Thursday, October 19, 2017

Neon Golgotha by Michael Faun

(eBook/Print; 2017: novelette)

From the back cover

"Welcome to Hotel Neon Golgotha! A first-of-its kind “home away from home!” In these five freestanding life-stories, each taking place in New York City, we get to meet Laurent, Joel, Flynn, Amanda, & Barbara, whose deplorable circumstances has driven them to a hotel named Neon Golgotha. Each room in the hotel is perfectly designed for its guest's eccentric traits, and is sure to satisfy their outlandish inclinations... Murder! Incest! Sexual sadism! Mutilation! Lavish in decor, Hotel Neon Golgotha offers spectacular live shows (though not for the faint of heart!), tailor-made personal experience packages, and much more. Make your overnight stay perfect – from the welcome Champagne flute, to a visit to our Roman spa, and why not a trip down memory lane?"


Review

Neon is an entertaining, vivid sex-, violence- and drug-fueled short work. This hotel-hub novella is not for the squeamish. Its forty-eight pages, in heady fashion, detail the horrific deaths and subsequent Hells of various characters as they arrive at the Hotel Neon Golgotha. Readers who are expecting a typical characters-meet-up-and-figure-a-way-out trope should be warned that Faun does not incorporate that storyline here. It is Neon Golgotha that brings things together, not its guests.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbø

(2003, 2005: fifth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series.Translated from the Norwegian by Don Barlett.)

From the inside flap

"A young woman is murdered in her Oslo flat. One finger has been severed from her left hand, and behind her eyelid is secreted a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star - a pentagram, the devil's star.

"Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with his long-time adversary Tom Waaler and initially wants no part in it. But Harry is already on notice to quit the force and is left with little alternative but to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor and get to work.

"A wave of similar murders is on the horizon. An emerging pattern suggests that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands, and the five-pointed devil's star is key to solving the riddle."



Review

WARNING: Possible plot spoilers in this review.

Like Nemesis, its direct prequel, Star is an excellent, reader-hooking and suspenseful novel. Star has less tale twists than Nemesis, but that does not detract from its entertainment value. This plot pretzel reduction leaves more room for the resolution of an ongoing subplot about Hole’s investigative crusade against his corrupt professional rival (Tom Waaler), an investigation sparked after Waaler’s murder of Ellen Gjelten, Hole’s partner (in The Redbreast).

T
his, like other books in the series, is worth owning. Followed by The Redeemer.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Vic Valentine: International Man of Misery by Will Viharo

(hb; 2017: seventh book in the Vic Valentine series. Published by Thrillville Press.)

From the back cover

"Vic Valentine, Private Eye is back in business -- as a dog walker. A really, really bad one. While drunk in a dive bar one rainy Seattle night, one of his canine clients tied up outside goes missing. The twisted trail leads him from Vancouer to Minneapolis to Houston to Mexico City and then all the way down to Costa Rica. Along the way he encounters nefarious businessmen, dangerous drug dealers, tropical cocktails, flesh-eating zombies, voracious vampire women, and a luscious Latina bombshell that may or may not turn out to be the long lost love of his life."


Review

International is a dark, delightful pulp novel. In it, Viharo weaves wild elements and sub-genres into an addictive, fleet-footed and hallucinogenic read: sexploitation, P.I. intrigue, conspiracies, zombies, dog-centered writing, vampires, divine(?) intervention (hello, Ivar!) and – as promised – international travel. Of course, all of this is punctuated with Viharo’s recurring characters, quippy-sometimes-silly humor, and an awareness of life’s underlying melancholy. 

What makes International one of my favorite Viharo books is how, over the course of seven books, he has evolved Vic’s character by making him wiser, even as Vic continues to embrace his inner freak-up.

As is often the case with Viharo’s works, this a heady brew, excellent and timely work, one worth owning. If you have not read earlier Vic Valentine novels, International works as an entertaining, stand-alone read.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Marvel Essential: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 3 by "Stan Lee, John Romita, Sam Rosen & Friends"

(pb; 1967, 1968, 1969 and 2001: Collects The Amazing Spider-Man #44-68)

From the back cover

"The popular reprinting of Spider-Man's earliest adventures continues with classic stories by one of the fondest remembered creative teams to ever tackle Marvel's wacky webhead.All of Spidey's "usual suspects" are here in this gargantuan 528-page black and white volume: the sinister Vulture, the maniacal Doctor Octopus, the enigmatic Mysterio and the senses-shattering Shocker, just to name a few. Perhaps most significant of all is the debut of the Kingpin, an ominous figure who claims to be a "humble importer of spices", but in reality pulls all the strings of New York City's organized crime syndicates. One of the most chilling villains in all of the Marvel mythos, the Kingpin's first stories are recounted here.

