Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Slay-Ground by Richard Stark

Slay-Ground by Richard Stark
Berkley, Copyright 1971

The widely popular Parker books are the real deal. I have yet to find one that is not excellent and it's easy to see why this series has a worldwide following. Great writing, great character and well-written plots; this one has it all.

Parker of course is the anti-hero/thief created by Donald Westlake using the pseudo name of Richard Stark.

“Tommy was out of the building by now, and spreading the alarm. But that hardly mattered. It was a new ball game. Parker had a gun.”

Just finished "Slay-Ground" and though it is very good, when compared to others in the series it may be my least favorite. Starts off fast and violent like all the books; with Parker, Grofield and Lauffman pulling of an armored car robbery. There is a chase, they crash and Parker takes the cash and gets out fast. He ends up hiding out in an amusement park which is closed for the winter and that's were the rest of the story takes place. The local mob discovers he is hiding there and seals the place off, trapping him inside. The mob with the help of two corrupt cops, plan to kill Parker and take the loot. He is left to figure a way to outsmart them and escape with the cash.

The strength of the series is the Parker character and the violence he gets involved with in the novels. This one provides plenty of that. But being trapped in the amusement park for the whole novel, took him away from what I liked best about the character. Which is Parker interfacing with others, especially his crime partners. He seemed out of his element and that made the story a little awkward. The idea of being caged and alone was good, but not for the whole novel. Excellent in other ways though. Nice fast start and Parker figures some neat ways to eliminate his opponents one-by-one. He uses the tools on hand with the results always violent. Also, fairly good ending involving his escape. It is still a very enjoyable Parker novel as all of them are, but I found this one a bit off track when compared to the other Parker books.

But still one of the best crime series ever authored.

For more on the man see the website:

Monday, January 28, 2008

Death's Sweet Song by Clifton Adams

Death's Sweet Song by Clifton Adams
Gold Medal 483, Copyright 1955

Talk about a guy who gets caught up in it.

One the the best to come out of Gold Medal in the 50s. Clifton Adams mainly wrote Western novels, but he authored a classic crime fiction story here.

Joe Hooper owns a fled-bag motel in Oklahoma and is about to go under. Along pulls up Karl Sheldon, with his beautiful young wife Paula. Hooper is desperate for extra cash and Shelden, with sexy Paula's help, wheels him into a payroll robbery. Things go wrong, deadly wrong....

This may be the best crime fiction novel that Gold Medal published in the 50s. It's a story of how things can spiral out of control once you take that step-and you can't go back. Joe Hooper is a character the reader cares for, even as he goes bad. You feel the weight and burden he carries, which slowly drags him deeper and deeper until the end; where he decides his own fate. Adams builds on the relationship between Hopper and his father
in the story. Hooper struggles knowing he is disappointing his father through his actions and this compounds his inner torment. Hooper sweats it out throughout the novel and we are right there with him.

Strong characters, nicely paced and well told. Definitely noir-fiction. Robbery-Cheating-Murder-This one slams into you.

"The one word that kept hitting me was 'murder.' To me it didn't have the usual meaning. It was like thinking of cancer or TB. You get yourself branded with it and it kills you, only with murder you die in the electric chair instead of in the bed."

I read many Clifton Adams westerns from the 50s-70s, which I categorize as average. A couple were very good. (Gold Medal's "Desperado" and "The Most Dangerous Profession") But, the crime fiction was excellent and it's a shame he didn't write more. Another fine novel is Gold Medal's "Whom Gods Destroy" (1953)-the only other crime novel he wrote as Clifton Adams. He wrote "The Very Wicked"(1960) using the name Nick Hudson, and a couple of noir books as Jonathan Gant.
I guess he just loved the Westerns.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Fer-De-Lance Contract by Philip Atlee

The Fer-De-Lance Contract by Philip Atlee
Fawcett Gold Medal t2370, Copyright 1970

James Philip Atlee created the counterintelligence agent Joe Gall. Gall is a "nullifier" who is sent to hot spots by a special U.S. Agency to eradicate the situation. There are 22 books in the "Contract" series and they are well written. Atlee was not your typical espionage character-series writer, he was very creative and knew his craft. These were the days when numbered espionage novels were being pumped out by publishers and male readers had their favorites. Atlee's series held up and is above average.

