Monday, December 05, 2016

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing by Elmore Leonard

(hb; 2001, 2007: nonfiction. Illustrated by Joe Ciardiello.)

From the inside flap:

"For aspiring writers and lovers of the written word, this concise guide breaks down the writing process with simplicity and clarity. From adjectives and exclamation points to dialect and hoopetedoodle, Elmore Leonard explains what to avoid, what to aspire to, and what to do when it sounds like 'writing' (rewrite)."


This short, lots-of-white-space nonfiction book about writing was originally published as an article in the New York Times (“Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle”), so if you can get your hands on that, do so.

If you cannot access it that way, purchase this indispensable, direct and fast read that all writers should check out, if not own. Leonard was a master writer, and his rules – which are flexible, depending on the situation – are the key to more effective published works. This is one of my all-time favorite books about being a better author.)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura

(hb; 2010, 2013. Translation from Japanese by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates.)

From the inside flap:

"When Fumihiro Kuki is eleven years old, his elderly, enigmatic father calls him into his study for a meeting. "I created you to be a cancer on the world," his father tells him. It is a tradition in their wealthy family: a patriarch, when reaching the end of his life, will beget one last child to cause misery in a world that cannot be controlled or saved. From this point on, Fumihiro will be specially educated to learn to create as much destruction and unhappiness in the world around him as a single person can. Between his education in hedonism and his family's resources, Fumihiro's life is one without repercussions. Every door is open to him, for he need obey no laws and may live out any fantasy he might have, no matter how many people are hurt in the process. But as his education progresses, Fumihiro begins to question his father's mandate, and starts to resist."


Evil is a rare thing: it is a perfect novel that works on all levels – emotional, plotwise, character-wise and action-wise. I would not change one word of this original, disturbing and intense work, whose ties to real world history serve to imbue Evil with a resonance it might otherwise lack. This, of course, is worth owning, an entertaining, provocative and landmark neo-pulp book.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Bat by Jo Nesbø

(pb; 1997, 2012: first book in the Inspector Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.)

From the back cover:

"Before Harry took on the neo-Nazi gangs of Oslo, before he met Rakel, before The Snowman tried to take everything he held dear, he went to Australia. Harry Hole is sent to Sydney to investigate the murder of Inger Holter, a young Norwegian girl, who was working in a bar. Initially sidelined as an outsider, Harry becomes central to the Australian police investigation when they start to notice a number of unsolved rape and murder cases around the country. The victims were usually young blondes. Inger had a number of admirers, each with his own share of secrets, but there is no obvious suspect, and the pattern of the other crimes seems impossible to crack. Then a circus performer is brutally murdered followed by yet another young woman. Harry is in a race against time to stop highly intelligent killer, who is bent on total destruction."


Bat is a flawed but worthwhile read. It is flawed because its plot feels scattershot at times, and, as a result, the book runs longer than it should, anywhere between twenty-five and fifty pages. What saves this otherwise so-so police procedural is its intriguing – for some exotic – environs [Australia], some of its interesting characters, its use of Aboriginal folklore, as well as other Australian cultural elements. Bat is not worth owning if purchased at full price but it is worth reading if bought used or borrowed from your local library.

Followed by Cockroaches.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fast Women and Neon Lights: Eighties-Inspired Neon Noir edited by Michael Poole

(2016 eBook: crime fiction story anthology. "Foreword" by Will Viharo.)

Overal review:

Good anthology, all of the thirteen stories had something to keep my attention, even the works that did not make me go wow (in a positive way). This is a collection worth owning.

Standout stories:

1.) "Valley Girl" -- Kat Richardson: The interrogation of a murderous, spoiled girl (Kim) goes bad for her lawyer (Marberg), and the cop (Willet) who is interrogating her. Good read, nice end-twists.

2.)  "Big Shots" -- S.W. Lauden: Fun, fast and darkly funny tale about Gary, a heroin-hooked, convenience store-robbing manager of an up and coming punk band.

3.)  "Widowman" -- Matthew J. Hockey: In Tokyo, a cycle of corruption, revenge and treachery plays itself out in a fast-paced and bloody way.

4.)  "Meantime" -- Will Viharo: Miami Vice, Scarface, lust, drugs and Elvis in a clever, chock-full-o'-quotables blender. Excellent, fun read -- if filmed in the Eighties it would have been one of the best Vice episodes ever. One of my favorite stories in this collection.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Crimson Labyrinth by Yusuke Kishi

(pb; 1999, 2006. Translated from Japanese by Masami Isetani and Camellia Nieh.)

From the back cover:

"When an unemployed former math major wakes up one day, he wonders if he's somehow ended up on the red planet. The good-looking young woman with aid-she says her name is Ai and that she draws erotic comics for a living-seems to have no clue either as to their whereabouts. Their only leads are cryptic instructions beamed to a portable device. Has the game begun?

"There is no reset button, no saving and no continue-make the wrong move and it's really GAME OVER. In the cruel world of THE MARS LABYRINTH, mercy and compassion are only for the weak or the very, very strong. The stakes are nothing less than your life-and apparently a lot of money."


Crimson is an excellent, clever, mood-effective thriller. Its plot, action and twists are not always unexpected, but they are well-executed and the characters are well-sketched out. It is fast-paced, hard to set down and worth owning.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pendulum by A.E. van Vogt

(pb; 1978: science fiction story anthology)

Overall review:

Pendulum is a good, fun story collection, one worth owning. Between the solid writing, the intriguing concepts, the humor and everything else within them, these stories are entertaining and provocative.


1.)  "Pendulum": An oceanic endeavor to regenerate new marine life  revives mysterious beings whose presence ushers in a new age of language and time-travel (particularly for a man, John Hudman). This is a mostly fun -- if overlong -- tale.

2.)  "The Male Condition": On an anger- and crime-free planet, a psychological study on rape is scheduled for re-enactment. Of course, complications ensue. This is a biting, satirical, non-explicit and non-violent work, embodied with psychological terms and quirky aliens (Tinkers). Fun, dark-themed and sometimes silly stuff, this.

3.)  "Living with Jane": A scientist (Dan), trying to fend off an android societal takeover, discovers that his family has been taken hostage. Plot- and character-twisty, this is a provocative and entertaining tale.

4.)  "The First Rull": Excellent thriller about an alien (the Rull) whose plot to steal a scientific discovery from a human college campus encounters disruptive complications. This is one of my favorite stories in this collection.

5.)  "Footprint Farm": A farm, the site of an ancient meteorite crash, may prove to be the salvation -- or doom -- of a family on the brink of falling apart. Good story, long enough to be interesting, short enough to not overstay its welcome. 

6.)  "The Non-Aristotelian Detective": An unusual sleuth figures out a murder case. Fun story.

7.)  "The Human Operators" (written in collaboration with Harlan Ellison): Mostly good piece about a man whose entire existence revolves around spaceship maintenance -- a Ship that is his master. The concept and execution of the work is solid, though it could have been considerably shorter.

8.)  "The Launch of Apollo XVII": A science fiction writer, at the site of a NASA rocket launch, interviews other spectators from different social strati. This humorous, loose work is political, satirical and offbeat, different than the other stories in this collection. Another fun offering, this.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Guns of the Timberlands by Louis L'Amour

(pb; 1955)

From the back cover:

"Clay Bell was a onetime drifter who'd grown weary of long trails and settled on the sweetest land he'd ever seen. For six years he fought Indians, rustlers and the wilderness itself to make the B-Bar ranch the prize of the Deep Creek Range. But now all that Clay has worked for is threatened. Jud Devitt, a ruthless speculator from the East, wants Bell's rich timberland -- and he doesn't care how he gets it. Backing Devitt are tame judges, crooked politicians and fifty of the toughest lumberjacks in the country. But Devitt's tried to stack the deck against the wrong man. Devitt doesn't know how to lose. Bell figures he's just the one to teach him."


Guns is another L'Amour gem of genre novel, sporting all the traits associated with the author's other works: it is a lean, smart, exciting and hard-to-set-down Western, with deftly sketched-out (later fleshed-out) characters, cut-to-it action and prose, and a reader-pleasing finale that delivers on the promise of its earlier excellence.  Like so many of L'Amour's other books, Guns is worth owning, the gold standard of Western genre writing.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Black Lizard by Edogawa Rampo

(pb; 1934, 2006. Translated from Japanese by Ian Hughes. "Introduction" by Mark Schreiber.)

From the back cover:

"A master criminal -- as deadly as she is beautiful -- wagers all in an epic battle with a master detective."


Black Lizard  is a difficult-to-put-down, plot-pretzel crime thriller, infused with Rampo's hinted-at supernatural touches and psychologically twisted sexuality. It pits Akechi, the equivalent of Conan Arthur Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, against the Black Lizard (a.k.a. Midorikawa), Doyle's equivalent of Moriarty. (Akechi also appeared in other works by Rampo.)

The twists are not unexpected -- a fact Rampo acknowledges by directly addressing readers in jocular, knowing fashion. This does not detract from the dark joy of reading this sly, intense and perfect novel. Lizard is a landmark work, one worth owning.


Two film versions of this novel exist.

The first, translated into Japanese as Kurotokage, was released in Japan on March 14, 1962. Umetsugu Inoue directed the film, from Yukio Mishima and Kaneto Shindô's musical stage play.

Machiko Kyô played Mrs. Midorikawa. Minori Ôku played Kogoro Akechi. Junko Kanô played Sanae Iwase. Hiroshi Kawaguchi played Jun Amemiya. Masao Mishima played Shobei Iwase. Sachiko Meguro played Mrs. Iwase.


The second version, titled Kuroto Kage, was directed by Kinji Fukasaku and released in Japan in 1968. Its screenplay was based on Yukio Mishima's stage adaptation and co-authored by Masashiga Narusawa.

Akihiro Miwa, billed Akihiro Maruyama, played Black Lizard. Isao Kimura played Detective Akechi. Kikko Matusoka played Sanaye. Jun Usami, billed as Junya Usami, played Shobei Iwase. Yûsuke Kawazu playec Junichi Amemiya.

Kô Nishimura played Private Detective Keiji Matoba. Toshiko Kabayashi played Hina. Sônsuke Oda played Harada. Kinji Hattori played Toyama.

Kurotokage playwright Yukio Mishima played a "Human Statue".

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Hap and Leonard by Joe R. Lansdale

(2016: story/novella anthology -- fourteenth book in the Hap and Leonard series)

Overall review:

Hap compiles seven stories, which have been previously published and take place at different times. One of the stories, Veil's Visit, by itself makes this collection worth owning, because prior to this, it was only available in an expensive collector's item book.  Inexpensive, practical (for most Hap and Leonard fans) and entertaining, Hap is worth your time and cash.

Followed by the story anthology Hap and Leonard Ride Again.

Story by story:

1.)  "Hyenas": See Hyenas review.

2.)  "Veil's Visit" (co-authored with Andrew Vachss): Leonard's new lawyer, a bad-ass named Veil, defends him in court -- the charge: arson, stemming from events in Mucho Mojo.

This story, full of Lansdale's trademark lively banter, was originally published as an expensive/out-of-print novella Veil's Visit: A Taste of Hap and Leonard (1999), the sixth book in the Hap and Leonard series. It is also the first story collection in the series.

3.)  "Death By Chili": Leonard solves a decades-old murder case without resorting to busting heads. This fun, super-short work sports a post-script recipe for "Lansdale Chili".

4.)  "Dead Aim": See Dead Aim review.

5.)  "The Boy Who Became Invisible": Originally published in the Hyenas novella, "Boy" is told from Hap's first-person point of view. In it, he looks 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.

6.)  "Not Our Kind":  In 1968, a young Hap and Leonard encounter racist, homophobic school bullies. They also glimpse a scene from their possible future.

