romanticized, it paints a dreary, bleak portrait of Cold War Era bureaucracy and high cost of human life, it's on the free TV app Tubi right now. So, go watch it.

The beer might have helped.
Mackintosh was a Navy man who wrote TV and novels and then disappeared mysteriously over the Gulf of Alaska which has all the makings of a spy novel as their on conspiracy theories of defection and Mackintosh's past as a secret agent.. I had never read one of Mackintosh novels but drooled over them online for many years. His first novel "A Slaying in September" was published by Robert Hale in 1967 and was quickly followed by four more books until 1970. Three of the novels star Tim Blackgrove a English private eye/gunman/troubleshooter guy who's out for revenge against big drug pushers.Past his initial burst of novels he wrote adapations for his shows "The Sandbaggers" "Wilde Alliance" and "Warship."

Tim Blackgrove Series/Early Novels:

"A Slaying in September"  (1967)

"A Drug Called Power" (1968)

"The Brave Cannot Yield"  (1970)


"Count Not the Cost" (1968)

"The Man from Destiny" (1969)

All of these books are near impossible to find; they rarely come up online for sale and when they do you better be willing to crack open your piggy bank and then your neighbors and then maybe rob a bank or something. I don't know the that the demand for novels like this is strong enough for their price tags sometimes. I knew unless I got extraordinarily lucky I'd never own one. And I still don't.

One day the light bulb popped on  above my head to try an Inter-Library loan for the Mackintosh books. I don't know why I hadn't before, I try it every so often with the impossible to find books. My library will only let you do three-inter-library-loans at a time and I tried for the full Tim Blackgrove series and came up one short. But hey, make lemonade. Both the books required fairly heavy fees to check out due to their scarcity but I'm good a spending money on books.They came in fairly short order from the east coast to the mid-west; one from Cornell University and the other from the New Jersey School of Medicine and Dentistry! Both are in rough shape and one was nearly falling apart but by god, I'd get to read them.

 "A Slaying in September" was Mackintosh's first novel AND it shows. Basically the daughter of a buddy (who's in love with Tim) gets murdered by a drug smuggler and Blackgrove goes a murdering. The few reviews of the these books online at Existential Ennui and Mystery File are not particularly kind  to the books, marking them for reading in more of the "interesting" category then the "good" category. I've said it before but my tasters burnt out long ago for "bad" books, if I can half-way laugh at the book and have a good time with it, it was a worthy read. Where do Mackintosh's first novel land? 

It's borderline.

Parts of the book are exactly what you want in a late-60's Executioner-type pulp novel (even though it predates the first Executioner) then there's long passages of love-lorn Tim Blackgrove feeling sorry for himself or falling head-over-heels instantly for a woman, then chiding himself for doing just that. But when he's on the hunt and actually paying attention to his revenge-quest it's a crackerjack story. Blackgrove can be totally remorseless and violent dispatching baddies with his Luger and his .22 Walther. Then it slides right back into the flowery love stuff. Mackintosh must have been a romantic and then cured of it by the time he wrote "The Sandbaggers," its a stark change from his later work. And it's very paperback-convenient in terms of plot. Tim doesn't do any detecting, just beatings and shootings and casually meeting the right people. Over all, push come to shove, right down the line, with a gun to my head I would say that I liked it. I read in nearly a sitting. I'd be very glad to own a copy of it BUT I don't know if I'd ever reread it, so yeah.

So with the fist book down, I moved to the second novel "A Drug Called Power," where 'ol Tim meets the rich, bored Sue Dell and in a page-and-a-half has transformed her from a casual drug-user to a international Drug-commando. The call themselves, wait for it: T.W.I.N.S. that is Trans-World Independent Narcotics Squad. Yeah, baby! That's not quite as cool as U.N.C.L.E. but it's very much in the paperback Spy world. The books are an odd mesh of old-school hard-boiled P.I., secret agent and vigilante stuffed in a tea bag and sipped in the proper British manor. Sue does really liven the story up and gives the gloomy Tim someone to talk too. This novel in particular reminded me of a lost pilot to a good old ITV Action series, like "The Saint," "Department S" or "The Protectors" as the T.W.I.N.S. get roped into working for MI5 to stop a supervillain from blackmailing the world with poison. This one's more a crackling boy's-own-type adventure. I got flashbacks of reading Sexton Blake/Norman Conquest adventures during my time with these two books, I'd bet Mackintosh was fan.

Overall I liked the second better and I'm going to try the Inter-library loan for the remaining two stand-alone's cause I'm a gluten for punishment and I'd read the final "The Brave Cannot Yield" in a heartbeat.  I can't say they are good books, but they are both interesting in contrast from his later work and as shut-off-your-brain adventures. It's a quest that ends after years of searching the internet and it feels a little like a tiny door has been closed, its a good thing there's a mountain's worth of books I need to read, so crossing these of the list isn't the worst thing.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Quick Shots: The World of Tim Frazer by Francis Durbridge

Francis Durbridge wrote a lot of radio and TV scripts that were hugely popular in England at the time. His most known creation the sleuth Paul Temple was the star of the printed page, radio, TV, and films, so, a multi-media super-star, if you will. Back when I was driving an armored car and tangling with excessive boredom driving a four-wheeled safe I listened to a lot of audio books and eventually got into some old time radio programs. I particularly enjoyed "I Love a Mystery" by Charlton E. Morse and the British hero Dick Barton. So, somewhere along the way I read about Durbridge and Paul Temple. The radio show I listened to was fun in a old fashioned mystery/cliffhanger kind of way but I never sought anymore out. 

