Sunday, March 27, 2011

#12: Frankenstein Lives Again! by Donald F. Glut

Once again a scientist decides to, rather unwisely, resurrect the Frankenstein Monster (with expected results) in Donald F. Glut's Frankenstein Lives Again!, the first in a series of new adventures originally released in the late 60s and 70s.

Glut definitely knows his Frankenstein mythos, but also shows a fondness for Hammer horror films and Marvel comics of that era (most notably Tomb of Dracula).  Naturally there's a lantern-jawed hero, a pretty and capable but overlooked assistant, and a bunch of villagers quick to pick up the torches and storm up to the castle. 

On the other hand, the Monster spends at least half of the novel frozen in a block of ice (and tended to by a band of Eskimos who make the Lone Ranger's Tonto seem like a finely nuanced portrayal of Native American life) and pretty much follows the path you would expect, comfortable but familiar ground for fans of the genre. There's also a rather thin storyline featuring a lecherous, psychic circus master of some sort with a hulking assistant (of course) that get dispatched rather quickly in the latter part of the book.

But if you liked hearing Gene Colan and Peter Cushing name-checked in this review, this is a good read for you.  For my part I liked it well enough to look for the second in the series.

My pal Bill Cunningham sent this to me for my beloved Kindle and I read it at a good clip.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

#11: Assignment Girl in the Gondola by Edward S. Aarons

Agent Sam Durell fights enemies on all fronts as China stands ready to launch a nuclear holocaust in Edward S. Aaron's Assignment Girl in the Gondola, a solid entry in the lengthy and underrated spy series.

This one from the early 60s has the Red Chinese sneaking nuclear missiles into Albania, triggering the involvement of various spy agencies including Durell's hated Soviet counterpart (who has a trademark knife blow that is quickly felling those around Durell).  Although many of the early Aarons novels seem claustrophobic to me, this one takes place on a bigger stage, with Durell jetting between Greece and Italy and involving all kinds of international politics and intrigue.

Although that plot element strays away from Aarons' norm, Durell still has the curious ability to find women who want to erase a recent trauma with a strenuous night of lovemaking; in this novel, not one but two like-minded partners.

I found this at a used bookstore and chose it to read next because I will be visiting Italy in a few months.  However, this one mostly takes place in Greece; but I wasn't too put out as I found it to be a really good novel in the series. 

I have discovered Aarons in just the last year or two and can't recommend the series highly enough to pulp fans, having yet to stumble on a lemon.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

#10: Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

A doctor in a chaotic hospital ends up with even more stress than usual when he is outed as a former hitman hiding in the Witness Protection Program in Josh Bazell's darkly comic debut Beat the Reaper.

Beat the Reaper is fairly outlandish, penned in a cinematic style, and is quite funny throughout (and rather oddly provides footnotes for the medical terminology and other asides). It does suffer a bit from a somewhat rushed, slam-bang ending which seems to segue into a sequel.  It is written in a pretty unique voice (with undertones of other mafia and hospital stories) with lots of temporal distortion (and roller-coaster reveals) and is a fast, fun read.

I have a doctor friend who I immediately thought would like to read it next, though three or four other friends come to mind as well.  I guess that means I am recommending this for those who would like a light, entertaining read. 

This novel had a lot of buzz so I nabbed it in paperback when Amazon had it on sale, read it quickly, and am eager to pass it on.