Sunday, December 30, 2012

#50: Treasure Island by Sara Levine

An aimless young woman finds renewed purpose--sort of--when she begins reading Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, much to the consternation of family and friends, in Sara Levine's novel of the same name (plus a few exclamation points, which Blogger would not let me include in the header).

After barely skidding into 50 books at the end of the year by reading a couple of short pulp novels I decided I would end strong with this more literary volume, which I picked up at a literature conference my wife attended in North Carolina.

The reader's enjoyment of this funny, dark novel will depend on your tolerance for an unpleasant, sometimes morally repugnant main character who is constantly thwarting the best intentions of those around her for her own ends. 

But even with a deeply flawed protagonist I enjoyed Levine's novel quite a bit, and found many laugh-out-loud moments, buoyed by good writing throughout.  A good way to end 2012 and recommended for fans of slacker lit.

Friday, December 28, 2012

#49: Massacre River by John Benteen

Gun-for-hire Neal Fargo is tasked to take a Chinese bride in an arranged marriage to her new husband at a remote Philippine stronghold, battling headhunters, revolutionaries, and other bad seeds along the way in John Benteen's Massacre River.

John Benteen wrote prolifically in the 60s and 70s, primarily in the Western and what is sometimes called Men's Adventure genres.  These burly novels follow a cold-blooded turn-of-the-century fortune hunter and thus probably fall more into the latter category (though the covers would often make you think otherwise).

I found this entry fast-moving and enjoyable, although definitely not nuanced in terms of gender and race as might be expected by contemporary audiences. 

I began and ended it over a snowy day or so from a big stack I got at goodbye prices at a local flea market.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

#48: The Dead Woman by David McAfee

Matt Cahill once died and came back with the ability to see evil, which he disposes of with his grandfather's axe; naturally this makes one tend to be a drifter, and Cahill wanders into the path of a serial killer in The Dead Woman, another entry in the Dead Man ebook series.

This television-sized premise has carried through a growing number of slender volumes, and this is the first one that struck me as rather flat.  Although sparked by Cahill meeting a small-town woman with the same powers (though used with more mysterious motives), overall the storyline went pretty much where the reader thinks.  The others I have read in the series have been livened with tongue somewhat in cheek, which might have helped the proceedings here.

But The Dead Woman is a decent horror read as part of what is becoming an interesting series.  I consumed it quickly during a snowbound holiday.

#47: Operation Fireball by Dan J. Marlowe

Drake is "The Man with Nobody's Face," a tough criminally-minded type who runs various operations for his own ends.  In Operation Fireball, Drake reluctantly joins up with a motley band to steal some money out of 1960s Cuba by, surprisingly read with a contemporary eye, sneaking in and out via Gitmo.

Dan J. Marlowe is a fan favorite pulp author, though I have not read any of his work before finding this for my beloved Kindle from Prologue Books.  Marlowe's life seems to have been about as interesting as any of his novels, which are reported to vary wildly in quality.

The Drake series is from the end of his career and is met with mixed reviews in general.  I found this one to be strongly reminiscent of Richard Stark's Parker series, although this has a little more of a spy feel, and Drake has a love interest (which Parker seems to have little time for).   But I liked this one well enough that I will look for more from Marlowe.

#46: Death Match by Christa Faust

Matt Cahill died and came back to life with the ability to see evil everywhere; now, with his trusty axe, he travels the country chasing an elusive quarry in the Dead Man ebook series.  In this outing, by Christa Faust, Cahill stumbles across the death matches of the title, sinister fights being staged by an affluent man for his own amusement.

I picked this one up because I enjoyed Faust's Hard Case Crime novel Money Shot, and found this to be an action-packed, inky-humored, fairly gore-soaked entry in the series.  Faust rather gamely tries to tie this novel into the series (including the first one I read, Blood Mesa), but it can be read on its own merits as a quick read on a snowbound day.

This ebook is the first that I borrowed from the Kindle Lending Library for my new Kindle Fire, and I consumed it quickly.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

#45: Alaska Steel by John Benteen

Adventurer for hire Neal Fargo is working in early Hollywood silent movies when a starlet convinces him to accompany her to Alaska to look for a wayward, prospecting husband.  In short order they are knee deep in snow and villains in John Benteen's Alaska Steel.

Alaska Steel is in Benteen's Fargo series, which at first glance appears to be a Western but is really more accurately Men's Adventure, a category of the rough-and-tumble pulp of the 60s and 70s where men were men and guns were well described.

I have liked everything I have come across by Benteen, even though his writing is definitely a product of its time.  This one features several scenes that would be objectionable by contemporary standards whereas a good smack and some rough lovemaking can cure most of a woman's ills.

But the writing is tough and crisp and the adventure fast-moving.  I bought this in a big handful of Fargo novels at a flea market and consumed this one quickly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#44: The Cutman by Mel Odom and Jack Tunney

A sailor docks in pre-Castro Havana and quickly falls in with a Latin beauty, and runs afoul of local mobsters, in Jack Tunney's The Cutman, the second entry in the Fight Card ebook series.

The Fight Card series emulates the pulpy boxing novels of the Golden Age of paperbacks and boxing magazines, and this volume (penned by Mel Odom under the house pseudonym) is a particularly rollicking entry chockablock full of action. 

Our protagonist (the brother of the lead in Felony Fists, which is a tenuous enough tie between the novels) is a bare-knuckle brawler who, through circumstance, ends up having to fight a superior boxer in a winner-take-all match set up by the ship's crew and the mob muscling into Cuba.  The story pretty much hits the points you would imagine, but is ultimately a satisfying read.

I have been enjoying these Fight Card novels for my beloved Kindle and will seek out more of them as they come out.

#43: The Motive by John Lescroat

A fire rips through one of San Francisco's legendary "painted lady" homes, and when the smoke clears a murdered couple is found inside in John Lescroat's courtroom thriller The Motive.

I have enjoyed reading Lescroat's series, which alternates between a lawyer and a policeman as main characters, but never really seek out the latest one like I would Walter Mosley or Michael Connelly.  This one was loaned to me on audiobook by a friend, and I enjoyed the solidly plotted outing.

Here the lawyer, Dismas Hardy, agrees to defend a former girlfriend in the arson/murder, which he begins to regret as the case goes from largely circumstantial to squeezing the accused tighter and tighter as more of the story unfolds.  Another cop with a grudge against Hardy complicates matters before all is wrapped up in a somewhat surprising denouement.

Good overall, with additional backstory for fans of the series; others can enjoy it as a standalone legal thriller.