Tuesday, June 28, 2022

QUICK SHOTS: Hardy #2: Spy and Die by Martin Meyers

Martin Meyers five book Hardy series is a bit of a divisive lot of books for folks. Let's be fair, the (AWESOME) covers promise a lot of action-packed Men's Adventure and the books themselves are light mysteries, so there's no truth in advertising. I discovered the books via the always compelling Thrilling Detective website when I was specifically looking for funny mystery novels after tackling a lot of Shell Scott's and Dan Turner's. But they ain't no Executioner novel. Martin Meyers only wrote the five Hardy books and the novelization to the movie "Suspect" under his name, with his wife they wrote some historical mysteries novels. 

Patrick Hardy is a guy always bordering on pudgy who a self-confessed coward. He's also a New York private eye who lives with a bunch of books, carefully skimmed TV guides for old movies, a VW Bug and a big dog named Sherlock. Also, he's the recipient of an experimental Army program that has trained his reflexes to be a highly trained hand-to-hand combatant when he's scared. If someone attacks him, he might be scared shitless, but his body simply reacts with precision fighting moves. He mostly thinks about sex, movies and food, the order isn't important, but sex pretty much always wins out. So, yeah, these a sorta smut books. Everything it super tame but sex is one of the big selling points. The action, as it were. They are the in the Carter Brown/Ted Mark mold with an obvious love of mystery fiction behind them. The whole "government experiment" thing kind of sticks out, I wonder if it was an afterthought to try to get a little bit of action without changing Hardy too much. Though it's an interesting little touch.

"Spy and Die" was one I remember particularly liking because it as an espionage angle and I'm a sucker for when private eyes do some spying. Hardy is hired by a good-looking woman ('natch) to find out about a man or may or may not be her uncle who just died and left her a big inheritance. Between late-night movies, odd culinary concoctions and trips to the doctor and various bedrooms Hardy gets embroiled in secret agent shenanigans. There's a villainous Countess who works as a spy and fashion photographer, assorted spies and goons, fairly random sex, a few fairly nice fight scenes, lots of lounging and nice and daring finale. Hardy goes out an ask's questions or send his buddy to do some investigating and such but a lot the time we hang out with him and enjoy his lifestyle. Through the Hardy books I discovered some movies I liked and fantastic authors like Manning Coles. 

Maybe folks are just jealous of Hardy when they put him down on the internet, sure the books are slight, and the plot may not hang together the best. But Hardy is engaging, and it was probably my ultimate single-post-adolescent fantasy, women, food, booze, books, old movies, a dog and being a private eye. These are goofy, caper mysteries with their tongue in their cheek. If you are in the right mind-set; you'll have fun but just don't expect a "Death Merchant" or a "Hardman" and you'll have some fun. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

QUICK SHOTS: .357 Vigilante #2: Make 'em Pay by Ian (Lee Goldberg) Ludlow

Before I really paid too much attention to the Men's Adventure genre, I did know about Pinnacle's short-lived .357 Vigilante books. I knew them because I was a fan of Lee Goldberg (especially "The Man with the Iron-On Badge) and I somehow figured out he wrote them. So, the first book in the had been on my shelf for a long time. When I started to figure out M.A.-fiction is what I was looking for, I promptly cracked open the spine and had a good 'ol time with it. It took a bit before I tracked down the other two Pinnacle put out and it's taken even longer to tackle them. Sometimes my stupidity astounds me.

Lee Goldberg took on the VERY authorly-name of Ian Ludlow when he started writing the .357 Vigilante series back in the day. Later he would write books ABOUT his pseudonym with the Ian Ludlow series. Which stars Ludlow as a thriller writer pushed into living one of his book plots, but that's a different story. Brett Macklin is the .357 Vigilante or actually really, he's Mr. Jury. Mr. Jury seems to be Lee's preferred series title since that's what they are republished as. Brett's got a grudge against crime to the murder of his policeman father; with his dad's revolver he dispatches fast judgement when the law fails. By the 80's this was old-hat within the genre. You already had The Executioner, The Reprisalizer, two The Revengers, The Sharpshooter, The Marksman, and so on, but Lee made the genre conventions work for him. The Mr. Jury books are probably about the most fun you can have doing so vicarious vigilanting. 

