Wednesday, April 29, 2020

#20: The Long Wire by Barry Cord

A young man's brother is killed under mysterious circumstances with a crew of men stringing telegraph wire, so he impersonates his replacement to figure out what happened in Barry Cord's The Long Wire.

Barry Cord was Peter Germano, who wrote extensively in books and television; I have found his work to be steady and satisfying.  I picked this one up somewhere, half of an Ace Double with Merle Constiner's Killer's Corral., because I thought the plot featuring a telegraph wire crew was interesting.  I've always found Constiner to be a pleasing western writer as well.

It was a good read, although lightly sketched in, in places; a frontier romance, and the appearance of the lead's old mentor on the wrong side of the law, are almost afterthoughts.  But most Ace Doubles are quick, undemanding reads, and any are recommended for fans of such.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

#19: The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel

A man and woman end up next to each other on an early train to Paris, an unwelcome surprise as they had a brief relationship years before; their minds cast back over the catastrophic end of it all during the ride in Jean-Philippe Blondel's The 6:41 to Paris.

This is a slender read, made up of both character's internal monologues in alternating chapters.  Although that sounds somewhat slight, it is absolutely compelling throughout.  The man had a lot of potential, most of it squandered; the woman seemed destined for a middle-of-the-road life, but rose through the business world to fame; a friend in common ties them together as well.  A terrible night in London is finally revealed near the denouement, when the two old lovers address each other for the first time.

In some ways the novel seems like an exercise, or a study; but it manages to be suspenseful, with lots of surprises.  Recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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

Monday, April 13, 2020

#18: The Men from the Boys by Ed Lacy

A crooked cop who falls all the way to being a "house dick" at a seedy hotel puts all of his bad skills to work when his stepson, a rookie officer, gets severely beaten in The Men from the Boys.

This tough-minded piece of 50s crime fiction comes from Ed Lacy, who wrote a lot of notably hard-boiled stories in this era which I have read and enjoyed when I've found them. 

The crime portion of this story isn't much, but the vivid lead character--a sexist, racist, rule-busting cop who tries to do one good deed in his life--carries the story.  A dire medical diagnosis also recklessly propels him along, leading to a downbeat ending.

Although the protagonist is not presented in a positive light, the references are a product of their time even as the storytelling is energetic and ultimately timeless.

This is a reprint from Stark House Press's Black Gat line, where they are trying to bring great pulp fiction back from obscurity. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

#17: The Bishop's Bedroom by Piero Chiara

In the earliest days of a post-war Italy, a man takes to his boat on Lake Maggiore looking for female companionship and mild adventure; but when he meets a mysterious man, his skittish wife, and their supposedly widowed sister-in-law, he gets more than he bargained for in Piero Chiara's The Bishop's Bedroom.

The two men settle into an uneasy friendship that unfortunately, and ultimately violently, devolves into rivalries for the same women they meet around the lake.  

The Bishop's Bedroom has a splash of psychological suspense and an undertone of noir, as well as a vivid description of life in Italy in the mid 40s.  Rewarding overall.  

Chiara first published this novel in the 70s in Italian; I believe this edition is a newer translation by New Vessel Press.  

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

Sunday, April 5, 2020

#16: The Last Weynfeldt by Martin Suter

An aging art expert, living in solitary affluence in a luxurious Zurich apartment, finds his life upended when he spontaneously spends the night with a troubled younger woman in Martin Suter's The Last Weynfeldt.

In short order the art expert, the last Weynfeldt of the title, is involved in an art forgery scheme and a cascading series of payoffs and double-crosses.

This is the kind of dry-witted, highbrow fine art caper that I always fall for, with characters drinking exquisite wines and eating at all the best places while discussing European art.  But there's an inky black undertone that gives it extra spice.

I enjoyed Suter's novel in translation and have learned he has written several others with similar themes.  I'm hoping to find more.

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