The Fer-De Lance Contract takes place in the islands of the Caribbean. Gall has been sent down to stop a Black Militant group from seizing the communications and transportation facilities on the islands. Once they have these, the militants could easily overthrow all the Caribbean governments. He hops from island to island, meeting allies and foes, and finally taking down the leader. I can't say that all the Joe Gall novels were great, but this one was very good.

Joe Gall is not your ultra-tough spy. But, he is a man to have on your side and will mouth-it-up with his enemies and his ladies. He'll get slapped around some, but will always be ready to spring into action. Atlee throws his personal views about the era in these books, (he sure didn't like hippies) and some comments are borderline PC; but that is part of the appeal of the series. He did pen some interesting and enjoyable dialog.

"I was liking her more and more; her reactions were masculine, and I couldn't help wondering if the failed marriages meant she had a touch of butch. I hoped not, because it would have been a great waste..."

Or when Gall was in an action situation and dysentery hit, "My rectal sphincter throbbed again, all I needed, and I said 'nuts to you' and locked my bowels."

You can't help loving this stuff and this series provided it. Not perfect though. At times, Gall doesn't come off serious about his missions and in some books he just goes step-by-step until the end. Also, not much violent action or suspense, I felt it was more about adventure. But there is enough action, the plots are good, and Gall sure has his way with the ladies. Joe Gall always took you to exotic places and you were able to follow his career from book to book.

Here are the 22 novels:
The Green Wound Contract
The Silken Baroness Contract
The Paper Pistol Contact
The Death Bird Contract
The Irish Beauty Contract
The Star Ruby Contract
The Rockabye Contract
The Skeleton Coast Contract
The Ill Wind Contract
The Trembling Earth Contract
The Fer-De-Lance Contract
The Canadian Bomber Contract
The White Wolverine Contract
The Kiwi Contract
The Judah Lion Contract
The Spice Route Contract
The Shankill Road Contract
The Underground Cities Contract
The Kowloon Contract
The Black Venus Contract
The Makassar Strait Contract
The Last Domino Contract

Pagoda by James Atlee Philips

Joe Gall's first appearance came in Atlee's 1951 book "Pagoda" Before his
counterintelligence days, Gall is a washed-up American Flyer in Burma. This is more hardboiled and I might favor this character over the one in the series.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Day the Sun Came Out by Dorothy M. Johnson

The Day the Sun Came Out by Dorothy M. Johnson.
Short Short in Bar 4 Roundup of Best Western Stories.
Perma M3035, Copyright 1955.

I remember reading Dorothy M. Johnson's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" after seeing the movie a dozen times. Surprisingly different than the John Ford movie, but you could see how Hollywood would of used the story as a base for the screenplay. The story has a wonderful strong, passive western ending, which I believe wasn't again achieved until Elmore Leonard's "Valdez is Coming." Dorothy M. Johnson was an extraordinary talent, who didn't write western stories-she wrote western literature.

"The Day the Sun Came Out" is equally as good. The story is told through an eleven year old boy traveling with his Pa and two younger sisters. They have left their home for a more prosperous life towards the mountains. They are with little provisions and almost out of food. Along the way they come upon Mary, a young woman who wants to travel with them. The father can't feed another mouth, but reluctantly allows Mary to go along to look after the girls. Soon they are out of food and the father heads out alone to seek provisions. Mary and the boy wait with the girls for his return. Days pass and they are starving. Mary finds a large mushroom-fries it up, eats some of it, but doesn't share with the others. The boy hates her for not sharing, even after begging for the sake of the girls. He later learns that she was waiting to see if it was poisonous, risking herself to save the others. Mary is fine in the morning and the others eat. The last sentence of the story is "My stepmother was a wonderful woman."

Wonderfully told through the eyes of the boy. An enjoyable, heartwarming western frontier story. This short story is just one of the gems in this collection from 1955.
Included are:

Thirst by John Prescott
War Party by James Warner Bellah
The Killer Came to Call by Bennett Foster
The Bretnall Feud by Steve Frazee
The Makings
by Norman A. Fox
River Crossing by Lester Dent
The Man Who Talked Too Much by Jack Schaefer
Pride by Ernest Haycox
Mountain Medicine by A. B. Guthrie Jr.
Westward the Egg by R.W. Krepps & H.L. Gold
Manuel by William Heuman

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No Chance In Hell by Nick Quarry

No Chance In Hell by Nick Quarry.
Gold Medal 1033, Copyright 1960.