"Make 'em Pay" is about a the vilest of subject, entering Andrew Vachss territory. Even the cover is super tough to look at. But, as you know dear reader: a vile villain only makes the outlaw justice more satisfying. Brett goes up against a nasty porn-killer who rapes, murders and (of course) is untouchable by the courts. Brett's an everyman protagonist. He's got no tough-guy past or special training, just a pilot with a gun and some luck. He's also not as insane as say, Mike Barry's Lone Wolf and questions his violent actions. It gives enough introspection to make it easy to root for him. It's pretty refreshing compared to the other heroes of Men's Adventure fiction, a lot which are, well, sorta just big 'ol assholes. There's plenty of smooth and fast action that builds to a nice high-energy "action-movie" finale, colorful characters, some Hollywood in-jokes, different ways to use ice cream and a lot of fun banter. 

The .357 Vigilante series is top-shelf 80's adventure fiction. There's a reason Goldberg is still a successful author and it's fantastic that these books are still in print now through Brash Books, including the never released 4th novel. And I'm not just saying all this because I've done a little writing work for Brash Books *cough* "A Bullet for a Bride" by Jon Messmann *cough* or anything, they are just good books.  

Monday, June 6, 2022

QUICK SHOTS: Hunter #2: Operation Alpha Death by Norman Conway

Coming out of the same publisher as the awesomely odd Kirby Carr Hitman books, the two-book Hunter series by Norman Conway really stands out amongst its competitors. I mean, what other books in the Men's Adventure genre feature clowns, no wait, Action Clowns, yeah, so prominently? None, because I suppose all other authors (including me) are cowards. Anywho, Canyon Books was an off-shoot of Major Books which was all probably some sort of Mafia-dodge. It seems to be the case with a lot of these small-time publishers. I could be wrong, but whatever Canyon put out some weird books, so Pulp-God bless them. 

I was at work and bookless on a slow day. Luckily my store *cough* Robot Roy's Toys and Books *cough* is well stocked in the stuff I like. Hell, my name's in the store name. So, after trying to get into a Death Merchant, I gave up and pulled "Hunter #2: Operation Alpha Death" off the shelf, not expecting much and promptly read it in whirlwind. I have both books in my personal collection, but only a copy of #2 to sell or I would have read #1 but it didn't prove to be a big deal. 

Super-badass lawyer-turned-mystic avenger-turned-carnival owner is taking a break from the carnie life in the mountains of a Ruritanian country when he spots a good-looking woman (naturally) and a kid running from an army patrol unit out for blood. He does that badass thing, saves them and then the ball is rolling. Hunter, you see was a lawyer who went up into the mountains in China (I think) to learn the mystic arts, like the Green Lama or Iron Fist to come back and do good for the world also to run the circus he inherited. So, Hunter and the folks he saved hold up in his rented borderland mountain villa and Hunter gets some visions of his Master-guy who tells him he's got a mission, if he should choose to accept it. Then ANOTHER circus with another mystic-avenger type leading it rolls up to help out. Whew.

Along the way there's nearly non-stop action and intrigue. Mountain escapes, ice bridges, commando raids, tough carnies, random psychic ability and ACTION CLOWNS! Seriously this a wild book just crammed full of tropes and tall tales. I loved it, I'm all in for this kind of funky action-stuff. Conway's tongue must have found his cheek, it's full of exuberance for pulp-fiction. Now, it's not going to change your life, but it's worth a couple of hours of reading it and at least it's different. Majorly different.

Now, who was Norman Conway? Was he Norman Conway? The Internet Speculative Fiction Database website credits Conway as Fleming Lee who ghost-wrote The Saint for Leslie Charteris, ISFDB is pretty good most of the time and The Spy Guys and Gals website echos this. But the Catalog of Copyright Entries for 1975 credit "Operation Alpha Death" as Norman Conway pseud. of Mark Rust. Though #1 "Operation Omega" is indeed credited to Fleming Lee in the Catalog of Copyright Entries for 1974. So, I guess Fleming Lee had some wild ideas, wrote book #1 only to not write #2. Enter Mark Rust. It seems odd that Canyon would hire someone else to write #2. I'm sure it didn't sell in The Executioner numbers. There's plenty of #1's in Men's Adventure fictions with no #2s. Ah, publishing mysteries. 

Whoever wrote it I liked it.