Friday, September 25, 2020

#49: Big Red's Daughter by John McPartland

Freshly back in the U.S. after a tour in Korea, a young man gets in a fender-bender where he meets a lovely young woman and her hot-headed boyfriend; he loves one on sight and hates the other on sight, leading to plenty of trouble in John McPartland's Big Red's Daughter.

McPartland writes a super-charged noir where destructive emotions run high from the first page; it appears that McPartland himself lived a similar life and died young.  

But he seemed to have left a number of memorable novels.  This one paints a picture of a bohemian 50s California that is fully realized as a backdrop to a pretty brutal story; there are a number of grisly fights, terrorized women, a handful of murders, and a jailbreak, all before a conclusion that makes a turn and wraps up more upbeat than one would think.

This was a rapid-fire read and a nice surprise from Stark House Press, which is dedicated to bringing back more obscure and out-of-print crime, detective, and noir books from the past.  

I would definitely recommend this in any edition you can find it in for noir fans, and will be checking out more of John McPartland.

Friday, September 18, 2020

#48: The Devil's Dozen by Nick Carter

Nick Carter avenges the death of a fellow secret agent by trying to break the back of a drug ring in the spy novel The Devil's Dozen.

Unfortunately, Carter meets a strong-willed crime boss who is every inch his equal, and he contemplates his place in the spy game as a result.  But there's more action than introspection, including a helicopter versus skier fight and a memorable wresting match against a Turkish villain, both in a remote mountain fortress.

Nick Carter starred in hundreds of spy novels, written by a legion of writers, and I read a ton of them as a teenager.  I have recently gone back and revisited all three of the ones by Martin Cruz Smith (a favorite contemporary author) written in his peanut-butter days, and liked this one the best.  It's a good second-tier spy novel on its own merits.

I would rank them as this one, Code Name: Werewolf, and then The Inca Death Squad for those interested.

I tracked this one down on eBay and read it quickly.  I might go back and look for more Nick Carter spy novels if the pseudonymous author is a good match for more interests.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

#47: The Inca Death Squad by Nick Carter

 In 1970s Chile, superspy Nick Carter is asked to bodyguard a Soviet dignitary against revolutionaries as part of a secret deal in The Inca Death Squad.

I read these Nick Carter novels by the stack during my teen years, and thought I would revisit a few to see how they held up.  Although I could tell the quality varied widely, I didn't know they were all written by different people until the internet.  I wanted to start with the three Martin Cruz Smith wrote, as his ongoing Arkady Renko series I have steadily enjoyed.

The first I read, Code Name: Werewolf, was a solid second-tier spy novel, but this one I just didn't enjoy as much.  

The core plotting just doesn't make a lot of sense, starting with Carter delivering a new style of bulletproof clothing to the oafish Russian for kind of hazy reasons.  Later, rather oddly, he has a bolo fight with an Aztec warrior in ancient garb, but still has time to bed all of the Russian's comrade harem, which includes an undercover KGB agent.

But there is plenty of action, including a cavalry charge on a band of outlaws and a jeep versus fighter plane battle.

I have heard that Smith disavowed these early novels, and I can see a better argument for it here.  I have one more, The Devil's Dozen, to decide.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

#46: Red Dust by Yoss

 On the space station William S. Burroughs a dangerous psionic criminal is on the loose, and it is up to a robot policeman with a Raymond Chandler obsession to catch him in Red Dust by the Cuban sci-fi writer/rock star Yoss.

Yoss writes a pretty goofy romp, awash in pop culture references and action-oriented.  But Yoss has a somewhat cloaked political side as well, which features a triumvirate of alien races who have more or less subjugated humankind, allowing them only limited knowledge of their superior technology.  The robot lawmen are the mediators between both factions, and generally disliked by all.

Yoss appears to be very popular in Cuba, and Restless Books is getting some of his novels translated into English--I also liked Super Extra Grande, about a vet who works on giant alien animals, and has to go inside one (the hard way) to rescue some girlfriends.

Yoss writes a light, fresh, largely comedic science fiction story that is worthwhile for a change of pace.  

I got this for my birthday and read it quickly.