7.)  "Bent Twig": Tillie, prostitute daughter of Leonard's girlfriend (Brett), becomes -- once again -- the reason why Hap and Leonard put themselves in danger, this time to rescue her from herself and her live-in pimp boyfriend. Of course, this is only the beginning of a much-larger-in-scope adventure for the do-right, brawling duo.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

(hb; 2009, 2012. Translated from Japanese by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates)

From the inside flap:

"The Thief is a seasoned pickpocket. Anonymous in his tailored suit, he weaves in and out of Tokyo crowds, stealing wallets from strangers so smoothly sometimes he doesn’t even remember the snatch. Most people are just a blur to him, nameless faces from whom he chooses his victims. He has no family, no friends, no connections.... But he does have a past, which finally catches up with him when Ishikawa, his first partner, reappears in his life, and offers him a job he can’t refuse. It’s an easy job: tie up an old rich man, steal the contents of the safe. No one gets hurt. Only the day after the job does he learn that the old man was a prominent politician, and that he was brutally killed after the robbery. And now the Thief is caught in a tangle even he might not be able to escape."


Thief is an excellent, fast-paced and word-spare crime tale, told from the first-person point-of-view of the Thief, whose emotional journey from jaded loner pickpocket to reluctant protector of a boy is marked by occasional violence and the predations of Kizaki, a master criminal with a dangerous political agenda – an agenda that may result in the Thief’s death.

Thief, a pulp-to-its-core read, is worth owning. This is a thematic counterpart work to  The Kingdom.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

In Brief by Shelley Lee Riley

(pb; 2015: story anthology)

Overall review:

This seventeen-story and -poem anthology is a sampler of various genres, from light-hearted slice-of-life joy to nightmarish journeys. The theme that links them together (for the most part) is a black-and-white morality -- most of these tales or, in some cases, would-be tales, are about punishing those who transgress or rewarding those who do not. If black-and-white morality puts you off, you might want to skip this collection.

For those who appreciate mixed-genre morality works, there is a lot in Brief to entertain you: concise writing, well-developed characters, (mostly) relatable situations and overall good writing.

Some of the works in Brief feel like warm-up exercises to better, more fully-realized stories or poems. With re-writing, time and a different pair of editorial eyes, these pieces could easily become publishable works, butterflies to their Brief-current cocoons.

The pieces that work are polished and microfiction-excellent. Short fiction can be a hard art to master, and Riley is close to doing so. Brief is a worthwhile purchase, not only for the pieces that work, but for the author's willingness to risk experimentation with the aforementioned warm-up exercises and occasional harsh characters.

Riley is a promising, on-the-cusp-of-greatness talent worth reading and supporting, with your time and your cash, if you can appreciate a firm ever-present morality and mostly-effective brevity.

Standout works:

1.)  "Brown Shoe": The physical journey of a shoe takes on more personal significance for a woman observing it.

2.)  "Ageless":  A woman in a store learns another lesson from her mother, now an old woman.

3.)  "Vanquished":  Vivid tale about an abusive father(Jack), his wife (Sophie) and his son (Jamie), whose lives are wildly altered by the events of one night.

4.)  "Night Changes": Avery, a teen rebelling against her mother's rules, has an unexpected encounter while sneaking out.

5.)  "Mother's Recluse": A woman takes care of her dead mother's cats.

6.) "Rouge": A terrible dog's arrival in a woman's life kicks off a series of significant life changes for her.

7.)  "#17": Twilight Zone-esque tale about a woman on a beach.

8.) "Images":  A meeting in a sleazy bar leads to unexpected developments. Fast-moving, entertaining stuff.

9.)  "Details": This television-themed vignette is light in tone, a promising start for a full-fledged story.

10.)  "Face in the Wall": Good use of symbolism in this fairy tale-esque, nightmare-toned tale about a grandmother and her grandchildren.

11.) "Sam's Stories": Fond, nostalgic story about an old horse trainer who humbles his critics with his independent attitude and actions.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R. Lansdale

(hb; 2016: thirteenth book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the inside flap:

"Only Hap and Leonard would catch a cold case with hot cars, hot women, and ugly skinheads.

"The story starts simply enough when Hap, a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough black, gay Vietnam vet and Republican with an addiction to Dr. Pepper, are working a freelance surveillance job in East Texas. The uneventful stakeout is coming to an end when the pair witness a man abusing his dog. Leonard takes matters into his own fists, and now the bruised dog abuser wants to press charges.