SO, many years later I stumbled about his Hodder printing of "The World of Tim Frazer" another popular Durbridge hero, this one a engineer on the skid who gets roped into the espionage game. I immediately snatched it up and promptly forgot about it for another year or so.  I've been on a British thriller kick and rediscovered Frazer's adventure while searching the shelves for something else. I started reading the first chapter and suddenly time sorta melted away and I was halfway through the book in one sitting. 

Tim Frazer is looking for his runaway business partner Harry Dentson who owes him money when he's approached by Ross of a super secret spy agency inside the government. Ross wants Dentson for his own reasons and deputizes (or the secret agent equivalent) Frazer to hunt him down. The book is very much of his time, "the amateur spy" sub-genre is one you won't really come across much these days. I guess people are more cynical and writer's find it hard to believe that an every-man would blindly trust a government espionage agency and go risk their lives. It's also full of twists and turns, nearly every chapter ends with a shocking revelation or cliff-hanger, just the way a radio show would entice you to listen again tomorrow or a TV show keeps you from flipping channels during commercials. 

It's a lot of good stuff. Wily garage mechanics, timid model-ship builders with nagging wives, dead Russian sailors in quaint English towns, low-slung Jaguars running around, dives, knives appearing in people's back, eccentric painters, and a stage actress all play a part in the search for Harry Dentson. It all sort of makes sense if you tilt your head the right way and Tim Frazer is a solid leading man. I'm sure I'll forget most of the plot in a week or some, but I'll remember the fun I had reading it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Quick Shots: Montenergrin Gold by Brian Ball


Brian Ball is a primarily known as a writer of science fiction, but also wrote a handful of thrillers. "Montenegrin Gold," is a stand alone but he also wrote a two book series about a English tough-guy named Keegan who gets roped into spy shenanigans. I have a budding collection of  "sci-fi writers writing thrillers" books because I find it interesting when a writer tries wholly different genres. Michael Moorecock's Jerry Cornell books, Harry Harrison's Tony Hawkins and Robert Sheckley's Stephen Dain books to name a few. I've found they are usually a lot of overlooked and vastly underrated. It must be a bit of a mental relief to only have to come up with plot and characters and not full fantasy realms or vastly different alien worlds. Cloak and Daggers are a bit simpler then laser swords and ray-guns.

My edition of this book is from the Walker British Mystery imprint, it's a distinct book with a slightly bigger size which is kind of annoying when stuffing them onto my over-flowing shelves but the quality of the books is top-notch, I always look for their distinctive red spines in used book stores. They reprinted great books from the likes of Desmond Cory,William Haggard and Simon Harvester; among others. I've never been let down by a Walker British Mystery book.

"Montenegrin Gold" is a fairly straight-forward British thriller, it's short fun in a "boy's adventure" kind of way but does lay on some serious overtones. Charles Copley's having a rough go of it, he's fired, his wife leaves him for his boss (whom she's already cheated on him with) and his dad has just died. Shiftless and unsure what to do Copley ends up finding out that his father was a British spy during W.W.II and has left behind some diaries of his activities that (of course) bad guys want because it could lead to hidden gold! Along the way Copley meets the beautiful daughter of one of his dad's spy buddies, watches his son get murdered, goes round and round with the cops, tangles with an old but deadly Nazi-turned-New-York-janitor, gets smashed on the head and drinks a lot. 

It's a pleasant easy but thrilling read, the way that few American writers can seem to produce. The British thriller is it's own genre that plays by its own rules. Ball hits all the right notes and creates a solid, failable lead in Copley, truly an every-man thrust into a adventure, first out of boredom then out of pure revenge. I actually read the book on a lazy, rainy Saturday afternoon and that seems to be what the book was written for.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Pieces of a Hero by William Overgard

 I'll start this like a bad speech: the dictionary describes as Bawdy (n) "humorously indecent talk or writing." "Pieces of a Hero" by William Overgard is bawdy in the best sense. It got me think that a lot of my favorite novels are bawdy, "Solomon's Vineyard" by Johnathan Latimer, "The Art of Redemption" by Bob Truluck  and "The Last Good Kiss" by James Crumley to name a few, they all have a pleasant low-rent, barroom language and are bursting at the seams with tongue-in-cheek machismo. "Pieces of a Hero" is a Men's Adventure-tall-tale by way of a Aiport-sleaze novel. It's great. It's so great that three chapters in I went out (to the internet) and bought nearly every book he wrote. 

