Forgotten Collection: Grottos of Chinatown by Arthur J. Burks

this is the 238th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

grottos-of-chinatownGrottos of Chinatown by Arthur J. Burks, Off-Trail Publications 2009 trade paper. Pulp mystery short story collection featuring undercover detective Dorus Noel. Cover art by Raphael DeSoto

This book collects, for the first time, all eleven Dorus Noel stories from 1933-1934 in the pages of All Detective Magazine. Each story includes the original opening illustration. In addition to the stories the first two pieces (see contents) are very  informative about Burks and All Detective Magazine.

Dorus Noel spent many years in the Far East, and knew it’s people, languages and traditions well. Now he is living in New York’s Chinatown, an undercover agent answering to his mysterious boss on Park Avenue. Here he attempts to solve the insidious crimes of the mostly hidden Chinese underworld, a place of strange alliances, dark menace and mystery.

Here is an urban nightmare of hidden rooms and secret passageways riddling the district like a rabbit warren, a world in shadow, of fantastic wealth, lush carpets and draperies hiding cruelty and evil, beauty and ugliness. Dorus Noel knows this place, he goes into it with a soft step and a loaded gun, and he solves the most bizarre cases, the ones beyond the ability of the regular police.

These stories are good fun, very atmospheric, not particularly puzzling but entertaining nevertheless. There is a sameness about the stories that made me want to read only one or two at a time, so I took my time finishing this one. A very nice collection, and an enjoyable one.

Contents:

  • Portrait of Arthur J. Burks
  • Arthur J. Banks and All Detective
  • “Death of the Flute”
  • “The White Wasp”
  • “Bells of Pell Street”
  • “Red Tassels”
  • “The Golden Cocoon”
  • “Cloisonné”
  • “Spheres of Cathay”
  • “Design For Murder”
  • “Tinkling Bells”
  • “Black Snow”
  • “The Blood Screen”

 

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 12 Comments

New arrival: Rogues edited by Martin & Dozois

roguesRogues edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, Bantam Books, 2014 hardcover (softcover followed), 832 pages. I have the softcover, and it’s very, very thick. Talk about a big fat book! (As George Kelley likes to say).

Gardner Dozois has won fifteen Hugo Awards and thirty-two Locus Awards for his editing work. I especially liked what he and Martin did with the Old Mars and Old Venus anthologies. If you like SF and haven’t read those, I encourage you to do so. I hope this one is as good, it looks, from the contents page, to be.

Rogues is a cross-genre anthology, with both science fiction and fantasy, even some mystery, featuring 21 original short stories from various authors. Some of these may sound familiar to you by this time, because of award nominations, reviews and discussions.

Contents:

  • “Everybody Loves a Rogue” (Introduction) by George R.R. Martin
  • “Tough Times All Over” by Joe Abercrombie – In the city of Sipani, a package goes through multiple owners, each providing a different viewpoint, starting with a courier who gets robbed.
  • “What Do You Do?” by Gillian Flynn – A nameless sex worker and fortune teller is hired to spiritually cleanse a wealthy woman’s house but soon comes to believe she is in way over her head.
  • “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matt Hughes – A thief is interrupted in a haul when he touches an idol and soon finds himself rescuing its owner.
  • “Bent Twig” by Joe R. Lansdale – Hap takes the law into his own hands to rescue a young woman from criminals in Tyler, Texas.
  • “Tawny Petticoats” by Michael Swanwick – In a surreal Post-Utopian New Orleans full of zombies, two tricksters named Darger and Surplus attempt a huge con.
  • “Provenance” by David W. Ball – The journey of a newly resurfaced Caravaggio through war and bloodshed to arrive in the present day.
  • “The Roaring Twenties” by Carrie Vaughn – A tense confrontation in a speakeasy frequented by the magical crowd.
  • “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch – A retired thief is blackmailed into stealing an entire street within a year and a day.
  • “Bad Brass” by Bradley Denton – When a group of high school students tries to sell stolen tubas, their substitute teacher plans on stealing their profits to teach them a lesson.
  • “Heavy Metal” by Cherie Priest – A monster hunter is called in to a small town which is still recovering from a 150 year old ecological disaster.
  • “The Meaning of Love” by Daniel Abraham – In the slums a prince is in hiding – but now he has fallen in love with a young woman about to be sold as a slave.
  • “A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell
  • “Ill Seen in Tyre” by Steven Saylor – A Greek poet and his apprentice stop in Tyre to purchase a magical tome.
  • “A Cargo of Ivories” by Garth Nix
  • “Diamonds From Tequila” by Walter Jon Williams
  • “The Caravan to Nowhere” by Phyllis Eisenstein
  • “The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” by Lisa Tuttle
  • “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back” by Neil Gaiman
  • “Now Showing” by Connie Willis
  • “The Lightning Tree” by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Rogue Prince, or, a King’s Brother by George R. R. Martin – Set in the Westeros of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, hundreds of years before the events of A Game of Thrones, this is a prequel to The Princess and the Queen (2013) and focuses on the actions of King Viserys I Targaryen’s brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen.