Marvin H. Albert used the Nick Quarry pseudonym for his six Jake Barrow private eye novels. We're not breaking new ground here, but all the novels have hair-trigger action and are excellent. This is one of the best from the series.

The novel starts off fast, with P.I. Jake Barrow swiftly entering a tenement building in NYC. He's looking for the daughter of a friend and ends up blasting a hole in a guy with his .357 Magnum. Then we flashback to learn that Barrow has to find and protect the girl from a ruthless killer. This killer has already shot two of his friends and Barrow wants to perform his own justice on the guy. He fights exhaustion and a couple of brutal beatings trying to located the girl and killer. There is an Mexican immigrant smuggling operation, a unbelievable escape scene in the NYC sewer system, and a wild cat- fight with Barrow letting the girls go at it. Barrow follows the trail to New Mexico, (the girl is Native American) ending in the desert buttes.

Jake Barrow is a hard driven P.I. -tough, but likable. A little weak in showing some compassion for victims, but he is willing to get knocked around and will bounce back fighting. A good storyline and an excellent ending. Thought it was over, but Barrow figured out more involving two murders.

Barrow uses the dialog of the era: "Dark fog engulfed my brain. My arms and legs turned to jelly. Hanks heaved me off him. I sprawled to the floor, as limp and uncoordinated as a dropped bunch of rubber bands."

I always thought Albert's Tony Rome character (written as Anthony Rome) had a lot of Jake Barrow in him. Just a different setting and social class, but same hardboiled style. I prefer the Jake Barrow stories.

Marvin Albert wrote many quality novels. His Gold Medal westerns are very good and I was hooked in the 70's on his adventure novels authored as
Ian MacAlister. Used a few pseudonyms and wrote many novels and film novelizations. Two Gold Medal paperbacks written under the name Albert Conroy are exceptional, "Nice Guys Finish Dead" and "Murder in Room 13."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Reminder -"Nightfall" on TCM

Nightfall (1957)
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Story by David Goodis

To all David Goodis fans:

Just a quick reminder that TCM will run Nightfall on Wednesday Jan. 23rd at 11:15 am EST. Based on the David Goodis story and directed by Jacques Tourneur- the man who gave us Out of the Past. The film is not shown often, I'll set my DVD recorder for this one.

The excellent Noir of the Week blog ran a fine review.- I recommend visiting this site. Steve-O has one of the best film-noir sites on the web.

Also on the 23rd: earlier at 08:00 am, TCM will be showing Murder, My Sweet .(1944) In my humble opinion, the best film adaption of any Raymond Chandler novel.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Hands of Geronimo by Lewis B. Patten

The Hands of Geronimo by Lewis B. Patten.
ACE 31620, Copyright 1971

Lewis Patten wrote western stories and wrote a lot of them. They are all fast reads and enjoyable. There is a lot of his work out there and can be picked up easily. When you want good 50s/60s/70s vintage westerns, Patten delivers. This is one of many favorites.

Renegade Apaches under Geronimo attack a stagecoach leaving Jonas Bailey’s woman for dead, killing her baby and kidnapping her young son. Bailey determined to get the boy back, tags along with the U.S. Cavalry to go after the renegades. The story is told through Jonas Bailey, who is just a ranch hand. He knows nothing about the ways of the Apaches or the U.S. Cavalry. During his journey, he learns about the hardships soldiers endure on a long campaign. Months and months go by taking them deep into the deserts and mountains of Mexico. They become weak, starving and ragged, with their clothes literally falling off them, yet continue with their pursuit. Bailey observes how the Apaches are even worse off, but they are able to live on less and continue their drive deep into Mexico. After a long painstaking hunt, they finally reach the renegades and Bailey makes an attempt to rescue the boy. The ending is very good, with plenty of action.

Lewis Patten uses historical events in the story. Geronimo’s escape to the mountain sanctuary is factual. He also takes the liberty to use other actual characters in the story, like Tom Horn and Mickey Free. He probably made the renegade Apaches more vicious then they really were, but Patten does show the struggles they encounter during this time period. Patten shows their strong ability to survive with very little and their pride to remain free.