William Overgard is better known as a cartoonist, having worked on newspaper strips like "Steve Roper and Mike Nomad" and "Kerry Drake." As well as his own strips, he also was a screenwriter who worked on the "Silverhawks"and "Thundercats" cartoons in the 80's. He wrote on of my favorite 70's TV-Movies "The Last Dinosaur," starring a particularly surly Richard Boone out to kill the last (of course) dinosaur. It's said that "Terry and the Pirates," the classic newspaper strip, had a big impact on Overgard's life. It seems too, it's readily apparent that Overgard was a fan of High-Adventure. 

The title hero is Hero Haggity (yes, its his real name) a giant of a man who's lost plenty of pieces, an eye, a hand and most of a leg. It doesn't slow him down none, he's a war hero with medals upon medals who's tougher then a two dollar steak and somehow as lovable as a teddy bear. He packs a .38 in an up-side shoulder holster and a Broom-Handle Mauser machine pistol on his hip, plus a couple of different prosthetic hands and a spare leg or two. He started his military career at the tender age or 14 and fought in WWII, Korea AND Vietnam. He left the U.S. government payroll and is a mercenary. The front of the book proclaims that it'll soon be a movie starring Lee Marvin. Would have been pretty perfect casting, he's not quite a big as Hero is but he's larger than life enough. Overgard's comic strip past is evident, Hero is a comic character on the page.

As I've said on the blog before, I'm a sucker for mercenary stories. Peter McCurtin's Solider of Fortune books and John Benteen's Fargo are old friends. Both Fargo and Rainey would probably like to go out drinking with Hero, fight along side him and avoid being on the opposite sides. But this is a bigger novel then any Fargo tale, nearly triple the page count. Its the biggest book I've read in a while by a long shot but I enjoyed every page. Overgard's writes in a clear and light style a contrast to the characters and plot, reminding me chiefly of Ross Thomas, which high praise coming from this buckaroo. Both Overgard and Thomas set up warring factions of characters and then let them duke it out both physically and mentally. Double-crosses, triple-crosses, schemes and bouts of colorful violence is sprinkled throughout the book which is built with style and wit.

Hero is hired to train a group to blow up a sugar mill in Cuba by the owner of the mill. Hero knows its a screwy place to start but the money is good and he can take his new girlfriend the enormous breasted burlesque dancer Happy along for the ride. Happy is the second lead and she's just as much fun as Hero. She's a surprisingly tough and smart character who may not always make the best decisions, but she's just as much of a survivor as Hero. Colorful characters include the Black mercenary Sam Spade (or so he calls himself) who's a lot more then he seems, the crusty sea captain, the diminutive would be General and son of the sugar mill,  the crafty transgender madam who put a lot of the pieces of the scheme together and forms a fun friendship with Happy along the way, plus the sadomasochistic sugar mill owner and his band of international mercenaries and freedom fighters. Everyone is out for themselves and clash on every page. Things of course don't go the way they are planned, the hallmark of a good book.

 If I had a hall of fame this would be in it. It really does feel like an adult version of a newspaper adventure strip, a genre I'm very fond off. Overgard keeps you engaged at every chapter break, tempting you to just flip the page and keep reading. Just like he would have in keeping you in suspense till the next newspaper came out. The book is wildly UN-P.C. which could put some people off but all of Overgard's characters come off as real people (save Hero) not as stereotypes. Its easy to bore the reader when you flash to the side characters in a novel, especially one as fun as Hero, but I never felt bored hanging out with the rest of the cast. I'm glad I have nearly all his novels coming my way cause I have a new favorite author to add to the list.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Quick Shots: One Angry Man by Norman Daniels

Norman Daniels had a long career writing whatever "pulp fiction" was at the moment. He hooked onto trends and put out what would sell, all the while producing quality, albeit workman like books. My kinda guy. He created the pulp hero The Black Bat, wrote The Phantom Detective, novels featuring The Avengers (the British spies, not the costumed people) plus stand alone work in the Gold Medal mold and his own 60's spy series with John Keith the Man from A.P.E. He tried a couple of other series out along the way The Baron books, which have nothing to do with John Creasey's The Baron and the Kelly Carvel novels.

"One Angry Man" is the second in the Carvel trilogy, I've read the first one and enjoyed it but didn't review it because it was done with much more style and grace over at Paperback Warrior so head over and check that one out. Kelly Carvel is your standard paperback tough guy ex-cop division. Fed up with the justice system he chucked his badge. He didn't take up as a private eye, instead he got mixed up with The Committee of Ten, a group of big-wigs who want him to act as a personal avenger for injustice. It's a nice series set-up, one that could have gone on much longer then it did. With all the money and connections Carvel has it easier then some of our 70's vigilante heroes, but it's a nice slice of spy on your vigilante sandwich.

