Friday, August 26, 2016

The Rhinemann Exchange by Robert Ludlum

(pb; 1974)

From the back cover:

"David Spaulding is the most feared and efficient Allied agent in wartime Europe. Expert, deadly and professional, he is also high on the Gestapo's 'most wanted' list. Now Spaulding has been selected by the Allied Command to transact an undercover deal in Argentina involving top secret Nazi scientific plans. The dealer is Erich Rhinemann, an exiled German Jew who is awaiting the end of the war with his millions in an impenetrable retreat near Buenos Aires. But there's something Spaulding doesn't know. The other side of the deal. And it involves the most bizarre, horrific intrigue of the Second World War."


Review:

Rhinemann, which runs from 1939 to 1944, is a slow-build conspiracy thriller. The Americans and the Germans each have something the other wants, so a secret, desperate deal is struck between the enemies, both of whom hope the other will not develop the resulting weapons first.

All the usual Ludlum elements are in place: the ticking-doomtime clock; the conflicted, betrayed and politically disavowed hero; the woman whom the hero cares about; the stretches of conspiratorial exposition, punctuated with explosive, brutal and realistic violence (often resulting in a high body count). This time out, though, Rhinemann's lead-in exposition runs longer than it does in other Ludlum works -- it is not a negative, but it is an adjustment on the reader's part; this lengthier lead-in is necessary up to a point, as there are quite a few characters who have to be introduced, whose personalities -- borne out by their actions -- impact the action when it booms on the page, bringing Rhinemann to a satisfactory, troubling and ultra-violent close.

It is worth reading. I would not own it, but I would recommend it, if it is borrowed from the library or if the book is bought for a few dollars.

#

The five-hour miniseries aired stateside on March 10, 1977. Burt Kennedy directed the one-episode miniseries, from a teleplay by Richard Collins.

Stephen Collins played David Spaulding. Rene Auberjonois played Dr. Eugene Lyons. Claude Akins played Walter Kendall. José Ferrer played Erich Rhinemann. Lauren Hutton played Leslie Jenner Hawkewood.

Vince Edwards played Gen. Swanson. Larry Hagman played Col. Edmund Pace. Werner Kemperer played Franz Altmuller.

John Huston played Ambassador Henderson Granville. Roddy McDowall played Bobby Ballard. Len Birman played Asher Feld.

Thayer David played an "Industrialist". John Hoyt played a "German scientist".


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dead Aim by Joe R. Lansdale

(hb; 2013: novella. Eleventh book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the back cover:

"The story begins simply enough when the two agree to provide protection for a woman harassed by her violent, soon-to-be-ex husband. But, as readers of this series will already know, events in the lives of Hap and Leonard rarely stay simple for long. When a protracted stakeout ends in a lethal shooting and a pair of moldering corpses turn up in an otherwise deserted trailer, the nature of this “routine” assignment changes dramatically. The ensuing investigation unearths a complex web of lies, duplicity, and hidden agendas that leads from an upscale Texas law firm to the world of organized crime. . . "


Review:

Dead Aim is a good, succinct read that reunites Hap Collins and Leonard Pine in a series-familiar and accelerated arc of humor, amity and violence. When the two brawlers are hired for a surveillance-and-forceful-persuasion job, inevitable corpses, complications and character-centered twists ensue. This is an entertaining, fast-burn work penned by a master-of-his-genres author, a work worth owning.

Followed by Honky Tonk Samurai.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Hondo by Louis L'Amour

(pb; 1953)

From the back cover:

"He was a big man, wide-shouldered, with the lean, hard-boned face of a desert rider. There was no softness in him. His toughness was ingrained and deep, without cruelty, yet quick, hard and dangerous. Whatever gentleness that might lie within him was guarded and deep.

"He had been sitting motionless and still on his buckskin for more than an hour. Patience was the price of survival, he knew that, and often the first to move was the first to die.

"His name was Hondo and he could almost smell the trouble coming. Somewhere holed up in an arroyo were renegade Apaches, waiting."


Review:

Hondo is a short, raw-write movie novelization (like Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey), entertaining with flashes of dialogue-framed information about the Old West, and characters whose close-to-the-surface emotions impel this excellent, truly-a-classic Western: landmark and worth owning, this.

#

The film was released stateside on April 5, 1954. The movie is based on L'Amour's story "The Gift of Cochise", not the aforementioned novel, which is a novelization of the film.

Hondo was directed by John Farrow, from James Edward Grant's screenplay.

John Wayne played Hondo Lane. Geraldine Page played Angie Lowe. Lee Aaker played Johnny Lowe.