Overall a well told western story. It shows a snapshot of life in a U.S. Cavalry campaign. Patten captures the interaction of officers, Apache scouts, Mexican Federales and civilians. But the best part is Jonas Bailey and the story he tells, as he learns and adapts through the hardships of the long journey to save the boy.

Someone told me that it is difficult to find a copy of this paperback. I don't know if that is true.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Switcheroo by Emmett McDowell

Switcheroo by Emmett McDowell.
ACE D-51, Copyright 1954

Was expecting a bit more out of this one. Turned out to be a disappointment. B-Grade stuff. Written in 1954, came off as something you might read out of a late 1930s pulp magazine.

Jaimie MacRae is the top P.I. at the Louisville branch of an investigation firm. He is assigned a missing persons case. The cops with all their resources can’t seem to make any progress on it. So a family member of the missing woman thinks one lone P.I. could do better. MacRae comes off bland, with no personality. You really don’t care for him. In the first chapter he just realizes, after a couple of years, that the office secretary is a good-looking woman. What kind of a detective is that! Anyway, the secretary becomes his love interest and tags along during the story. MacRae goes through the routine motions that have been covered in private eyes stories before. No surprises and you know how this one is going to end after a couple chapters.

“How’s business?” asked MacRae.
“Picking up.” It was a standard joke. MacRae didn’t bother to laugh, and she regarded him with considerable distaste.

McDowell must have enjoyed the early pulp magazine era, because this read liked one. Jaimie MacRae is even reading the mystery magazines in the story. Unfortunately, this was the 1950s. The P.I. story made giant leaps since those pulp days. After realizing what this was, I tried reading it like I would a pulp magazine story. It didn’t help. ACE Publications had a few below average novels during these years and this was one. The cover may have be the best part of this novel.

Note: The “flip” novel of this ACE double is “Over the Edge” by Lawrence Treat. After reading a few pages, this is a much better story.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mr. Majestyk by Elmore Leonard

Mr. Majestyk by Elmore Leonard
Dell paperback, Copyright 1974

Just a quick note.

Just saw the Bronson movie, last time was in the 70s. Thought back about when I read the paperback and dug it out. I remember after I first read it, I hunted for Leonard's westerns for some reason. (which I'm glad I did)

Bronson is "the real deal" in the film and he has some great lines, but the novel is extremely good. More depth with the Vince Majestyk character, better storyline and descriptive action against the organized crime
guys. It might of been my first Leonard book I read. Got me hooked.

Elmore Leonard's screenplay was exactly what Hollywood was looking for in the 1970s- action, wise comebacks by the good guy, girl meets guy, etc...,but his novelization packs a punch. I almost forgot about the novel. You paint a different character of Majestyk when you read the book. I love Bronson, but I like the book character much more.
(Actor Al Lettieri, as Frank Renda in the film, was exceptional.)

Last week completed Leonard's "Forty Lashes Less One" -Very good, with an excellent ending.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hell-Bent For Danger by Walt Grove

Hell-Bent For Danger by Walt Grove.
Gold Medal 134, Copyright 1950

One of the first Gold Medal books I remember reading. Finishing it, left an impression on me. There is something here that every man could relate to at one time. Walt Grove is able to make us feel it and understand it.

Robert Warren is in a rut. He is sick of his unexciting middle-class life
, his wife and kids, and tired of the rat race. Then Bobo, his old WWII squadron colonel, shows up at his office one day. He teases Warren about saving his life in the war and about his present comfortable life. Bobo is locating a plane for a shady shipping business and is looking for a co-pilot. He parades his girl Annie around to entice Warren. Warren itching for excitement takes some vacation to join up for a while-for the action and to keep Annie on the radar. Events don't go so well and they crash in northern Canada. The story turns to survival in the cold, rescue, and Warren's return home to face the consequences of his actions.

Surprisingly good. A story of a man's drive to escape and to pursue excitement through adventure. A drive so strong, that he is willing to throw away everything he has to reach it. In the end, Warren realizes that the past is past, and be content with what you have today. But, he is still haunted by a hunger that he knows can never be fulfilled.