"The Rape of a Town" (1970)

"One Angry Man" (1971)

"License to Kill" (1972)

Carvel's one angry man because in the small town where he's police chief (it's part of the fist book) there's a big-time drug pusher. He decides to take him down, along the way he gets help from The Committee of Ten, the Mafia, his number one lady Merryl, and his cop buddy. The action is a little sparse, but well written and brutal when it happens. Carvel is more of schemer, putting chess pieces where he wants them and battling it out across the board. There's kidnappings, threats, courtroom scenes, rude waiters, drugging, shoot-outs and hokey drug language. It's a lot of fun.

The books' a little stiff in spots though, Daniels was clearly an old pro trying his hand at the latest trend, which he pulls off mostly. It's a little out of time; reading like it was written in the early 60's instead of the 70's at places. But with this much time past, what's ten years? "One Angry Man" moves quick, is filled with thrilling stuff and finishes well. You'll probably have a good time with any Daniel's book, I know I do.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

"Out Back" - A Slice of Hard-Boiled Flash Fiction by Yours Truely

 A while back I wrote a short story and submitted to a website devoted to crime "flash fiction," a tale in under 750 words. It took a while to get back to me and it got rejected. That's the way it goes. I've long since stopped taking rejection that seriously; there's so much of it going around, it's not worth the energy. You move forward and keep your nose to the grindstone and take criticism from trusted sources. Being a filmmaker you get used to rejection and grow to figure out that the taste of the gatekeepers varies wildly. One short film may go gang-busters and win awards in some festivals and get quickly rejected at other. So, taking it personal is just something you stick on yourself. Film-making, like writing is a acquired skill culled from producing work and there's enough nay-sayers outside, keep your interior self pure of heart and high of hopes.

But as the gatekeeper to this blog I HOLD THE POWER. MUHAHAHA! ANd I think it fits nicely in this blogs purview.

Plus I was going to give it away for free to them, might as well just post it here instead of sitting on my hard-drive. So here's a little homage to Gold Medal books, just imagine a cover with a sultry babe on it, a hot car and the foreshadowing of dread.

Out Back - 

I put the bead at the end of the shotgun’s barrel on the dude and squeezed the trigger back. Without looking I hustled on past him. My ears rang, my heart broke, and my feet hurt in my shoes on the hard pavement. 

The back door of the joint came open with a slick shoed foot, and I put the bead on the open-door frame. I didn’t have to squeeze; someone shot the man wearing the slick shoes, and he fell on out.  

Damned it was hot, my palms were sweating and pooling in the gloves at tips of my fingers. I kept the pump-gun aimlessly at the back door. 

Bap. Bap. Bap. Gunshots from inside came at me. I closed the gap between me and the interior of the nightclub. The night air went silent for a long second. A shadow slid into the mass of light at the back door, and I fired again.  

It was a cocktail waitress in a short skirt. I got her good, but she wasn’t quite dead. I pumped the gun and tried to remember how many shells I had left. Where the hell was he?  

The cocktail waitress looked at me through eyes with too much blood in them. She breathed once, twice, three times then coughed up nearly black blood and died. I kept one eye on the door and the other on the alley. No one else came into the web I had spun yet, but I was ready. 

The fire escape whined above me under the weight of a fat man in a florid suit. I swept the shotgun up at him. He saw me through the grates of the escape and fat feet. Men with money standing over me. The story of my life. I was rewriting things as I went. I triggered it and sparks flew when the lead hit the metal. Enough hit his foot for him to yowl and lose his balance. Then he tumbled over the edge of the fire escape and crash though a squat trashcan with a wet groan and a nasty snap.  

Guns went off inside again, I saw our partner Don through the kitchen window. He had his mask on and the cooks lined up against the wall. He turned his head to look at the sound of guns; one of the cooks spun and got him high in the neck with a carving knife and then got his carbine. I almost fired through the window, but instead I slunk back into the shadows of the alley. Getting killed by a fry cook would help Don none.  

Now he was the only one left inside. I told him we needed more guys, but his head was hard and he wouldn’t listen. The result was a damned blood bath.  

Tires squealed in front of the place. More guys. More guns. And sirens in the distance. The roadhouse wasn’t far enough from town for someone to miss all these guns blasting. My gun was nearly empty, and someone was moving fast through the backdoor.  

I saw his smile and knew we were home free. He had a bowling ball bag that I knew was full of cash and his .45 in his hand. He spun and fired at the fry cook behind him and when he turned back there was a bang and the back of his head popped with a lucky shot. He fell flat, and I rushed toward him. My last shell got quick revenge. I had to break his fingers with the butt of the shotgun to get the bag free from his dead hand.  

The car was still running, and I got to it fast and the nightclub was in the distance before I knew it.  

Down the road I pulled over, stashed the shotgun and the bag in the trunk. I got back in the car, adjusted the girls, and checked my lipstick in the mirror. Primo. I popped a shirt button to be sure, toed off my heels, and worked the pedals barefoot. Then I grinned on down the road.  

Yeah, if I got stopped, I could wiggle my way out of it. 

