Thursday, May 30, 2019

#33: Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

A cop trying to overthrow a heroin operation finds himself framed by crooked cops, and after a stint in Rikers looks for redemption in himself and for another framed man, in Walter Mosley's Down the River Unto the Sea.

Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries, which are slowly tracking through the 40s, 50s and 60s along with its aging detective protagonist, are definitive.  But now and then Mosley has introduced other detective characters, and Joe King Oliver is one. 

There are a lot of similarities with his other detective characters, including having a close friend and partner who happens to be a psychopath (like Mouse to Easy in his main series), but Oliver also has his own unique elements.

Mosley writes a great mystery, and this one is chock full of crooked cops, honorable crooks, laws broken for good, and laws followed for evil.  The ending relies on a lot of dominoes falling just right, but is ultimately satisfying, and I hope Mosley returns to Joe King Oliver.

I listened to a very good audiobook version read by Dion Graham on loan from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

#32: The Good Detective by John McMahon

A police detective--struggling with the senseless death of his family--is assigned to solve a grisly, racially-motivated murder, but realizes he might have accidentally killed the prime suspect while drinking, in John McMahon's The Good Detective.

McMahon's debut novel starts off like pretty standard "tarnished angel" cop fare, but takes off in surprising directions; not the least of which are ancient orders, premonitions, phantom voices and not one but two legitimate psychics.

If you liked the television series True Detective, especially the first season, you'll find a lot to enjoy in this mix of police procedural and otherworldly phenomenon.  A nice surprise, and I will look for McMahon's next book.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and read it quickly.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

#31: The Mind of Evil by Terrance Dicks

The Doctor and Jo Grant try to foil The Master's latest plot, involving a prison riot, a nerve-gas missile, and a peace conference in Terrance Dicks' novelization of the Doctor Who episode The Mind of Evil.

This is the Jon Pertwee-era Doctor, who was stranded on Earth in the early 70s and working as an advisor to a military group.  Pertwee was a more can-do Doctor, and showcases his mastery of Venusian kung-fu in this outing.

Terrance Dicks is considered the definitive Doctor Who novelist, and I concur.  I read a lot of these as a teenager without ever having seen an episode of Doctor Who nor having much knowledge as to what it was.  When, as an adult, I moved to a city where Tom Baker-era Doctor Who was on the local PBS affiliate, it all came together, and the Baker era was a good time to catch up.

I had not read a Terrance Dicks novel in a very long time, but found a good audiobook version of this at the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and enjoyed listening.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

#30: Fannin by David Markson

Fannin is a private eye who was blind to his ex-wife's cheating; but when she ends up on his doorstep dying, Fannin goes hunting her killer with fists and guns blazing in David Markson's Fannin, previously released as Epitaph for a Tramp.

The original title is more fitting; Markson's novel is as bleak and grimy as any noir I've read, as the detective and his cop friend spend a delirious couple of hours in the gutters of early 60s New York to find the killer in a nihilistic finale.

Markson later went on to some acclaim as a literary novelist, but in his peanut-butter days wrote two Fannin detective stories, another noir, and a western before moving up the ladder.    You can see where Markson was headed, as his detective enjoys novels and between bouts of mayhem comments on what books he and others are reading.

I stumbled across this one in an antique store in Arcadia, Florida, and for two bucks bought it on a whim.  Absolutely recommended for hard-boiled fiction fans.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

#29: Hot Sky Over Paraiso by Marshall Grover

Texas gun-hands Larry and Stretch agree to help a professor and his daughter recover gold from a web of haunted cliff dwellings in Marshall Grover's Hot Sky Over Paraiso.

Grover was Australian author Leonard Meares, whose staggering output of western writing included this series and a more sober one, Big Jim.

Larry and Stretch are almost superhuman in their fist- and gun-fighting capabilities but are good-natured and funny as well.  Their stories are always plentiful in action but definitely on the lighter side with plotting.

Slightly confounding in the history of Larry and Stretch is that the American versions of these novels were credited to "Marshall McCoy" and Stretch was called "Streak."  It was one of these that I found in an antique store in Arcadia, Florida, my first of these to ever find on the loose.

I read this in a single day on vacation and always enjoy this series when I come across one.

Friday, May 17, 2019

#28: The Guns of Sonora by Ben Smith

A scarred stranger once left for dead, and a gang of cattle rustlers led by a cutthroat gunfighter, end up closing in on a Mexican ranch run by an aging cattleman, creating a triangle of death and destruction in Ben Smith's The Guns of Sonora.

This was an action-packed Ace Double from an author I had never heard of, on the flip side of Tom West's Black Buzzards of Bueno (reviewed previously).  This was a solidly-plotted western set squarely in the 60s revisionist western era, enjoyable enough to read on vacation in a single day, which I did.  I will look for more from Ben Smith, who I can't seem to find any details about online.

This Ace Double was part of a big lot I got from a friend, and I always look for Ace Doubles in the wild.

Monday, May 13, 2019

#27: Black Buzzards of Bueno by Tom West

An outlaw comes off the owlhoot trail to hunt his missing brother in a bleak little town with a dark secret in Tom West's Black Buzzards of Bueno.

A colorful title for a colorful story, as an enigmatic widow draws men to her ranch through an ad placed in eastern newspapers, although all seem to take a side trip to Boot Hill first.  An unusual plot with a lot of interesting characters.

Tom West was actually, although seemingly unlikely, a British writer named Fred East who took up Ace western writing somewhat late in life and mostly wrote under this name.  He seems to have a lot of fans, and I liked this well enough to look for more of his after reading my first by him.

This is an Ace Double with The Guns of Sonora by Ben Smith on the other side.  I got this from a big lot of Ace Doubles and read it quickly, then flipped it over and started on the other.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

#26: Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle

A writer on assignment in Lagos foolishly lies about being a reporter for the BBC, putting him square in the crosshairs of corrupt cops when he stumbles across a dead body in Leye Adenle's Easy Motion Tourist.

Adenle's debut is as crackling a crime novel as I have read in a while, as the writer and his savior--a lawyer with her own complicated agenda--try to stay one step ahead of both the police (such as Sergeant Hot-Temper) and a colorful collection of criminals (with names like Knockout, Go-Slow, and Catch-FIre).  Teeming, raggedly, dangerous Lagos is almost a character in itself, and expertly portrayed.

"Easy Motion Tourist" is a Nigerian classic rock song, if that gives you an idea of the vibe the novel is trying to convey.

Although I thought the ending wrapped up a bit too easily--but also left a thread dangling--this novel was super-charged with energy throughout and recommended for anyone needing a change of pace in their crime reading.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana and read it quickly.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

#25: The Governesses by Anne Serre

Three free-spirited governesses have caught a household up in their collective spell in Anne Serre's The Governesses.

Serre's first novel translated into English really can't be that easily summarized; it is slender, episodic and dreamlike, erotically charged and full of unusual vignettes.

I wasn't sure what to make of some of it--including a wrap-up involving an elderly neighbor watching them through a telescope--but was interested throughout and caught up in the imagery.

I am curious about what else Anne Serre has written, and I hope more gets translated into English.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

#24: Wetworld by Mark Michalowski

The Doctor and his companion Martha square off against a mind-controlling alien on a newly colonized planet, while some insensitive settlers and innocent natives get in the way, in Mark Michalowski's Wetworld, a Doctor Who story that features characters played by David Tennant and Freema Agyeman.

Fans of the Tennant era will like this story just fine, funny enough and mildly entertaining throughout.  Fairly low stakes, even with a massive nuclear bomb ticking away at the denouement. 

A good audiobook reading by Agyeman adds value.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana.