Saturday, July 24, 2021

#41: Duel for Cannons by Dane Hartman

Dirty Harry lets the bullets fly when a Texas lawman friend is killed by an assassin in Duel for Cannons, the first in the 80s  paperback spin-off series from the films, .

The novels are all credited to "Dane Hartman," but this is by Ric Meyers, who has written all kinds of things from non-fiction about martial arts to comic books to various paperback genres.  Various others tackled Dirty Harry under the Hartman name as well, but I was glad to find this was by Meyers, whose work I have read before.

I was very mixed about Duel for Cannons; there were a lot of clever touches, like a vegetarian villain, and some set pieces around San Antonio, but there was a lot of dumb plotting, like a guy picking up a prop gun on a movie set and thinking it had real bullets.  

There is also sort of a general unpleasantness about it, with Dirty Harry solving even modest conflict by shooting people dead.  Overall, though, Meyers writes an accurate Dirty Harry and sets it in the world of the films.

I know these paperbacks are somewhat collectible, but this one I bought for a dollar at a junk shop, read in a single day camping, and left at a Little Free Library.  For undiscriminating fans of the movies.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

#40: The Hang-Up Kid by Carter Brown

Swingin' Hollywood P.I. Rick Holman tries to help a morose film star whose Astrology signs point to his murder in Carter Brown's The Hang-Up Kid.

Carter Brown was Australian author Alan Yates, who wrote hundreds and hundreds of paperbacks from the 50s-80s and could have written thousands probably if he hadn't died fairly young.

Holman figures out that there might be a good reason the film star is afraid of being killed, and it might have something to do with a car accident that killed his wife.

This one was written in 1970, and has all the plotting and characterization of that era, some of which doesn't jibe with contemporary tastes.  

Obviously Brown wrote lickety-split, and this one shows, as the plot is fairly quippy and not overly demanding.

I grabbed this at a rummage sale for a quarter and read it in a single day camping, then left it at a Little Free Library.  I think Carter Brown is good for exactly this kind of thing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

#39: Assassin: Code Name Vulture by Nick Carter

Killmaster Nick Carter loses a friend to a suspicious plane accident (that he himself walks away from), only to learn the friend had found out about a coup attempt growing in Greece, in Nick Carter's Assassin: Code Name Vulture.

I have recently, perhaps whimsically, been revisiting this fave spy series of my teen years.  This one, by veteran paperback scribe Ralph Hayes, is a decent enough second-tier spy novel.  

Carter finds out there is an affluent businessman apparently pulling the strings on the coup, but quickly learns that the real person has been kidnapped and replaced, with plenty of action forthcoming.

I think my biggest problem with this one, and it's not Hayes' fault, is the back copy, which promises an assassin with mechanical claws (there aren't any claws) named The Vulture (he is only called A vulture, not THE Vulture, and that's not until the end) and a bizarre double (it's just two brothers that look alike).

I got this in a big stack of Nick Carters somewhere and, fittingly, read it in a single day camping in Michigan.

Monday, July 19, 2021

#38: Guns of Durango by Lou Cameron

 A frontier doctor gets into a lot of bloody confrontations trying to clear his name in Lou Cameron's Guns of Durango.

Cameron was a prolific writer across a number of genres but was perhaps best known for creating the "Longarm" adult western series, as well as a number of film and television novelizations.

Guns of Durango is written in a humorous first-person dialect which mixes light comedic undertones with plenty of western action.  

Our wry protagonist is trying to find his former military commander, who could clear him of the false charge of desertion during the Civil War; but that former commander has unfortunately gotten mixed up in the Mexican Revolution, with a lot of hard road filled with hostile Indians between the two men.

There seems to be a lot of Lou Cameron fans out there, though I had not dipped much of a toe into his work; but this was full of energy and fun, and I should go looking for more.

I picked this up at a yard sale for a quarter, read it in a single day camping in Michigan and was very satisfied, then left it in a Little Free Library.  Recommended for western fans.

Friday, July 16, 2021

#37: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

 A gay, mixed-race couple is murdered, and a biker gang is involved; to the gang's great misfortune, the fathers of both men are ex-cons with murderous histories in S.A. Cosby's Razorblade Tears.

One of the fathers is trying to stay out of trouble, the other isn't trying very hard; both agree to basically a suicide pact to stop at nothing until the killers of their sons are in the ground.  

And they don't take their promise lightly, with plenty of broken bones, gun and knife wounds (fatal and mostly fatal), and the liberal use of equipment and materials from one of the father's lawn care service all in play.

This is as tough a noir as you can find, with flashes of humor but a bleak undertone; if it wasn't for all the frank discussion of race, gender, and sexuality, it would fit squarely in a 1950s spinner rack full of Gold Medal paperbacks.

I thought Cosby's first novel, Blacktop Wasteland--full of muscle cars and antiheroes--was one of the best reads I'd found in a while, but this one is even better.  

I also thought though the first seemed ready-built for the movies, this one was even more so, with a graveside coda that seems right out of a screenplay.  I wouldn't be surprised to see either at the multiplex one day.

Recommended, especially for fans of hard-boiled contemporary noir.

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

#36: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Quintin Tarantino

 A fading cowboy star, with his laconic stuntman in tow, turns to television as Hollywood begins to change in Quintin Tarantino's novelization of his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

There's a lot of buzz around Tarantino's book, cleverly published as a cheap paperback with the stylings of that era.  It's both an expansion and a reimagining of the movie, with the bloody denouement of the film basically dismissed and long noodlings about Tarantino's classic film and television interests expanded.

My mileage with Tarantino really varies; for instance, in his film The Hateful Eight, I loved the spaghetti western influences from The Great Silence to including Morricone; but disliked the the constant punching of Jennifer Jason Leigh in the face for what I thought was humorous intent.  

I actually liked a lot of the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood film, but again was confounded by a couple of choices.

Same with this novel; lots of neat digressions and and musings on movies, but also some maddening elements, like a kind of unpleasant revision of the Brad Pitt character as well as Tarantino's long-standing insistence on being politically incorrect in various ways.

If you're a fan of Tarantino or the movie, it's a must-read; I think most casual readers who don't have an opinion on Tarantino might find their mileage varies.

I pre-ordered this from Amazon and read it quickly.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

#35: The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin

Ming Tsu is a Chinese orphan, raised to be a killer, who marries a white woman and sets out to go straight; but when she is kidnapped, and he is conscripted into building the railroads going westward, nothing but revenge is on his mind in Tom Lin's debut The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu.

Lin writes an offbeat genre-bender; it starts off as a pretty bleak western, with a high body count of men and horses, but takes a turn into the supernatural when Ming Tsu meets up with a blind prophet and a traveling sideshow of people with varying powers (from shape-shifting to pyrokinesis).  There are also intelligent animals and at least two characters seemingly raised from the dead.

Although there is a lot of heavy foreshadowing, a grim and bloody finale still surprises.  

Lyrically written, but doesn't fit in a single groove; for very discerning fans of traditional westerns, or for fantasy fans who don't mind a lot of cowboys.

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