"The Night of the Shadow" By Maxwell Grant (Dennis Lynds) & The Avenger: "The Back Cariots" by Kenneth Robeson (Ron Goulart)

For some reason when the wind starts blowing colder I get in the mood for pulp, now I mean actual pulp stories that appeared in the 10 cent wonders that where the pulp magazines. Maybe its the gloom of of the cool of the air and darkness that sets in, makes me think of The Great Depression when the pulps ruled. As a kid my taste for pulps was developed by countless re-watching of the Indiana Jones movies, tied in with movies like "Flash Gordon," "The Rocketeer," The Phantom," and "The Shadow." I actually knew of the Shadow before the 1994 movie, via a two-VHS collection of trailers and a documentary on the cliffhanger movie serials. Where I saw wonderful bits of serials, Batman, Captain Marvel, Commando Cody, etc. etc. I was a weird kid, okay? But they all seemed so fast, and action-packed and thrilling with evil looking baddies and damsels in distress. They looked exactly like what a 10 year old boy would want to see. Which I mean, is exactly what they were. I soon fell in love with the books. I read a mess of them, but until a couple of years ago I hadn't really read any of the pulp heroes what with my time being spent on hard-boiled crime and Men's Adventure, but you need the fantastic every now and then so I dipped my toe back in and been dipping it in every now and then.

"The Night of the Shadow" is the first Shadow novel I have read in maybe ten years. My older self's pulp-taste runs toward The Spider, the Avenger, Operator #5, Secret Agent X and G-8. Doc and The Shadow seem to get lost in the mix. Dennis Lynds got me to check this entry out. He's writer who always puts out a good book whether its under his name or not. 

The 60's incarnation of The Shadow is a representation of the pulp tastes of the time, just as the original one was to the taste of the 30's. Here The Shadow acts more like an active Waverly from "Man From U.N.C.L.E." with his companions acting like UNCLE agents. It's an overall odd mix of styles of pulp, the over-the-top near-super powers of The Shadow and the Bond-Mania flavored villain plot. It doesn't have the mystic quality that Walter B. Gibson brought to the character, Gibson's interest in magic somehow gets in between the lines of the books setting a prefect atmosphere. The magic quality of the speed and the twisty-turning narrative is something melds perfectly together. There will never be a moment in time again that is ripe for the kind of writing. Lynds take on the character is certainly what would have appealed to the readers of the 60's, but as Gibson's work is pretty timeless the 60's version is a bit more bland. The villains have a cool pulpy-evil plot involving weaponized organic warfare, but they themselves are forgettable stock characters. Lynds goes through the motions with other fun stuff like kidnappings, assassinations, the never-full secret pockets of The Shadow's suit that holds his whole costume plus a bucket-load of guns, etc. etc. it just never seems to kick into high gear. There's enough good stuff in here that I will read the other Dennis Lynds novels in the series, just with a few of Gibson's before. Dennis Lynds has a mountain of great work to read with his Dan Fortune novels, Kane Jackson and his work writing for Mike Shayne and Nick Carter.

Ron Goulart picked up the Kenneth Robeson mantle to continue The Avenger series in the 70's, but they wise chose to keep the setting in 30's. Goulart gets a bad rap sometimes, I dunno why. I've always enjoyed his work whether it's his own series like his John Easy P.I. series, his humorous Sci-Fi novels, editing of anthologies or licensed work with Vampirella, Flash Gordon and The Phantom. His short story collection, "The Ghost Breaker" is a absolute blast, a fun take on the whole occult detective bit. He's an acquired taste I suppose, leaning into the humor more then some might like. He's obviously a student of pulp fiction, cliff-hanger serials, newspaper strips and the like and he can write the hell out of them. Paul Ernst created "The Avenger," AKA Richard Benson and his team of crime-fighters originally, though he shared Kenneth Robeson with Lester Dent for Doc Savage. If your not familiar with The Avenger it is in conception a mish-mash of The Shadow and Doc Savage, originally with a neat gimmick that Benson's "stone face" could be molded into anyone for a endless variety of disguises. It was later dropped when the pulp hero racket was waning.

His Avenger stories (and most of his work) are "light entertainment," they breeze on by and the pace never lets up, he build character through dialog both internal and external witty banter. The action is frequent and very much of the movie serial variety. He leans a lot on the character of Cole Wilson who was a later addition to the crime-fighting team of Richard Benson. In a lot of ways Wilson is the classic Ron Goulart character quick mouth, capable but not infallible. It's easy to see why he chose to have Wilson and Nellie Grey, the Emma Peel of her day get stuck together a lot of the time and bicker and blunder into the fantastic plots. Only to have The Avenger working his own way and swooping in to save the day with the help of the rest of the team. "The Black Chariots" are basically rocket-powered spy planes and the inventor (there's always a wayward inventor in pulps) is missing. The Avenger's team gets roped into the case and solves with with machine gun fights, aerial battles, escapes, sieges and the like. It's not going to change your life, but it's a very solid entry. Though Goulart's Avenger tales "The Cartoon Crimes," and "The Purple Zombie" are hands down the most fun taking place within the newspaper comic strip industry and the movie industry, respectively. 

