Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Khufra Run by James Graham (Jack Higgins)

The Khufra Run by James Graham (Jack Higgins)
MacMillan Hardcover
Copyright 1972

Published in 1972, "The Khufra Run" is another adrenalin-filled adventure that was written under the author's pseudonym of James Graham. In his early writing days, Jack Higgins took the reader to different locations and in this one we start in Ibiza, Spain. Ex-'Nam pilot Jack Nelson runs a charter floatplane service there and he has been known to take a job or two on the illegal side when cash is low. Along with Harry Turk, an American ex-Marine that Nelson befriended when both were captured by the Viet Cong, they stumble on an opportunity to retrieve a loot of sunken treasure in the Khufra Marshes. But of course it won't be easy to accomplish. An abstruse nun, who Nelson saves from being raped, only knows the exact location of the treasure. A violent group is after her for the secret and her life is constantly in jeopardy. As the nun gains knowledge that Nelson and Turk have commando skills that can even the score against a formidable enemy, she allows both men to protect her and help recover the treasure for a share. As in most Higgins novels the action starts quick and never lets up. Nelson's plane is destroyed, there are more attempted attacks to stop them, and with a small cache of weapons the race is on to the Khufra Marshes.

Higgins is a master at narration. The trek that Nelson, Turk and the nun take to the marshes is an intense ride for the reader, all captured in a group of explosive chapters. Throw in an aging Hollywood starlet who may have a stake in the outcome, illegal drugs, bad weather in a hostile environment, explosions and constant dodging of automatic gunfire- and "The Khufra Run" becomes one of the best novels that I have read by Jack Higgins.

Jack Higgins wrote four novels under the name of James Graham. All take you on a deadly adventure that is packed with action between pages of a darn good plotted story:

A Game for Heroes (1970)
The Wrath of God (1971)
The Khufra Run (1972)
The Run to Morning (1974)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Man From Limbo by John D. MacDonald

The Man From Limbo By John D. MacDonald
Short Story, Dime Detective Magazine
April 1953

Like many of the successful post-war American mystery novelists, John D. MacDonald got his start writing for the popular pulp magazines. There are some who believe here is where you'll find his best work, and I might agree with that statement. Try reading stories like "Finders Killers" or "In a Small Motel," and you'll find characters and plots with smothering situations that explode from the pages. "The Man From Limbo" appeared in the Apr. 1953 issue of Dime Detective. It may not be the best MacDonald short story, but it sure is a fascinating one. The story starts with shell-shocked ex-GI Dolph Regan, struggling within his inner darkness and fears, being constantly tormented by events from the war. He takes on a job as a traveling salesman, which lands him in a town where he finds his old platoon sergeant is running for mayor. Before we know it, Regan is on the run for a murder rap and his war buddy is out to kill him. All this has to do with the future control of corruption in the town and an amnesiac mystery from the past. Along the way he bumps into a couple of dames, one is out to help him and the other is there to harm him. MacDonald creates a hell of a setting and scraps it all together into a quick ending.

I do have favorite novels by John D. MacDonald, they are the non-Travis McGee novels. And it was through the pounding on that typewriter, writing for the pulps, that rooted those novels and made them extraordinary.

"The Man From Limbo" can also be found in the 1992 crime anthology containing 23 Dime Detective Magazine stories titled, HARD-BOILED DETECTIVES.