"One week later, a woman named Lilly Buckner drops by their new PI office with a proposition: find her missing granddaughter, or she'll turn in a video of Leonard beating the dog abuser. The pair agrees to take on the cold case and soon discover that the used car dealership where her granddaughter worked is actually a front for a prostitution ring. What began as a missing-person case becomes one of blackmail and murder."


Honky is one of my favorite entries in this series thus far. It has all the best aspects of previous Hap and Leonard page-turners, with its effective levity, lots of raw and realistic action, characters who are worth rooting for or hissing at, effective twists and a storyline that blends old and new elements – and characters, as well. New, colorful characters include the creepy, strange and compelling Booger; older characters include Vanilla Ride, Jim Bob, Cason Statler (Hap and Leonard’s playboy-reporter friend) and Marvin. Throw in a bunch of especially sicko hillbillies, and you have another future classic worth owning.

Followed by the story anthology Hap and Leonard (2016); Coco Butternut: A Hap and Leonard Novella (2017); Rusty Puppy (2017; novel); Cold Cotton (2017, novella); Hoodoo Harry (2017, novella) and Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade (2017, mosaic novel) and Jackrabbit Smile (2018).

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Disciple by Laird Koenig

(pb; 1983)

From the back cover:

"They came together at the Willows.

"There by the riverside grave of his twin sister, Marc-Anthony met Brother Leaf, a soft-spoken man blessed with the awesome power to perform miracles. Cure the sick. . . Heal the crippled. . . Raise the dead. . .

"Marc Anthony became his most devoted disciple, and Brother Leaf rewarded his family with wondrous gifts. Love, for his lonely mother. Faith, for his arrogant father. Passion for his beautiful sister.

"Soon everyone came to Brother Leaf., for they believed he was a prayer come true. . . until the night of horror. Until the night when the miracles didn't work and the killing wouldn't stop."


Disciple is a fun, fast-read thriller about a family whose peril comes into being in the form a quiet young man whose underlying faith is more manipulative and dangerous than his uttered ideals and pursuits. There are few, if any surprises, in this tidy and well-written novel but that is not necessarily a bad thing if you keep your expectations modest and realistic about this effective tale of religious obsession, lies and other aspects of human darkness.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Blood Father by Peter Craig

(pb; 2005) 

From the back cover:

"Lydia Carson is an accident waiting to happen. Strung out, she's always running from disaster, and more often she's running right into it. Now at seventeen, Lydia has stumbled onto real trouble. Not only has she witnessed a brutal murder perpetrated by her boyfriend, but his minions are out to make sure that she doesn't have a story to tell the police.

"John Link is a former Hell's Angel, an ex-con, trying to stay clean and sober while running a tattoo parlor from the kitchen of his trailer home. He's also Lydia's long-estranged father, and when both the police and her boyfriend's thugs are hot on Lydia's trail, Link becomes Lydia's only hope."


Blood  is an edgy, excellent drama-with-action novel with a strong story, characters who resonate as real people and concise writing, whether Craig is penning a quiet, regret-tinged moment between Lydia and Link or an explosive car chase-shootout scene. The heart and impetus of Blood is Link and Lydia's relationship, as it builds into something better. Everything fits here, there are no wasted words -- this is worth owning and it is one of my favorite reads of this year.


The film version was released stateside on August 26,2016. Jean François-Richet directed it, from a screenplay by the book's author and Andrea Berloff.

Mel Gibson played Link. Erin Moriarty played Lydia Carson. Diego Luna played Jonah. William H. Macy played Kirby. Miguel Sandoval played Arturo Rios.

Michael Parks played Preacher. Dale Dickey played Cherise. Richard Cabral played Joker. Daniel Macada played Choop.Raoul  Ryan Dorsey played Shamrock. Max Trujillo, billed as Raoul Trujillo, played The Cleaner.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

The Whorehouse That Jack Built by Kevin Sweeney

(eBook; 2015: novella)

From the back cover:

"It was a whorehouse but not one open to just anyone. To get there you had to be dying or insane. The services offered were all offered for the same price, which was everything you had. There were paths there that only those who crossed the border into the Undiscovered Country could find, if they knew the landmarks to follow, the signs to watch for.