Books like these keep the pulp-hero concept alive in lean years, now there's a whole boom of New Pulp, with new characters, refreshed old characters and more continuations of beloved characters in books and comics. It's a good time to like the genre. I suppose its tied into the dire times we live in being a bit like the dire times of The Great Depression, escapism is a wonderful thing. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Donald Hamilton and the "Line of Fire"

When I read "Danger in My Blood" a bit ago it lit the Gold Medal fire under my ass and I dug through my shelves and set myself up a Gold Medal To-Read Pile. It's got some Peter Rabe, E. Howard Hunt, Gil Brewer, Stephen Marlowe, and as an afterthought I looked at the Donald Hamilton shelf in my house. "Line of Fire" I had mentioned in that "Danger in My Blood" review, I read it years ago between two Matt Helms when I was on one big Hamilton kick. I remember liking it well enough, but younger didn't see everything that was lurking between the covers on this one. With the paperback in my hand I found that I was reading the first chapter and then the first turned into the fourth and I was just rereading it. Matt Helm is one of my favorite series especially the early ones; the higher they get the flabbier and exhausted they get. Series fatigue is a natural thing I suppose, but a lesser Hamilton is still a notch or two above most writers, he only suffers in comparison to himself. 

It's often said that "Line of Fire" is a proto-Matt Helm, he wrote it a few years before the masterstroke that is the first Matt Helm "Death of a Citizen" and it's got a lot of the same voice. The weary professional tough guy voice of Paul Nyquist,, the causal information and opinions on various firearms and the hard-boiled violence is all in line with what you get when you pick up a Helm. The comparison is apt but it doesn't paint the book in a lesser light, because this is truly almost as good a "Death of a Citizen." 

Paul Nyquist is a gun-shop owner, a veteran, a hunter and a guy who just shot a big wig politician. Right after he takes the shot with his 30-06 (and after he loving tells you about the rifle) a women bursts in the door to surprise him and the mob goon that is there to watch him make the shot. The goon pulls with Walther P-38 and Nyquist doesn't hesitate and blows him away with his rifle. The plans all gummed up and he goes on the run with the dame right? Well, not really. It's all part of the interesting curve ball that Hamilton threw in the middle of the book, which I won't spoil. The curve-ball really keeps the book from devolving into cliches and keeps the reader on their toes. Hamilton obviously knew the genre and this is work of a helluva writer working within his genre and turning the whole thing on it's head. Bodies do pile up and there are fisticuffs, gun-talk, few dames, cops, hoods and nosy reporters, it hits all the marks.  The suspense is constantly ratcheted up, the characters a fresh takes on the archetypes of these kind of books and its all burns into a nice bloody climax. They could have used this as a guidebook for anyone trying to write a Gold Medal Paperback. 

This is really just a crackerjack novel of crime and suspense, the world grows smaller and small for Nyquist and he's caught in the middle of his friends, women and his enemies, sometimes all in one person. There's some convenient paperback stuff in here, mostly in the quick conclusions and instant trust variety, but nothing to hamper the enjoyment of the book on the whole. Hamilton mostly wrote Matt Helm's, a couple westerns and a few crime/suspense books like this one. "Night Walker" was reprinted by Hard Case Crime and I remember liking that well enough too, so I'll have revisit that one too. I wish Hamilton had some more stand-alones to his name, I'd be eager to dive in.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Quick Shots: Ed Wood's Killer in Drag

What is the worst?

Edward D. Wood Jr. was a particular kind of guy. I personally love him. The label of "worst director" ever is a short-sighted view of the man. Being a filmmaker I can appreciate that creative endeavors can go sideways for a number of reasons, film being the most susceptible. If someone makes something with a burning passion that is enjoyable on ANY level, it's a shame to call the creator "the worst,". didn't they just entertain you? "Good" or "bad" are just constructs that people assign to for lack of a better word "art," (I personally hate the overuse of the word art or artist when it comes to film making, but that's just a pet peeve) I've seen people enjoy the hell of a movie, laughing at the right times, gasping at the other and then still deride the flick after the fact. Books, movies, whatever are meant to entertain. That can mean thrills or laughs. It can also mean emotional connection, a cry session or the viewer getting an outlook they might not have ever seen. Either way the work should make you keep flipping pages or glued to the screen. Our obsession of tearing down or like something ironically is going to slowly ruin our ability to actually enjoy anything.

*Steps down from soap-box*

Ed Wood was a lot of things, but he was a GREAT creative. You don't stick around as long in the public consciousness as Ed Wood has and be worthless. As a filmmaker he crafted endless entertaining movies with a burning passion, as a writer he seemed to do the same and they are all uniquely Ed Wood. 

That's the mark of a good writer in my opinion: A finely tuned voice. And Ed had that by the bucketful.  