Ward Bond played Buffalo Baker. Michael Pate played Vittorio - Chiracahua Apache Chief. James Arness played Lennie - Army Indian Scout.

Leo Gordon played Ed Lowe. Tom Irish played Lt. McKay. Rodolfo Acosta played Silva.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Keepers of Éire by Jordan Bernal

(oversized pb; 2013: first book in the Keepers series)

From the back cover:

"The Keepers of Eire is a modern-day fantasy. For centuries dragons have protected Ireland, their existence kept secret with the help of earth magic and their human riders. Now that secret is threatened as the bodies of four riders are found at sacred Irish sites. Christian Riley, a man with secrets of his own, is haunted by vivid dreams of each slaying. An American searching for her Irish heritage and the meaning of an inherited dragon ring, Devan Fraser, stumbles into the mystery of the murders. Christian's only memento from the mother who gave him up for adoption is a dragon pendant that matches Devan's ring. Together they discover their destinies, the truth of dragons, and the depth of honor and loyalty to which people will go to protect the ones they love."


Review:

Éire is an entertaining, plot-swift, cinematic, romantic  and dragon-centric urban fantasy that works on all levels. There are not a lot of surprises -- if any -- in this well-written book, one that is worth owning if you are an adult fan of the fantasy genre.

Followed by The Keepers of Caledonia (which is yet to be completed and published).

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Hyenas by Joe R. Lansdale

(2011: novella. Tenth book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the back cover:

". . . The story begins with a barroom brawl that is both brutal and oddly comic. The ensuing drama encompasses abduction, betrayal, robbery, and murder, ending with a lethal confrontation in an East Texas pasture. Along the way, readers are treated to moments of raucous, casually profane humor and to scenes of vivid, crisply described violence, all related in that unmistakable Lansdale voice."


Review:

Hyenas is a good, succinct read that brings Hap Collins and Leonard Pine back together in a familiar but sped-up arc of violence and revenge. When a former bar fight opponent (Kelly Smith) hires them to get his dumbass brother (Donnie) away from criminals, it of course leads to the usual and entertaining reprisals many readers have come to expect from this series.

An additional story, "The Boy Who Became Invisible", is told from a first-person point of view by Hap, looking back on an unfortunate childhood friend (Jesse) whose hard life leads to some brutal choices. The interaction between Hap and Jesse provide an effective heart-punch to this timely, you-can-guess-where-this-is-going short story.

Followed by Dead Aim.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett

(pb; 1955)

From the back cover:

"Two generations after destruction rained down upon America's cities, the population is scattered into small towns. Cities are forbidden by law, as is scientific research.

"Rumors abound of a secret place known as 'Bartorstown', where science is untrammelled by interference or hatred. A youth named Len Colter, developing an unhealthy thirst for knowledge exacerbated by the discovery of a forbidden radio, sets out on a long road. During this journey, he will change his mind many times before determining the correct direction for himself, and the benighted America in which he lives."



Review:

Tomorrow is a mostly excellent, intriguing and sometimes surprising (in a good way) science fiction novel that illustrates, in fast-moving and non-flashy fashion, the struggle between religion and science. Brackett's writing is effective in showing the benefits and drawbacks of both sides of the spectrum. While its ending feels somewhat lackluster, it is solid and logical, a minor nit for this otherwise superb book.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Devil Red by Joe R. Lansdale

(hb; 2011: ninth book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the inside flap:

"Hap Collins and Leonard Pine return in a red-hot, mayhem-fueled thriller to face a vampire cult, the Dixie Mafia, and the deadliest assassin they’ve ever encountered—Devil Red.

"When their friend Marvin asks Hap and Leonard to look into a cold-case double homicide, they’re more than happy to play private investigators: they like trouble, and they especially like getting paid to find it. It turns out that both of the victims were set to inherit serious money, and one of them ran with a vampire cult. The more closely Hap and Leonard look over the crime-scene photos, the more they see, including the image of a red devil’s head painted on a tree. A little research turns up a slew of murders with that same fiendish signature. And if that’s not enough, Leonard has taken to wearing a deerstalker cap . . . Will this be the case that finally sends Hap over the edge?"



Review:

Devil Red is another hard-to-set-down, superb book in the Hap and Leonard series, full of lively, character-veracious banter, romance and sex, vicious bad guys, action and gore. Like previous Hap novels, Devil 's action, banter and characters' decisions stems from the events and characters from the book before it (in this case, Vanilla Ride), with all the elements that make Lansdale's books so entertaining: raw violence, humor, sex and romance, friendship, with a few plot twists thrown into its successful blend. The plot corkscrews are not always unexpected, but they work -- again, Lansdale's work is worth purchasing.

Followed by Hyenas.