Tuesday, July 30, 2013

#28: Argo by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio

During the Iran hostage crisis beginning in the late 70s, CIA agent Antonio Mendez hatches an audacious plot to rescue several Americans hiding in the Canadian embassy.  The mission is outlined in this (certainly sanitized) nonfiction account (as well as a very good movie version with Ben Affleck).

Although not nearly as exciting as the movie, Argo has many interesting elements, including accounts of Mendez's disguise skills and his overall interest in Hollywood, which leads him to a scheme where he is in Iran to scout for a science-fiction film that is never going to be made.

The denouement of the rescue, finally revealed after all of these years, provides a bright spot in what was a grim time for American diplomacy.

I listened to a very good audiobook version, read by Dylan Baker, that I borrowed from the Morrisson-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

#27: Kincaid by John Callahan

A tough rancher sees his family wiped out by gun-toting Indians, and in seeking revenge gets in the middle of gun-runners and other hardcases and owlhoots in John Callahan's Kincaid.

Kincaid is a spare, hard-edged western, one half of an Ace Double (with Clement Hardin's The Oxbow Deed on the other side).  I don't know much about the author, but this is certainly part of the revisionist western tradition of the 60s and 70s.

This one features plenty of western standards, including a wise old ranch foreman, an understanding widow, a perky son frequently in harm's way, and scene-chewing villains.

Callahan's writing is not demanding, but certainly satisfying.  I found this in a big stack of paperbacks at a flea market and read it quickly.

Monday, July 22, 2013

#26: Flight to Darkness by Gil Brewer

A Korean War vet plagued by nightmares ends up in a psych ward, where he falls under the sway of nurse who is more femme fatale than Florence Nightingale in Gil Brewer's Flight to Darkness.

Brewer is a classic writer of bleak pulp noir that isn't always named alongside greats like Jim Thompson and Cornell Woolrich, but is right in that category. 

This novel features a classic unreliable protagonist whose frequent blackouts leave gaps in the story, including what happened during a hit-and-run and how another person was killed with a hammer.  A very tough story with interesting twists right to the end.

A good read for fans of pulp fiction and classic noir.  I found this one for my beloved Kindle at a goodbye price and read it quickly.

Monday, July 15, 2013

#25: Buchanan Gets Mad by Jonas Ward

A laconic drifter (of which the fictional Old West was chockablock full of) has his horse come up lame at the outskirts of a town under the sway of a sinister fire-and-brimstone preacher; he reluctantly, and then with increasing fervor, dismantles the preacher's evil empire in Jonas Ward's Buchanan Gets Mad.

Buchanan was featured in a long series of paperback westerns beginning in the 1960s; I favor the early ones, written by William Ard, replaced by a flight of pseudonymous writers after his death.  This is a pretty tough western written written in a hardboiled style.

I found this for a single dollar at a flea market, along with several others, and read this one quickly.