"Clem followed and watched and two days ago his mule had died of exhaustion and it was just him and Lady keepin' on who knew how and finally they came to a dead town with no name at twilight and whorehouse with a sign above the door that Clem could not read:


"A whorehouse run by demons. A whorehouse that offered the greatest pleasures a man could ever want. . . in exchange for everything he had.

"Am I gonna do this? Am I really gonna do. . .

"The cancer in his belly twisted spikes through his impacted bowels and in front of him lay Lady,  a sacrifice.

"And Clem pushed that door open and stepped through that threshold."


Whorehouse's story in a nutshell: an "albino sexorcist", trying to close portals to the Abyss, has sex with inbred demons while chanting holy litanies and otherwise trying to kill his hated lust-mates. Much of this takes place in the book's titular location, run by Marshall McGregor (an ugly dwarf) who also goes by the name of Jack -- a shortened version of his more infamous moniker.

Whorehouse is not a book for the easily offended or the easily queasy. It is an ultra-vivid, viscous and over-the-top whirlwind tale of twisted religion, divinities, sadistic sex and hyperviolence. . . it is an entertaining bizarro fantasy suffused with hentai-esque overtones, distinctive and worth owning.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Doom Fox by Iceberg Slim

(pb; 1978, published in 1998)

From the back cover:

"Doom Fox is the last in Iceberg Slim's legendary series of underground novels. Written in 1978 and unpublished until now, Doom Fox is a tale of the Los Angeles ghetto that begins just after World War II and spans the next thirty years. In the no-holds-barred tradition of Chester Himes, Doom Fox captures a violent, vivid world of low-riding chippie-catchers, prizefighters, prostitutes, and smooth-talking preachers."


In Doom, Slim -- a.k.a Robert Beck -- once again serves up a wild-flavored brew of hardwired cynicism, sex, savagery, greed and street-level racism which pepper his characters' often explicit slang verbiage.

Doom centers around Joe Allen, Jr, a naive boxer, and the events and people that grace or curse his life (as well as those around them). The decades-traversing cyclical tragedy that defines their hardscrabble lives colors their outlooks, which are often expounded upon, in thought, action and politically incorrect dialogues.

Because of that latter element -- the characters' dialogues -- Doom runs a bit long, but it does not ruin this mostly entertaining read: it does, however, downgrade it from excellent to good. That said, this is worth purchasing, as good Slim writing is always distinctive and often better than many authors' best works.

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."


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. . . "


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 Briar Patch Boogie (novella) and Honky Tonk Samurai.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Fireman by Joe Hill

(hb; 2016)

From the inside flap:

"No one knows exactly when or where it began. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one. . . The doctors call it Draco incendia trychophyton. To everyone else it's Dragonscale, a highly contagious, dead spore that tattoos its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks -- before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

"Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she's discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, her and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob's dismay, Harper now wants to live -- at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers giving birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can stay alive long enough to deliver the child. . ."


Fireman is a too-long novel written by a normally excellent author. Hill has followed in his father, Stephen King's, path and taken a story that could easily be cut to three-quarters of its length and offered up a tale-bloated work that is worth reading if you are a fan of Stephen King's novels It and The Tommyknockers (in terms of length).

The first quarter of this 750-page book is excellent. After that, it starts to go downhill (shortly after Harper moves into Camp Wyndam, a refuge for those with Dragonscale). It is not that Fireman is a bad book, it has a lot of great writing and characterization (too much of the latter, at times) and this melding of humanity-based horror, romance, straining-for-epicness and social/political commentary is noble. That said, i
f you are not a fan of overly emotional characters and drawn-out storylines (I am not big on either), this might be an interesting-but-not-worthwhile experiment that ultimately fails -- and, sadly, one that Hill seems likely to strive for again, scope- and character-wise (if his post-novel notes are any indication).

I have little doubt this will be the basis for a future television/online miniseries or film. Maybe that will play better than this well-intentioned and sometimes well-penned novel.

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."


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.

<em>The Letter, the Witch and the Ring</em> by John Bellairs

(pb; 1976: third book in the Lewis Barnavelt mysteries . Drawings by Richard Egielski .) From the back cover “Rose Rita [Pottinger]...