Friday, August 28, 2009

A Slight Digression for Stieg Larsson

I am soon to be wrapping up my The Girl Who Played With Fire contest, over at my other blog, but there is still time to enter. Astoundingly, Knopf asked me to be one of 250 bloggers across this great nation to give away a copy of Stieg Larsson's latest thriller. However, they didn't mention that I couldn't read it first, so the contest ends when I get done. And I read quite a bit last night. And, by the way, it's good. More soon to be written about it here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

#35: Stop This Man by Peter Rabe

An ex-con tries to get back into the crime business by stealing a chunk of gold from a science lab, only to find out it was nuked as part of an experiment. Trailing radioactive death behind him, our protagonist finds himself hunted by the FBI, the cops, and criminals alike in Peter Rabe's rocketing noir Stop This Man.

This is another fine noir in the Hard Case Crime line, a collection of lost pulps repackaged with retro covers. Although fast-paced, I found this one to be uncommonly bleak, even by the high standards of Hard Case Crime. There is nobody to root for and plenty of downbeat moments.

Still, one of my favorites of the series (and I haven't missed many) and from one of my favorite lost noir writers. I had found A House in Naples quite by accident as a teen and always tried to grab anything else by Peter Rabe in the infrequent instances where I came across his work. A truly excellent writer who deserved more attention. Recommended.

I rarely buy Hard Case Crime novels as soon as they hit the stands, but this one I bought from Amazon as soon as I knew it was coming out and read it at a quick pace.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

#34: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

After writing several quasi-autobiographies (such as Postcards from the Edge), Carrie Fisher writes her first true tell-all, an amiable, scattershot series of anectdotes about her colorful life.

Fisher gathered a lot of material from her stage show, performed as a way of recalling memories lost through shock therapy and a lifetime of excess; thus, the audio book version is probably the best way to consume this slight volume. Wishful Drinking was an amiable listen (read by the author), but I suspect there isn't enough drilling down on a variety of interesting subjects (among them Star Wars and her movie-star parents) to make a completely satisfying read. Still, I enjoyed it and wished Fisher had provided even more.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Public Library and consumed it rather quickly.

Monday, August 3, 2009

#33: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Suburban horror features a man who may be the last human on earth and his day-to-day struggles against his friendly-neighbors-turned-vampires in Richard Matheson's milestone horror novel I Am Legend, made into at least three movies and paid homage to countless times.

This is actually the first book I have re-read since I started trying to read fifty books a year last year. My wife and daughter were interested in it, so we listened to a good audio book version on the way up and back from Traverse City, Michigan. I had read it probably around middle school (when I discovered the Charlton Heston movie version) and was eager to see how it held up.

I enjoyed it again, though it is a bit dated, and you have to look past all of the parts that have been cribbed since and try to look at it with fresh eyes. But if you've seen any of the movies, especially the Will Smith one, there are more layers to the novel politically and philosophically that make it worth a look.

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

Sunday, August 2, 2009

#32: Half-Injun, Half-Wildcat by John Callahan

The illegitimate son of a ranch baron is shut out of the will when his father dies, but decides to help his hard-headed half-brother save the spread during a range war anyway.

Despite the lurid pulp title, Half-Injun, Half-Wildcat is a pretty good Western (half of an Ace Double) with a lot more nuances than you might think for the time period and the Ace line.

This western came from the prolific pulp pen of Paul Chadwick, who wrote mysteries, sci-fi, and westerns under various names including Chester Hawks and the house name for Secret Agent X. It was a sturdy, quick read that I finished on a single day while on vacation in Traverse City, Michigan.

I was happy to find this Ace Double (backed with Outcast of Ute Bend by Clement Hardin) at a small used bookstore in Traverse City.

#31: Curtains for a Lover by Robert Dietrich

Another pulp adventure from the swingin' sixties, with plenty of hungry women and barking pistols for hero Steve Bentley; though, curiously, it turns out our protagonist is not a private eye or an undercover spy, but a Washington accountant.

Curtains for a Lover is a further curiosity as one of the many paperback outings written under a pseudonym by Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt. When I was younger, I read and enjoyed several of his David St. John spy novels without having a clue who he was, only later learning about his strange role in U.S. history.

I did not know this was one of his other writing non-de-plumes when I picked it up in a little used bookstore in Traverse City Michigan on vacation, but some late-night googling brought me back in touch with an old favorite.

Our numbers-cruncher actually appeared in several of "Robert Dietrich's" novels, although the bankbook-balancing generally takes a back seat to boozing and bed-hopping. Here the whole story is set off by a high-maintenance stage actress who thinks someone is forging big checks with her signature. In quick order the bodies are stacking up and the suspect list gets longer.

I found this to be a highly enjoyable read with some good prose passages. I knocked this one out in about a day while on vacation and would be happy if I stumbled across more of Bentley's adventures.