"Killer in Drag" stars angora-wearing mob assassin Glen Satin, or Glenda when's he's all dolled up. Glen/Glenda wants out of the killer-for-hire racket but knows that the drop-dead gorgeous Glenda is too valuable to give up in the murder business. Glen/Glenda needs someone with connections to get out alive and after a liaison with a suger-daddy ends in his murder and the hopes of their sex-changed dashed Glen/Glenda has to go on the run from the cops and the mob. They do what anyone does when they run away: join the circus. Or buy the circus is more like it. While hitch-hiking and cross-dressing though out the country plus a little ass-kicking and robbery Glen/Glenda ends up in a small town with the deed to the circus and a hot small-town hooker in their bed. There's tons of talk of women's clothes, some circus freaks, sex and real kinky folk. Glen/Glenda seem to have a real connection to the small town hooker they shack up with as they come from similar situations. People in control of them from above and society misunderstanding them. And after some initial trepidation (and a wild night) she accepts Glen/Glenda for who they are. Plus Glenda's a swell looking dame. But the cops don't like Glen too much and the whole situation boils over with a circus riot, maybe some real love, car chases and kinky sex.

This is a stream of consciousness soft-core 50's pulp novel, one written to a very niche group and meant to be hidden between readings. It was clearly written in a few settings and knowing Ed Wood with a stream of liquor. And, sure yeah there's a lot of stuff that doesn't hang together and plot lines that don't get the best conclusions plus some hokey dialog and distasteful characters. Despite all that it's very entertaining, it's got all the hallmarks of Wood's work, the booze, the women's clothes and undergarments, the sleaze, the desperation and above all the bravery. Ed Wood's work is hallmarked by being brave. It takes guts to make a movie and put yourself out there. It takes a lot more guts to make your first movie about your love of dressing like a woman in 1953. Ed was a Marine after all.

Obviously this book isn't for everyone, if you like sleaze books it's a lot of fun. If your interested in what gender fluidity/LGBTQ life (if you were a killer-for-hire) looked like in the 50's this would be interesting for you. If you can't get past the novel's "hero" wearing a skirt while shooting dudes with his pearl-handled .32 then you should skip it. It would have made a wild exploitation film, in fact I kept being reminded not of Ed Wood's films while reading it but Russ Meyer's "Faster, Pussycat, Kill, Kill," both are hard-bitten forward thinking crime tales seeped in the era's expectations of women and transgender people, plus the action and violence.  It's not for everyone, but as Lou Reed once said, take a walk on the wild side.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Quick Shots: Danger in My Blood by Steve Brackeen (John Farris)


A unread Gold Medal paperback is a lot like a present waiting for you under the tree Christmas morning, it's new and exciting and probably something you'll like. I only mention Gold Medal in connection to this slim Crest book because if it's an original Crest book, it's pretty much just a Gold Medal undercover. Speaking of undercover, Steve Brackeen was John Farris who's mostly unknown as a Horror writer but wrote some damned good crime books back in the the 50's. "Baby Moll" of his was reprinted by Hard Case Crime back when they really dug around for obscure vintage material instead and it's fantastic. 

A lot of the Fawcett Gold Medal super spies, like Matt Helm or Joe Gall had dry runs for their series characters. Donald Hamilton's "Line of Fire" is a spiritual successor to Helm. Gall had "Pagoda" which stars Joe before he was a spy. Similarly over at Award Books Don Smith's Phil Sherman had "Red Curtain" before he got onto his long running adventures. "Danger in My Blood" reads like "lost first" Denver Bryant book to a series that doesn't exist. Denver is a disowned rich boy who when we first meeting him is recovering in a spy hospital full or VERY broken espionage agents. Denver's had it real rough, tortured and having to have watch a good women brutally tortured to death. He's ripped to shreds, out of shape and not quite ready to leave the safety of the hospital. But that's wouldn't be a rooting-tooting 50's hard-boiled espionage thriller, so Denver gets a message from an old friend in trouble and takes off to a small Florida town that houses a top-secret government research facility, where his buddy works. He's a little late and since it doesn't pay to be friends with a spy; Denver's buddy gets knifed in the back and Denver is on the case. Tangling with Russian spies, treacherous dames, AND the mob before the mystery is solved. The 50's variety of American spy fiction generally owes a lot to the tough-guy private eye novel and indeed a lot of this reads like a Mike Hammer which could be a bit jarring if you had only read 60's or newer espionage tales. After reading it and letting it soak into my brain a bit I realized that it really reminded me of the first time I read "Casino Royale," they both have a strong nihilistic thread that runs through them and shows some light on how nasty being a secret agent would be.  

I've been reading a lot of second or third trier books lately (which I still enjoy) but it was a breath of fresh air to delve into such a tightly written thriller with an interesting broken but still tough secret agent at the head. Farris is a helluva writer, he tells you just enough for the characters to be real without slumping the slow build up of tension or bogging down the action. And boy, the action is ultra-hard burning people, shotgunning faces, etc. etc. It's a slim book but you got just what you need to have blast with it. It's a shame its the only Denver Bryant adventure, I'd have read a dozen more. So, I'm just going to have to track down some more early Farris books.