Robert Warren could be the voice of all men who came home after fighting in war.

"They only want guys like me when there's a war. The rest of the time they keep us chained underground. But let a war come along, let them get in a position where somebody has to go out and die for them, then they call on us."

An excellent author. It's a shame that Walt Grove wrote only a handful of novels. His stories are mostly about pilots and ex-pilots. All novels are very good. Examples: "The Man Who Said No" published by Gold Medal, "Down" and "The Joy Boys" published by Dell. "Down" is a fantastic survival story. He also authored Gold Medal's "The Wings of Eagles," which is a tie-in for a John Ford movie.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Jostlers by Michael Zuroy

The Jostlers by Michael Zuroy.
Short Story in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, April 1962

Michael Zuroy wrote many fine short stories. His work has been published in AHMM, Trapped, Guilty, and others. One story that is exceptional is "The Jostlers"

Oliver Beemis is a 48 year old reserved man. He avoids contact with people when possible, particularly physical contact. For 20 years he has been shoved and pushed in the NYC subways going to work, and he has had it. Beemis plans to murder the next man who forces his way through him on the subway. He contemplates numerous ways to commit the crime and comes up with a way to poison the person using an altered mechanical pencil. The day is set and on the subway a victim is selected. Only problem is when Beemis is ready to strike, the victim is just out of reach. Beemis is forced to move from station to station, subway to subway to catch up with him. Unknowing to himself, he becomes aggressive and forces his way through others to reach the victim. Eventually he is close enough to strike the victim, when another passenger physically confronts Beemis for jostling him. The result of this encounter does not go well for Beemis.

Very suspenseful and fast paced. Zuroy creates a obsessive, calculating character in
Oliver Beemis. The reader is taken on the hunt with Beemis, as he stalks the victim with anxiety and panic. The storytelling has a claustrophobic atmosphere, which adds to the suspense.

One of the many quality stories in this edition of the Mike Shayne Magazine. Included are short stories: "The Mousy Man" by
Murray Leinster, and "Murderer's Role" by Talmage Powell. The novel in this issue is Frank Kane's "The Mourning After"-with PI Johnny Liddell. And the Mike Shayne story is excellent-"The Restless Redhead." I'm not sure who wrote this Shayne story but I really enjoyed it.

Pretty damn good crime fiction for just one issue!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Mucker by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Mucker by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
ACE Edition 1974 Copyright 1914

To many ERB aficionados, "The Mucker" is regarded to be Burroughs' best work. So, when I saw it in the used book store discount bin for a dime, I grabbed it. Could of been the best dime I spent.

Eighteen chapters of high adventure, which was originally published serially in 1914 by All-Story Cavalier Weekly. Each chapter a story in itself. Billy Byrne is a tough, slum-punk, hoodlum from Chicago. Far from the ERB hero type, he ends up kidnapped aboard a ship and fighting everything from pirates, samurai, headhunters, thugs, etc... As Byrne goes on his violent adventure, the good that is in him slowly evolves. He realizes the needs of others and uses his brawn to help them. We see Byrne's development through the girl (Barbara Harding) in the story, who first sees Byrne as vulgar and vile, and at the end- loyal, brave and honorable.

To me it wasn't the best ERB novel, my personal favorite is "Tarzan and the Leopard Men," but it is definitely up there. A fun read, that is packed with action and adventure as these serialized stories were intended to be. After almost 100 years, Edgar Rice Burroughs and "The Mucker" can still entertain readers today.

Note: Besides the fine story, the dime was worth it for the Frank Frazetta cover. There is a second book, "The Return of The Mucker" with another Frazetta cover. I'll keep a dime in my pocket for that one.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Last Kill by Charlie Wells

The Last Kill by Charlie Wells.
Signet 1225, Copyright 1955.

One of my favorite paperback covers, by one of the great cover artist-Robert Maguire. Between the covers is a good hardboiled P.I. story.

Steve Lee is a southern PI, working out of Memphis. The book opens with Lee identifying for the cops, a
murdered friend/stool pigeon of his in a muddy field. "...burn marks were made in the extremely tender flesh behind the knee. .45 slugs smashed through, obliterating his nose, so that now his face had that sunken-in look of a sun-bleached skull. I bent down, found more of those burn marks on his neck and chest. Sammie's last hours had been his roughest." Of course, since this was Lee's friend, he sets out to find who murdered him.

