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.

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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.

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."



Review:

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."


Review:

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.