Thursday, January 31, 2013

#5: Boston Avenger by Mike Barry

Burt Wolff is a VietNam vet and narco cop whose girlfriend is purposefully overdosed as a warning to him; he snaps and goes on a one-man war against the drug trade in Mike Barry's Boston Avenger.

This is the third novel featuring the Lone Wolf, a hardboiled Men's Adventure-style series from the 1970s that was apparently written by Barry Malzberg at a prodigious clip.  They are about as quick to read as they probably were to write, full of a strange intensity.

I thought this volume improved on the last, which had Wolff blowing up various things on the west coast, whose geography seemed ill-fitted to his persona; now we find Wolff back on the grimy east coast, a surer footing for Malzberg, as Wolff chases a seemingly cursed suitcase full of drugs around New England. 

This edition also digs a little deeper into Wolff's fractured psyche and shows that he really isn't someone to cheer for, despite his efforts to clean up the streets.

I have enjoyed these via Prologue Books for my beloved Kindle and am sure to pick up the next one.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

#4: The Tall Dolores by Michael Avallone

Swingin' PI Ed Noon takes on the case of a wayward husband being sought by his giantess wife (which turns out not to be as straightforward as it seems) in Michael Avallone's first detective novel, The Tall Dolores.

Avallone was a very prolific pulp fiction writer whose prose is not so much loopy as full of curlicues.  To say that he writes in an oddball style is somewhat of an understatement, and the internet yields up that people either love him or hate him. 

I actually enjoyed this funny, action-packed mystery, the first in a lengthy series featuring Noon, a typically wise-cracking private eye whose office is called "the mouse auditorium."  As this is my first novel by Avallone I don't have a feel for whether this is a typical or atypical outing.  But there is plenty of solid action, and a surprisingly downbeat finale, all of which was satisfying enough for me to seek out another Ed Noon story.

I bought this for my beloved Kindle and read it quickly.

#3: The Name's Buchanan by Jonas Ward

Buchanan is a hired gun with his own sense of honor, roaming the Old West; when he rescues a Mexican girl, and then her hotheaded brother, his code almost gets him killed in Jonas Ward's The Name's Buchanan.

This is the first of a long series of Westerns starring the stalwart Buchanan, who almost takes a backseat at times in this story as the tensions play out between a noble Mexican family and a murderous clan north of the border who hold sway over a corrupt town.

Buchanan was created by pulp writer William Ard, who writes in a hardboiled style that compliments the brawny cowboy overtones.  After he died, the series was written by others, and the other one I posted about on this blog was by a different author (and with a noticeable dropoff in quality).  Fortunately I came across a few more from Ard's tenure, and I am eager to check them out.

I was sent this for my beloved Kindle by my new pals at Prologue Books and read it quickly.

Friday, January 18, 2013

#2: The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

In the far-flung future, a dashing thief is sprung from an inescapable prison in order to complete a mysterious mission in Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief.

Our tarnished protagonist takes off in a sentient spaceship to the great walking city of Mars, where he is pursued by a dogged local detective (who himself is aided by a post-human girlfriend and a gaggle of masked superhero-like vigilantes). 

As you might suspect this is quite a genre-bender, mixing Alexander Dumas with Neal Stephenson and Donald Westlake with Philip K. Dick.

I bought this on a whim at a goodbye price for my beloved Kindle and found it dense and rewarding and one of my favorite reads of recent memory.  Recommended for fans of cerebral sci-fi. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

#1: The Red Hills by James W. Marvin

The antihero called Crow joins the U.S. Calvary, just ahead of a modest skirmish called Little Big Horn, in The Red Hills, James W. Marvin's first Western featuring his cold-blooded protagonist.

This novel comes from the so-called Piccadilly Cowboys, (follow this part closely) British writers who wrote Italian-flavored American Westerns in their heyday from the 60s forward.  Marvin obviously read George Gilman's Edge rather closely (and I think even obliquely references the character), probably the grandaddy of all the tarnished heroes of this genre.

But Crow tries to outdo Edge, as the novel opens with the senseless killing of a child's dog, which sets the stage for further unpleasantness involving casual murder and generally repugnant behavior.  In The Caine Mutiny style, a commanding officer is introduced who is even more repellent, and soon Crow sets his sights on revenge.

Interesting, but generally unpleasant, Western for those who like a more tough-minded oater.  I bought this for my beloved Kindle and read it quickly for my first novel of 2013.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Favorite Reads of 2012

I narrowly skated into keeping my promise of reading 50 books in 2012, but made it at the end thanks to a couple of snowbound days right after Christmas.  I had vowed to try to read a little smarter, and thus maybe a little slower, but I think I have a good top ten list favorite reads to show for it.  And here they are:

Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

Easy Money by Jens Lapidus

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jessi Adler-Olsen

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Happy Reading and I am off to 2013 and hopefully 50 more.