This is 50s hard-nosed crime fiction. And if you think you are reading something by Mickey Spillane, you might not be far off. Wells even states on the back cover that "Spillane decided I could write and worked with me for a whole year." Even the title sounds like something from Mickey. Steve Lee carries a .45 and uses it. Along the way he takes on the low-lifes, cases the joints, takes a sap to the skull, and does some good detective work. There are icepicks, torture, more killings and of course a couple of skirts-one blonde and one brunette.

Wells wrote in the first person, and uses the Spallane-ian dialog:

"She was dynamite and I wanted to light her fuse and see exactly what kind of explosion she'd make."

What Wells did well is create a gloomy, drab, dark atmosphere for the novel. Very noir-ish. The whole story takes place in rainy, cold weather and mostly at night. This compounds Steve Lee's cynical attitude, which
enhances the story. These are the type of P.I. crime stories that made the 50's paperback era popular. They were successful for the publishers and gobbled up by the public. Once in a while you have to read one of these for nostalgic reasons.-This one does it.

As for Charlie Wells, he was born in the south and wrote one other novel that I know of- "Let The Night Cry." With another Maguire Cover.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Murder is My Beat-Classic Film Noir Themes and Scenes

Murder is My Beat-Classic Film Noir Themes and Scenes.
Rhino CD

I dusted this off after not listen to it for quite a while. Glad I did, I forgot how much I enjoyed it. I thought it was a good idea by Rhino and Turner Classic Movies to team up and issue this. The music themes are exceptional, especially "Laura" and "The Letter." And what can you say about the scene dialog....classic!

Gen. Sternwood: "How do you like your brandy sir?"
Marlowe: "In a glass"
-The Big Sleep.

One of my favorites are the two scenes from "Crossfire." After hearing it again, I had to play the movie DVD again.
I would of liked to see more of this from TCM and Rhino. Maybe include some of the other classics that were not in this CD-there are so many. It probably had to with marketing-sales and costs. Anyhow, a good substitute if you can't pickup a hardboiled novel or see a film-noir movie. I've been listening to it as I am driving.

If you don't have a copy of the CD, you can listen to it for free.

Would of liked to have seen "Double Indemnity" included, (great dialog and music) guess you can't have them all. But you can always listen to the Lux Theater OTR version.

As for TCM-four good Robert Ryan movies are coming up:
Act Of Violence (1949) Fri. Jan. 11, 5:00 PM EST
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) Mon. Jan. 21, 10:45 AM EST
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) Thurs. Jan. 24, 2:00 PM EST
Crossfire (1947) Mon. Jan 28, 10:30 AM EST

Also, on Weds. Jan 23 @ 11:15 AM EST is Nightfall (1956)-from the David Goodis story.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Renegade Cop by Jonathan Craig

Renegade Cop by Jonathan Craig.
Berkley D2015, copyright 1954
(Original Title: "Alley Girl")

Jonathan Craig is best known for the Pete Selby-Stan Rayder detective series, published in the 50s by Gold Medal. Though most books from the series are good, Craig's best work came from two other novels. One being Gold Medal's " Come Night, Come Evil"-with an awesome cover, and the other is "Renegade Cop."

Detective-Lieutenant Steve Lambert is a tough cop. He also is a mean SOB. Right from the start, we find him waking up hungover and slapping around his girl. Lambert and his partner are investigating a murder and the prime suspect has been arrested, a young guy named Tommy Nolan. They go to Nolan's house to interview his
nice, loyal, loving wife. Lambert goes in talking tough to Mrs. Nolan and is immediately attracted to the "natural feminine aroma of her young body." He tells Mrs. Nolan that, he can work it out to help her husband if she provides him with certain "private services." The chapter ends with her going to the bedroom saying "Let's get it over with."

As you can tell, not a nice guy. Lambert is offered five thousand dollars to forget about a girl seen running away from the murder scene. Instead of solving the murder, he sets out to frame Nolan for it. Lambert continues to lead Mrs. Nolan on, and keep the "private services" coming. He even taunts Tommy Nolan about what his wife is doing, saying "when her husband's in a cell, he isn't a heck of a lot of good to her." As Lambert gets deeper and deeper into the corruption, events get more intense. Others
start to figure out what is going on, and- as for the fate of Steve Lambert.......