Monday, August 24, 2020

George H. Smith's Two Sleazy Occult Men of Mystery

George H. Smith isn't George Harmon Smith who wrote Men's Adventure in the 70's and sleaze in the 50's and 60's. Though confusingly they BOTH wrote "swamp noir" for a bit. Past the soft-core type sleaze  George Henry Smith wrote he is mostly known as a science fiction author. In the early 60's he started two series for Pike books, the St. Germain novels about a secret agent who may be 1000 years old and writing as Jan Hudson the Jake Reynolds, the occultist/part-time private eye. These a quick books; I read both of them in maybe three sittings with little effort, they have such a kooky-Psychotronic vibe, like a VERY adult Men's Sweat Mag version of "Scooby-Doo." 

"Baroness of Blood" was first on the chopping block. Since there's so few pages in the book Smith introduces us to Count St. Germain instantly enjoying a striptease in a club. He's a quasi-famous dude who lectures and hob-knobs and who may be like 1,000 years old. Also a spy. He's duped by a hot chick and winds up in a Castle full of Nazi's including the titular (pun intended) Baroness of Blood. There's a Little Person Nazi who's married to the lesbian Baroness of Blood and a shell-shocked Nazi War Hero brother that needs St. Germain's hypnotizing powers to take command of the second-coming of the Nazi-assholes. Along the way St. Germain sleeps with the two only other women in the Castle, dodges questions about his age, hypnotizes people, sleeps with the women again and eventually kicks some ass. 

The book was in fourth gear the whole time, as St. Germain (kinda a dick) bounced from bed to bed and pokes around the spooky castle to uncover the evil plan. St. Germain is very much in the pulp-hero mode, hints of the master-magician type including having an army of Gurkha's but at it's heart this is very much a 60's pulp-spy novel with a dash of the old-school Swashbuckler. The plot could have very easily been a "Nick Carter: Killmaster" or the like. Not that I'm complaining.  I had a lot of fun with it, of course my mind was checked at the front cover. St. Germain was a bit TOO much of a Man of a Mystery type, you get to know like nothing about him, which worked for the whole "1,000 years old bit" since you don't really know the truth until halfway through and then maybe its different in the end. It sounds like I'm complaining but that was the most fun. Spies and quasi-comic-book-fantasy rarely get mixed so this was pretty refreshing. 

The St. Germain Series: 

 Baroness of Blood (1961) {later issued as Beautiful but Brutal}

 Soft Lips on Black Velvet (1961)

 The Virgin Agent (1967)  Written as Jerry Jason

"Love Cult" written under the name Jan Hudson was the superior of the two. Jake Reynolds is the classic Peter Gunn-era type P.I. who works part-time busting cults, voodoo and other supernatural shit all while running his occult bookshop, living above it and having a swank pool outback for, you know, the ladies. One night Jake gets picked up by a lady driven to a temple and they bang. Afterwards she tells him she was only doing to appease the Goddess of the temple and she wants to know nothing about Jake. Jake leaves, confused but overall happy with the experience. But the private eye in his head wants to know more about the dame. Sometime later a Hollywood Starlet comes into his shop cause someone's trying to kill her with voodoo after she got wrapped into an all-movie-star-cult-orgy one night. Which happens all the time, I'm sure. It all wraps up together like a good 60's P.I. novel. Jake's tough, snappy with the patter and gives us some interesting tidbits about voodoo and the occult, which he believes in but not in the supernatural sense, just in the sense that its spooky shit to those who believe and it can make people do crazy things or end up dead out of fear. Jake uses fear and the intimidation of the occult to rain terror down on his enemies. He still shoots at them with a .45 too though. This all boils down into an over-the-top final fight for their lives with a "monster." Great stuff.

Jake is more fleshed out then St. Germain. No where close to three-dimensional, but hey, this is a stroke-book. The occult-angle makes this book stand out in the sea of private eye books of the era. The plot is convoluted and highly unlikely but it's written smooth and clean. I'm sure the books were written real quickly but they don't have the shoddy writing of some books of this type, Smith keeps you flipping pages to see the awesomeness that comes next. 

Jake Reynolds Series:

Love Cult (1961)

Love Goddess (1961)

All-in-all I'm glad I jumped head first into the George H. Smith pool. I did the crazy book-buyer thing and picked up a chunk of books before I read a word of his, but this time it paid off. I'm certainly glad to have the rest of the two short-lived series at my disposal. You'd have to have a love of these early Men's Adventure/Sleaze books to enjoy them I'd think. There's plenty in here that its completely inappropriate for today, again its a stroke-book, but if you can get past the terrible sexual politics of the day then they are some fun books. I can picture a St. Germain Eurospy film series made in the 60's, starring maybe Ken Clark or Ray Danton, probably directed by Jess Franco, in-between his Fu Manchu pictures. Sadly, like all the stuff I seem to dig they aren't super easy to come by, but not impossible. In fact "Love Goddess" seems to be available as a cheap ebook, maybe not legally but its on Amazon nonetheless. If you like some of the regular B-level spy or detective pulp with a new spin on it, give 'em a try.

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.