I may try the one-story-a-day thing with this one, though some of them are pretty long for that.

Posted in Books & Reading | 17 Comments

Current Reading: Krueger, Chee, Gores, Knight

tricksters-pointnorthwest-angleI’ve read two more books by William Kent Krueger, Northwest Angle, and the next in the series, Trickster’s Point.

I enjoyed both books a lot, though of the two, I liked Northwest Angle a little better. Krueger really is a very, very good writer, and portrayal of character and the sense of place he gives in this series are outstanding. Though tempted to go on to the next in the series, I decided to take a break for some other reading.

First was The Reader – Sea of Ink and Gold by Traci Chee, the first in a new YA fantasy series. I’d seen a couple of good reviews, and thought I’d try it. I made it to about 30 pages before I gave it up and sent it back to the library. It just wasn’t working for me.

Looking about, I realized I had a short story collection I needed to finish (tune in next Friday for that). Now I’ve started Wycliff and the Three-Toed Pussy, by W.J. Burley. Published in 1968, it’s the first in the series. Last October, I read another of the Wycliffe books, Wycliffe and the Quiet Virgin,  liked it, and thought it time to try another.

devils-workshopBarbara finished The Black Country, by Alex Grecian, the second book in the Scotland Yard Murder Squad series, about early days of Scotland Yard. She then read the latest Krueger, Manitou Canyon. She raced through it and said she liked it a LOT. Now she’s reading the third Murder Squad book, The Devil’s Workshop. She’ll finish that today and start reading Disclaimer by Renee Knight, which was given a strong recommendation by Deb, a commenter on this and other blogs. Thanks, Deb!

How about you?
What are you reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 32 Comments

Stimulating the Economy

Fall is just around the corner, and on our property, and on the adjacent ones, there are many trees, and excepting the conifers, many, many leaves. For years we’ve been sweeping them into little piles, then using an oversize plastic dust pan to pick them up and put them into a yard debris bin.

It’s the sweeping part that’s a pain in the neck, so we just bought this baby:

oregon-leaf-blower

OREGON CORDLESS 40 Volt MAX BL300 Handheld Blower
with 4.0 Ah Battery Pack and C600 Charger

Electric, cordless, powerful, quiet. Now we’ll be able to corral those pesky leaves into manageable piles and get ’em into the leaf bags with ease!

Posted in Books & Reading | 5 Comments

Forgotten Omnibus: Tales of Sector General by James White

this is the 237th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

Tales of Sector GeneralTales of Sector General by James White, [1999 Science Fiction Book Club omnibus containing 3 Sector General novels: The Galactic Gourmet (1996), Final Diagnosis (1997) and Mind Changer (1998). Science fiction.

At the time of publication, these were the final three Sector General novels James White wrote, but he added Double Contact in 1999, the last novel. All of them are about and mostly take place on Sector General Hospital, a huge multi-species medical facility floating in neutral space.

The novels, and a few short stories, are strongly character driven and focus on the multi-species staff or patients at the facility.

White has a reader friendly descriptive style that keeps these medical SF novels from becoming dreary or didactic. Instead. there is enough medical information, much of it, naturally invented for alien species, to explain the problem which the staff then solve in clever and often unusual ways.

  • Can a galaxy-class master chef make a place for himself in a multi-species hospital?
  • Can a patient be mentally broadcasting a virus from one species to another?
  • Can a human psychologist put the memories of an alien surgeon in his head and then talk a medical student through a delicate operation?

