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 Written in 1978 and unpublished until now, Doom Fox is a tale of the Los Angeles ghetto that begins just after World War II and spans the next thirty years.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.

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."


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."


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.

<em>Mother Night</em> by Kurt Vonnegut

(pb; 1961) From the back cover “ Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy du...