Sunday, October 30, 2022

#35: Danton's Day by Gunn Halliday

 An outlaw gang wants revenge on a small-town sheriff, but he skips town and leaves a hot-headed young deputy, and a burned-out former lawman, to take on the gang in Gunn Halliday's Danton's Day.

As one might suspect, "Gunn Halliday" is somebody else, in this case one of those many crazily prolific Australian writers Cleveland Publishing kept seeming to find; in this case Desmond Dunn, who wrote under a bushel of names and genres.

To me, this was an unusually robust Cleveland Western, as they are generally slender volumes with a single story arc sketched in.  Here we find a number of colorful characters and more intricate plot, still resolving about where you'd think, with the burned-out lawman finding the strength to coach the younger deputy into standing and fighting.

Halliday finds a way to make Danton's Day pop more than the average western, thus making me want to look for more from him.

I picked this out from a big stack of Cleveland Westerns I lucked into and read it quickly on a camping trip.

Friday, October 28, 2022

#34: Cold Caller by Jason Starr

A telemarketer in bad old 90s New York tries to climb the corporate ladder, while the pressure has his mind unraveling at the same time, in Jason Starr's Cold Caller.

Starr is a versatile thriller/noir writer who I have enjoyed over the years; I came across his initial novel for my beloved Kindle and scooped it up.

The protagonist is a classic unreliable narrator, who can't understand why a spontaneous murder is throwing a wrench in his plans.  His unplanned attack on a prostitute, and his live-in girlfriend's growing suspicions,  become increasingly inconvenient to him as well.

Cold Caller keeps spiraling into a darker and colder place until it hits bottom with a sobering, but necessary, denouement.

I read this one quickly.  Good for genre fans and fans of Starr.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

#33: The Employees by Olga Ravn

A deep-space ship on an expedition to a far-off planet, with a crew of humans and robots, gathers alien objects from the planet's surface and begin interacting with them, for good and for ill, in Olga Ravn's The Employees.

What could be a plot lifted from lantern-jawed 40s pulp is given a unique spin by Danish author Ravn, who presents the story in a elliptical way through memos, interviews, and other documents being transmitted among colleagues on the ship.  It's like a version of The Office as told by The Strugatsky Brothers.  If that resonates with you, this is your jam.

The Employees is a slender read, but really full of ideas for anyone who spends the time reading it carefully.  I've thought about it a lot since and have recommended it to several people who enjoy mind-bending science fiction.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

#32: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

The sound of a violin seems to be disrupting space and time, sending a time travel agent from the far future into various eras to understand how it has happened, in Emily St. John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility.

Mandel's Station Eleven is one of my favorite reads of the last few years, and her follow-up The Glass Hotel, was not its equal but worth reading as well; curiously, this volume kind of makes it a trilogy.

I was always curious why characters from Station Eleven showed up in The Glass Hotel, but in entirely different situations, including being alive when they were dead and so on.  In a strangely tangential way this novel tries to explain that, by again featuring some of the same characters, with their lives changed by this ripple in time.

That being said, Sea of Tranquility can be read without the other novels as more of a meditation on the impact of random encounters, small decisions, and passing friendships on the scope of someone's life.  

Again doesn't reach the heights of Station Eleven, but thoughtful and readable, and I continue to look forward to her new work.

I purchased this one and read it quickly, then passed it on to interested friends.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

#31: Bring Me His Scalp! by John Benteen

Jim Sundance, the product of a white father and a Cheyenne mother, spends his time trying to negotiate peace between those two worlds; but when a mysterious organization puts a high bounty on his head to stop him, all hell breaks loose in John Benteen's Bring Me His Scalp!

Benteen was really Ben Haas, who was fortunate to have two great series characters--Sundance and a soldier of fortune named Fargo--in addition to his other writing.  His stories are always very hard-nosed, fast-moving and generally a cut above the genre.

Bring Me His Scalp! starts off with a bang, as Sundance is being pursued by eight hired guns, all of which he dispatches before the end of the first chapter.

But there are plenty of killers in the Old West, and Sundance makes a sizable dent as he tries to figure out who ordered his murder.

A very action-packed outing for Benteen and a satisfying entry in the series.

I found this at a goodbye price and read it very quickly on a camping trip.

Friday, October 14, 2022

#30: Silver Pebbles by Hansjörg Schneider

A cynical Basel cop has his own reasons for trying to bring down a smuggling ring in Swiss writer Hansjörg Schneider's Silver Pebbles.

Although prolific in Switzerland, this is only Schneider's second novel translated into English.  I hope these keep coming, because I have enjoyed them both.

In this one, our tarnished hero seems to be more intent on helping a hapless immigrant sewer worker, who stumbles into the crime, than actually bringing the gang to justice.  Even by the high standards set by Scandinavian noir, our detective is extremely dour and sardonic and plays by his own set of rules (if he thinks about rules at all).

A wide cross-section of characters, with Basel as a vivid setting (at the crossroads of several countries and cultures) helps make Schneider's work a cut above.

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

Saturday, October 1, 2022

#29: Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Upon the death of her mother, a teenager and her grieving dad move from Philadelphia to a small town in Missouri.  She is at school only a single day before she realizes a dark cloud hangs over the town, and it is all coming to a head during a celebration called Founder's Day.

Clown in a Cornfield from Adam Cesare goes pretty much where you expect from there, the clown of the title being the mascot of a local factory, recently shut down and burned, and the cornfield being where the teenagers plan to hold an all-night bonfire party.  

But crossbows, chainsaws, and machetes intervene on the fun, hitting all the expected beats.  

Cesare's novel is pre-built for cinema, a straight-faced homage to 80s and 90s teens in peril horror.  Highly agreeable for genre fans.

I listened to a very good audiobook reading by Jesse Vilinsky on loan from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana.