Paperback Warrior (a vastly more put together and comprehensive collection of entertaining reviews) I was intrigued because it was an early work of Ken Follett. The early pulpy works of authors who later became well-known can sometiems be excellent and other can be just a tepid and boring as most mainstream fiction. Paperback Warrior didn't care for this book, as I am VERY easy to please I came away from it wishing the final two chapters in the "Apples" Carstairs trilogy weren't so hard to find. I'd read them in a heartbeat.
Ken Follett as Symon Myles here creates "Apples" a swinging London building contractor out for revenge with his two girlfriends in tow. The book rolled over my eyes like a wonderful 70's Eurocrime movie, probably made with Italian and British money and probably staring Richard Harris, or maybe Michael Caine. Anyway Apples is a rough sort in a higher pay bracket, with a background in crime reporter and the military and most likely anything else the story might need at that point races off (literally) after finding out his daughter is in hospital after ODing. Not a lot of this book makes sense, I get that right out there in the open. Apples flip-flops from being pissed about drugs and drug dealers to banging any chick he can and the ideas about lesbian/bisexual are very back-asswards, but surprisingly Apples girlfriends are some of the better characters in the book. The story plays fast and loose with Apples trying to set up a drug buy to trap his prey, along the way he pulls a "French Connection" with a car packed full of heroin, drives in his super-cool Jaguar, does some businessman stuff, drinks and smokes weed. I think I like him because he's a lot hipper then the usual "drug-buster" character and Follett's tongue seems to be creeping through his teeth into his cheek throughout.
"The Big Needle" was a slim book, but "The Syndicate" by my friend and yours Peter McCurtin is practically a novella. The cover promises "Godfather" like insight into the inter workings of the dreaded Mafia, luckily that's just Belemont-Tower pulling your leg. James Broderick is a badass Mafia killer sent out by an aging Don to kill a dick-ass Nazi in ancient Irish castle built up like a fortress. Yeah, now that's a plot synopsis.
The next book I read had some meat on it's bones "Lone Wolf #1: Night Raider," by Mike Barry or
Barry Maltzberg as it says on his taxes. I've been wanting to dip my toe into the pool of this particular series for a while but was informed that they HAVE to be read in order as it builds and builds over the series. So, I finally picked up a copy of #1 let it sit on a shelf for months, remember I wanted to read it and picked it up. That's how I roll.
Easily this is the best book of the five, it's a rock solid example of Men's Adventure Fiction. It's going up there in the hall of fame. Burt Wulf (get it?) is a Narc who's lady-friend is found dead by him after ODing. Basically his mind goes POP! and he decides to do the long road to revenge thing. It's not an original plot but Malzberg is a damned fine writer and continuously ratchets up the tension and lets Wulf's sanity slowly slip away. All the side characters are unique and interesting, with nary a stock character in the mix, like a mobster on a tear with a wife glued to the TV who doesn't pay attention to the world around her and the love he feels for his 10 year old Buick and Wulf's old partner, a African-American rookie who became a cop because people have to take notice of him when he's in uniform. Malzberg creates whole characters in little bits. The story is simple enough Wulf follows the trail of baddies, whooping their ass until he can move on the next one, much like a super bloody Mario Bros. Wulf's a dick and psycho but he's a thinker too and his solution to killing this episodes bad-guy is pretty clever compared to the simple "shoot-everyone" climax often used, but is also still satisfactory. It'll be interesting to see how Wulff gets crazier and crazier as the books progress. I also like that Wulf looks like Mr. Fantastic with a .45 on the cover.
A small town gas station owner is set-up with a false rape-charge by an insidious rich guy out to buy the land the gas station sits on cause a highway is coming right by it. The gas station owner calls Gannon who's pretty famous for ass-kicking to come help him. Gannon likes ass-kicking so he rolls into town and faces off with a nasty killer and all sorts of goons. People die in horrible ways, people act like no humans ever have and Gannon is near superhuman in his ability to murder folk. The women have it the worse in the book and none of them are particularly believable, so if you have a problem with that you might want to skip it. I prefer authors with distinct voices and Ballenger had that in aplomb. More then anything it reminded me of a 70's version of Carroll John Daly's Race Williams and Robert Leslie Bellem's Dan Turner stories. All three writers liked lighting fast-paced stories, their own vernacular and tough guy heroes. I'll be shelling out the cash of Gannon #1 fairly quickly. It's a shame Ballenger seemingly didn't produce more then a handful of novels but he wrote a lot for the sweat mags. I suppose he wouldn't be everyone's taste but if you like you mayhem with a little knowing humor you could do worse.
Lynn Monroe Books for the full-scoop on the ins and outs of The Marksman/Sharpshooter/Assassin series and a lot of the work that Peter McCurtin did as a writer and as an editor.
Magellan goes back to a carnival where he was a trick-shooter and since his new occupation is mafia buster the mafia is pulling strong arm moves and wanting protection money from said carnival. Magellan is pissed off by this and shoots a bunch of goons and starts an all-out war between carnies and the mob (I wish, that'd been cool) but he does get a lot of carnies killed in the process including the woman owner who's son is along for the ride, as Robin to Magellan's Batman. He comes in pretty handy as he casually owns a sloppily deactivated mortar that comes in handy when they want to blow a mob-honcho's house to pieces. Also luckily Magellan knows a place where the mortar shells are kept and also has a key for the building. That's some good luck. The book moves a fast clip of shootings told in grizzly detail. Magellan doesn't get laid which is a change of pace from the usual paperback hero, he seems to get his rocks off with the mafia-murdering he does. Really the book didn't make a whole lot of sense but the characters were wonderfully colorful and the plot is simply "death to bad guys." As a potato chip, the book rates very high. Russell Smith has made me a fan, I'm glad I have more of his work in the series and one of his stand alone's "Montego" as Robert Dupont.