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?"


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.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Village of the Mermaids by Carlton Mellick III

(pb; 2013: novella)

From the back cover:

"MERMAID [mur-meyd] "noun" -- a rare species of fish evolved to resemble the appearance of a woman in order to attract male human prey. Mermaids are protected by the government under the Endangered Species Act, which means you aren't able to kill them even in self-defense. This is especially problematic if you happen to live in the isolated fishing village of Siren Cove, where there exists a healthy population of mermaids in the surrounding waters that view you as the main source of protein in their diet.

"The only thing standing between you and the ravenous sea women is the equally-dangerous supply of human livestock known as Food People. Normally, these "feeder humans" are enough to keep the mermaid population happy and well-fed. But in Siren Cove, the mermaids are avoiding the human livestock and have returned to hunting the frightened local fishermen. It is up to Doctor Black, an eccentric representative of the Food People Corporation, to investigate the matter and hopefully find a way to correct the mermaids' new eating patterns before the remaining villagers end up as fish food."

"Like a Lovecraftian version of David Lynch's Twin Peaks, Village of the Mermaids is a dystopian mystery for the bizarro fiction fan. It proves, once again, how cult author Carlton Mellick III brings the weird to a whole new level."


Short (111 pages), waste-no-words, mysterious, atmospheric, creepy, full of odd humor, twists, turns and interesting characters, this novella lives up to its bizarro classification, one of the best I have read in the genre, and one of the best I have read this year. Village is worth owning.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Beast in the Shadows by Edogawa Rampo

(pb; 1928. Translated from Japanese into English by Ian Hughes. "Introduction" by Mark Schreiber.)

From the back cover:

"A mystery writer vows to protect the woman he secretly loves from the Beast in the Shadows, but disaster strikes when he turns detective himself."


Hard to set down, this fascinating, unsettling mystery is a superb book, worth owning. Aside from a brief, chatty opening in the first chapter, this is a mostly concise exploration of revenge and other twisted subconscious motives and actions of its characters. Its denouement, along with the identity of Beast's main villain, is not shocking, but it is still a memorable and get-under-your-skin read.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Vanilla Ride by Joe R. Lansdale

(2009: eighth book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the back cover:

"In this Texas-sized thriller, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine—best friends, freelance troublemakers, and tough guys with good intentions—find themselves in the crosshairs of the Dixie Mafia.

"Hap is an East Texas smart mouth with a weakness for southern women. Leonard is a gay, black veteran pining for a lost love. They’re not the makings of your typical dynamic duo, but never underestimate the power of a shared affinity for stirring up trouble and causing mayhem. When an old friend asks Leonard to rescue his daughter from an abusive, no-good drug dealer, he gladly agrees and, of course, invites Hap along for the fun. Even though the dealer may be lowly, he is on the bottom rung of the Dixie Mafia, and when Hap and Leonard come calling, the Mafia feels a little payback is in order. Cars crash, shotguns blast, and people die, but Hap and Leonard come out on top. Unfortunately for them, now they’re facing not only jail time but also the legendary—and lethal—Vanilla Ride, who is still out to claim the price on their heads."


Vanilla is one of my favorite books in Lansdale's Hap and Leonard series. It is a heady word brew of familiar, feel-like-worthwhile-family characters (Hap, Leonard, Brett, Marvin, Jim Bob) and new faces (Tonto, Vanilla Ride), as well its snappy semi-philosophical dialogue, cinematic slam-bang action, heartfelt romance and sex. This novel -- this series -- is the embodiment of superior pulp writing and it is worth purchasing.

Followed by Devil Red.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Winter Wake by Rick Hautala

(pb;  1989)

From the back cover:

"When John Carlson moves with his wife and stepdaughter, Brianna, to his hometown, Brianna makes friends with mysterious Audrey, and strange things begin to happen. Then John realizes Audrey is the high school girlfriend he murdered many years before--the girlfriend who has returned for blood."


Winter Wake is an entertaining, slow-build horror read. Hautala's eye for detail, relatable characters and steady pacing elevates this small town-island tale above other novels of this subgenre. There are few, if any, surprises in Wake but it is a fun-ride novel, one worth owning if you are a fan of 'horror in a small town' works.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Demon Seed by Dean Koontz

(pb; 1977)

From the back cover:

"Susan Harris lived in self-imposed seclusion, in a mansion featuring numerous automated systems controlled by a state-of-the-art computer. Every comfort was provided, and in this often unsafe world of ours, her security was absolute.

"But now her security system has been breached, her sanctuary from the outside world violated by an insidious artificial intelligence, which has taken control of her house. In the privacy of her own home, and against her will, Susan will experience an inconceivable act of terror. She will become the object of the ultimate computer's consuming obsession: to learn everything there is to know about the flesh."


Demon Seed is a focused and entertaining read that employs multiple points of view to tells its eroticized, computer-centric and often creepy story. It is worth owning, if you pick it up for a few bucks, one of Koontz's better books.


The resulting film was released on September 30, 1977. Donald Cammell directed it, from a screenplay by Robert Jaffe.

Julie Christie played Susan Harris. Fritz Weaver played Alex Harris. Gerrit Graham played Walter Gabler. Lisa Lu played Soong Yen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

(hb: 2016: nonfiction/science)

From the inside flap:

"Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier's most challenging adversaries—panic, exhaustion, heat, noise—and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them. Mary Roach dodges hostile fire with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team as part of a study on hearing loss and survivability in combat. She visits the fashion design studio of U.S. Army Natick Labs and learns why a zipper is a problem for a sniper. She visits a repurposed movie studio where amputee actors help prepare Marine Corps medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds. At Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, in east Africa, we learn how diarrhea can be a threat to national security. Roach samples caffeinated meat, sniffs an archival sample of a World War II stink bomb, and stays up all night with the crew tending the missiles on the nuclear submarine USS Tennessee. She answers questions not found in any other book on the military: Why is DARPA interested in ducks? How is a wedding gown like a bomb suit? Why are shrimp more dangerous to sailors than sharks? Take a tour of duty with Roach, and you’ll never see our nation’s defenders in the same way again."


In Grunt, Roach explores the scientific and non-combative side of military life. Like her other books, this is fun, informative and wry, a read that bridges the gap between those readers seriously interested (or otherwise invested) in the book's subjects and those who are mildly curious about said subjects -- or merely reading it because Roach wrote it. This is worth checking out from the library for the mildly curious and worth owning for those who are fascinated by the subjects at hand.