Thursday, June 25, 2009

#21: Brimstone by Robert B. Parker

Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, the two laconic gunmen from Robert B. Parker's Appaloosa and Resolution novels, return for a third round in Brimstone, another tightly-wound Western.

Here our lawmen sort out a town in which a somewhat suspicious religious leader carries on a spiritual campaign against the saloons with some heavily-armed "deacons" while a rogue Indian killer nips at the town's heels. But at the center of the story is Virgil Cole's relationship with a serially unfaithful woman, highlighting that even the fastest gun in the West is still susceptible to the p-whip.

I would rate this trilogy highly in the modern Western canon; certainly not at the level of Larry McMurtry or Cormac McCarthy but within shooting range of Elmore Leonard and probably ready to have a showdown with Loren Estleman. Terse writing, leavened with humor, makes this a fast read.

I checked this out from the Farmland Public Library and chewed through it quickly.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

#20: Assignment Madeleine by Edward S. Aarons

Spy Sam Durrell reluctantly goes to Algeria in the heat of the French conflict there to bring back a triple-crossing American agent who killed his mentor; soon he ends up fighting killers on all sides during a race across the desert in Edward S. Aarons' Assignment Madeleine.

I dipped into Aarons' "Assignment" series with Sam Durrell many, many years ago and remember the few books I read being competent but perhaps a notch below my favorite of that era, Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm novels. However, reading this one with fresh, or perhaps more seasoned, eyes I found this to be very tough, terse writing. Aaron presents the political nuance of John LeCarre as well, which surprised me for a series novel.

Fortunately I bought a big chunk of these (and some Philip Atlee Joe Gall novels in the same ebay lot, an admirable load of Gold Medal paperbacks) and will be able to try some more later and see how others stand the test of time.

Once I had some of these of my own, but I can't find them or have let them slip through my fingers, and in fact a lot of people have done the same as you can't find Gold Medal books in used bookstores like you used to, all crowded out by big thick Tom Clancys and John Grishams.

Edward S. Aarons seems to be having a bit of a revival in pulp fandom, so I thought I would find out for myself. And I was glad I did.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

#19: Missing by Karin Alvtegen

A woman with a privileged upbringing ends up living on the streets, but a shocking murder draws her back into society in Karin Alvtegen's Swedish thriller Missing.

I have enjoyed this recent spate of moody Scandinavian mysteries winding their way here, and would rate this one highly. The story of how our protagonist, Sibylla, becomes homeless is almost more compelling than the central mystery, in which through circumstances (and then intent) she becomes the central suspect in the ritual killing.

But Missing is compelling overall and reads at a good clip (I think I finished it in three or four days). For mystery fans, most of these Scandinavian writers represent a good change of pace. I will look for more from Alvtegen, already well established in her own country. Recommended.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.