It's a fine hardboiled story and pretty raw for 1954.
As a reader, I wanted to tear apart Steve Lambert. Craig was good at getting to the readers emotions. Psychological interaction between characters, descriptive character thoughts, slick dialog and a damn good plot. Craig doesn't hold back on this one.

As for the original title "Alley Girl," that refers to the girl seen running away from the scene of the murder. Which develops into an unusual, perverted twist at the end.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Flight to Nowhere by Harry Whittington

Flight to Nowhere by Harry Whittington.
Short Story in Male Magazine, June 1953

Reading a Harry Whittington novel was hit or miss to me, I found some of his books excellent, ("The Devil Wears Wings" and "So Dead, My Love!") while others I struggled to get through. But oddly, I have never read a short story of his that I didn't enjoy. One of his best is "Flight to Nowhere."

Ex-WWII bomber Pilot Gilmore and his partner Charters just completed a bank heist and Gilmore killed two guards. They escape the Chicago area in a plane piloted by Gilmore heading to the Southwest. On the radio they find out they are "big news, bigger than the war in Korea and the A-Bomb tests going on in the desert." Engine trouble occurs, scaring Charter, but not Gilmore-everything is a thrill to him. The engine eventually dies, they glide to a desert landing and plan to walk out of there. Taking the loot, they start hiking out of the desert. Later they stumble onto a sign stating: U.S. Government Restricted Area. Los Alamos Proving Ground, and then they hear a huge roar above their heads.

Good strong plot and dynamic characters. Charters is unsure of himself and wishes he didn't get involved. Gilmore is the extreme-tough guy, looking for a thrill and on the edge. Insanely laughing, Gilmore ends the story saying "Run? We got what we wanted. Didn't we? We wanted to disappear completely from the face of the earth, Charters. With our money. And that's what we're going to do, kid. That's just what we're going to do!."

I hunt down Harry Whittington short stories.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Convertible Hearse by Bill Gault

The Convertible Hearse by Bill Gault.
Bantam 1927, copyright 1957.

To begin 2008, I thought I would start with one of my favorite authors, favorite P.I series and favorite books....

William Campbell Gault was one of the best. During the 50s, he created two popular P.I.s . -Brock Callahan and Joe Puma. Some readers favor one over the other, but I never met anyone that didn't like both. If you are in the mood for a tough, angry, Italian stud PI, that the ladies swoon over-you read a Puma novel. If you want the strong, understanding, caring type, with a steady girl and a real life-you read a Callahan story. I lean to the Brock 'The Rock" Callahan novels, but it's a close race.

The excellent first chapter of "The Convertible Hearse," starts off with Jan (Brock's girl) looking to trade in her car for a convertible Cadillac. Callahan is not keen on the idea. It really captures their up and down relationship that Gault makes prevalent throughout the series. Callahan discovers that the Cadillac is hot, and the owner of the dealership can't be found. The dealer's attractive ex-wife hires Callahan to locate him. Brock finds him-with a bullet hole in his head. Along the way we have a stolen car racket, organizations muscling in on each other, embezzlement, suspicious dames and more shootings. Callahan even gets to pull out his .38 in this one.

It's the third Brock Callahan novel and for me the best from the series.
The streets, alleys and estates of 50s Southern California are well depicted. The plot is excellent, with many "smelly" characters. Callahan's relationship with Jan is turbulent throughout the novel. There is more loneliness in him, but he keeps plugging along. Callahan followings the leads, takes his lumps and thinks his way through it-eventually beating the cops and figuring it out.
At the end, I had the wrong suspect.

A marvelous, versatile writer and a great P.I. series.

"Callahan. Nice work, for a private man." "Thank you, Sergeant," I said humbly, and went out to my own '54 Ford Victoria with the recapped tires, the burned-out muffler and clean, unmortgaged title. I felt kind of noble as I headed her back toward the office.

I have yet to read the Callahan books that came out in the 80s, after Gault stopped writing mysteries for 20 years. I believe I have the ones published by Raven House. Just another thing I have to do in 2008.