"The Marvel Essential line of trade paperbacks are extremely popular among consumers. These inexpensive volumes give readers a chance to catch up on years of comic stories and history without spending a fortune tracking down hard to find back issues."


Review

This comic book omnibus brings together issues 44-68 of The Amazing Spider-Man. As with Volume2, the artwork is excellent and realistic (particularly the figure work), and the action is visually exciting and fun. Thankfully, there is less melodrama with Peter Parker and Aunt May, an element that marred Volume 2, and the comic’s good-natured chatty narrative and dialogue is still in place.

Volume 3 is worth owning for its visual virtues and entertaining banter, if you can deal with a little unnecessary personal drama. Followed by Marvel Essential: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 4.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Nemesis by Jo Nesbø

(hb; 2002, 2008: fourth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series.Translated from the Norwegian by Don Barlett.)

From the inside flap

"How do you catch a killer when you're the number one suspect?

"A man is caught on CCTV, shooting dead a cashier at a bank. Detective Harry Hole begins his investigation, but after dinner with an old flame wakes up with no memory of the past 12 hours. Then the girl is found dead in mysterious circumstances and he beings to receive threatening emails: is someone trying to frame him for her death?

"As Harry fights to clear his name, the bank robberies continue with unparalleled savagery."


Review

Nemesis is an excellent, addictive, suspenseful and plot twisty read. Some of its multilayered tension is heightened by an unresolved, cliff-hangerish storyline from the previous book, The Redbreast (whose writing is less streamlined than Nemesis’s). This is one of the better entries in the Inspector Harry Hole series, one worth owning. Followed by The Devil’s Star.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema by Eddie Muller

(pb; 2014: nonfiction)

From the back cover

"Gun Crazy caused barely a ripple in public consciousness when it hit movie screens in 1950. Yet over time it would prove to be the most innovative and provocative motion picture of its era—a simple genre film, but packed with so much cinematic bravura and timeless symbolism, its power has spanned decades, crossed oceans, and influenced countless filmmakers.

"It's no stretch to declare Gun Crazy one of the essential American films—as well as a cornerstone of the auteur theory that's dominated cinema discourse since the 1960s. Its larger-than-life reputation among cinephiles has mainly been based on the recollections—also larger-than-life—of its director, Joseph H. Lewis, whose intriguing yet surprisingly short career never again reached the level of this bona-fide classic.

"In this thoroughly researched and vividly told tale, Eddie Muller explodes many of the entrenched myths about Gun Crazy—and the auteur theory itself. He subverts the film's legend with the fascinating story of its actual creation, a six-year struggle that involved an array of exceptional collaborators.

"Packed with never-before-seen ephemera —original script pages (some never filmed), production notes, on-set photos—Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema is available for sale online exclusively from Black Pool Productions."


Review

Gun is an informative, entertaining and hard-to-set-down read about the story, different personalities and behind-the-scenes events that brought about the realization of the 1950 film Gun Crazy, originally titled Deadly is the Female. This film would influence the tone and structure of later films, perhaps most famously, Bonnie and Clyde (1967). This is an excellent, glossy-paged book with lots of behind-the-scene photos and addictive text, penned by an expert in the noir genre.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz

(hb; 2017: fifth novel in the Millennium series. Translated from the Swedish by George Goulding.)

From the inside flap

"Lisbeth Salander is an unstoppable force: Sentenced to two months in Flodberga women's prison for saving a young boy's life by any means necessary, Salander refuses to say anything in her own defence. She has more important things on her mind.

"Mikael Blomkvist makes the long trip to visit every week - and receives a lead to follow for his pains. For him, it looks to be an important expose for Millennium. For her, it could unlock the facts of her childhood.

"Even from a corrupt prison system run largely by the inmates, Salander will stand up for what she believes in, whatever the cost. And she will seek the truth that is somehow connected with her childhood memory, of a woman with a blazing birthmark on her neck - that looked as if it had been burned by a dragon's fire."



Review

Takes is an excellent, entertaining addition to the Millennium series that expands the themes, characters, action, conspiracies and cliffhanger-ish feel of its predecessor books. Of course, everything ties – directly or indirectly – to Lisbeth Salander’s past, a thrilling read that is worth owning, one that promises a sequel. If you are new to the series and interested in reading Takes, I would suggest reading its prequel, The Girl in the Spider's Web, otherwise you might not enjoy it as much.