Thursday, September 30, 2010

#47: The Killers by Peter McCurtin

Drifter Carmody, who drifts just this side of the law, ends up being talked into helping out his cousin as sheriff of a small town in the Old West; but he takes up law enforcement at an untimely moment, as a bandit gang and a murderous backwoods family have the town in its crosshairs.

Carmody was a Western series character of Peter McCurtin, a very busy pulp scribe of the 60s-80s and beyond who many speculated was actually a pseudonymous legion of writers.  Apparently he was a real person after all, and if this outing is any indication he was also a talented writer.

McCurtin's Carmody is a bit more tongue in cheek than the average Western hero, and McCurtin also writes in the first person, less common in Westerns than, for instance, the private eye genre.  Overall the various elements made The Killers a slight cut above.

I got a mixed batch of 50-cent paperbacks at a flea market which included a lot of authors I had not heard of before, including McCurtin, and I'm always eager to find new writers and stories.  I also found another McCurtin Western series character, Sundance, which I am sure I will dig into before long.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

#46: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

A teen girl is torn between two brothers, even as zombies strain at the fences to tear them apart, in Carrie Ryan's Young Adult horror novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

I picked this up as a recommendation after enjoying Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games novels.  Ryan's story also features a post-apocalyptic setting, this time a few generations after a zombie uprising, where the residents of a small town deep in the forest now believe they are the last living humans on Earth.  Their village is surrounded by a lot of chain link fence that has to be constantly maintained to keep the dead at bay.

A young girl remembers her mother talking about the ocean, and yearns to set out on what seems to be a doomed quest.  In the meantime, she deals with the various heatings and coolings between herself and the brothers as well as herself and various family members.

A curious mix of teen romance and gruesome horror, sort of a version of Lois Lowry's The Giver as directed by George Romero.  It's hard to recommend for those who like a few chills with their romance, as there are some pretty grisly sequences (including a pregnant zombie and a baby zombie, of all unpalatable things), but it's even harder to recommend it to gorehounds as the teen pines away even as civilization gets torn down around her.

An interesting read, and not without its merits for the careful reader. 

I picked this up with my Books A Million gift card I got for my birthday and read it at a steady pace.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

#45: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

Ghana detective Darko Dawson from the Accra city police force heads for the countryside to look into the strange death of a medical worker in Kwei Quartey's debut Wife of the Gods.

Quartey's first novel has been compared to Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, but I think they are worlds apart.  Quartey writes straight-up crime drama, putting Dawson on the street with nothing but a cricket bat, a bag of weed, and some anger management issues between him and the criminal element.

The setting of Ghana sets the mystery apart from other crime novels as well, as Dawson contends with witchcraft and tribal beliefs as he tries to solve the killing using contemporary methods.  All the while he also struggles with buried family secrets that begin to surface as parallels between the recent murder and the long-ago disappearance of Dawson's mother surfaces.

I picked up this audiobook from Morrison-Reeves Public Library without having heard of the book or the author and enjoyed it tremendously.  I will be on the lookout for Kwei Quartey's second novel.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

#44: Fargo by John Benteen

Fargo is a mercenary for hire who signs up for a seeming suicide mission bringing a load of silver out of revolution-torn Mexico in Fargo, the first in a series by prolific, pseudonymous scribe John Benteen.

Not long ago I read The Trail Ends in Hell by Benteen, aka Ben Haas, a sturdy little Western that interested me in finding more of his writing.  However, despite Fargo's trappings I would say it was more Men's Adventure than Western, not only in its time period (early 20th century) and focus on action, but also in its casual handling of women and fetish-like attachment to weapons.

Benteen again writes a solid story, and I must not have been the only one that thought so as the Fargo series went on for some time throughout the 60s and 70s.  I was able to get a handful at a flea market and I am sure I will jump on another one before long.