All three of these novels  – and the entire series – can stand alone, but it is my recommendation that the novice James White reader begin at the beginning, and follow the order shown in the list below. This is very good science fiction indeed, and the reader is rewarded with characters to like and puzzles to solve in a different and intriguing environment. Not to be missed.

The books in the series are:

  • Hospital Station (1962: stories published in New Worlds 1957–1960)
  • Star Surgeon (1963)
  • Major Operation (1971: stories published in New Worlds 1968–1971)
  • Ambulance Ship (1979)
  • Sector General (1983)
  • Star Healer (1985)
  • Code Blue – Emergency (1987)
  • The Genocidal Healer (1992)
  • The Galactic Gourmet (1996)
  • Final Diagnosis (1997)
  • Mind Changer (1998)
  • Double Contact (1999)

These were also published as omnibus editions:

  • Beginning Operations (2001) contains Hospital StationStar Surgeon and Major Operation.
  • Alien Emergencies (2002) contains Ambulance ShipSector General and Star Healer.
  • General Practice (2003) contains Code Blue – Emergency and The Genocidal Healer.
  • Tales of Sector General (1999) contains The Galactic GourmetFinal Diagnosis, and Mind Changer.
Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Science Fiction | 10 Comments

Anthology, Collection, Omnibus

stack_of_booksI suppose everyone has their own way of defining these things, and some people get more determined about it than others, and some even strident. You’ll have your own opinions, and that’s fine, I’m just giving these the way I see it so you’ll understand my next three Friday posts. If you want to disagree in the comments, go ahead, I’m not going to argue with you.

So, in alphabetical order:

Anthology  – a group of stories by different authors, edited, often with a specific theme, time period, or intent to group the stories cohesively. Example: The Hard-Boiled Veldt: Murder at the Water Hole, edited by Flinky Flanders.

Collection – a group of stories by a single author, edited by that author or another person. Could be a “best of”, several early or current works, something themed, or a “complete” set. Example: The Complete Stories of Flinky Flanders.

Omnibus – a group of two or more novels or other long works by a single author or by authors connected by subject, theme or time. Example: Three Early Novels of Flinky Flanders.

So that’s it, simple enough, works for me. For the next three Fridays I’ll be posting one of each.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 12 Comments

Current Reading: Penny, Todd, Krueger, Grecian

12-lrg-a-great-reckoningI finished Louise Penny’s A Great Reckoning a few days ago, and it’s always good to visit with the familiar characters of the Gamache / Three Pines books. This one has a plot involving the Sûreté Academy,  and Gamache, now out of retirement, is a Commander. There’s an interesting sub-plot about an old map found in the wall of the Bistro during remodeling and the whole thing, including tying the two plots together, winds up quite nicely. Recommended.

duty-to-the-deadAlso read was A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd, the first in his Bess Crawford series about a nurse during World War I. In it, she carries a dying message from a soldier back to England and gets involved in problems the family has including an older son who, at the age of 14, murdered a house maid. I liked the character quite a bit, and though the story got a little slow in the middle, it wraps up nicely.

Vermillion DriftI finished Vermillion Drift, the 11th in William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Conner series. I’d started it before but bogged down after only 15 pages or so. At the time, I had other books to read and wasn’t “in the right place” for it, I guess.

This time I went past that spot and read it right through in a few days. I liked it a lot, as I seem to always do with this series. I have four more in the series before I can get to Krueger’s latest (16th) book in the series, which arrived last Tuesday. I’ve gone on to the next book in the series, Northwest Angle.

black-countryBarbara finished A Time of Torment by John Connolly, and went straight on to the Louise Penny, which she has also finished. She’s now reading The Black Country by Alex Grecian, follow-up novel to The Yard. These are the first two books in the Murder Squad series, about early days of Scotland Yard.

The minute she finishes Black Country, she’ll start on that new Krueger, Manitou Canyon.

How about you?
What are you reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 19 Comments

Forgotten Book: Eragon by Christopher Paolini

this is the 236th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

Eragon by Christopher Paolini, Knopf 2003 hardcover
fantasy – Inheritance  Book 1 (of 4)

Eragon_book_cover“Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world. A tall Shade lifted his head and sniffed the air. He looked human except for his crimson hair and maroon eyes.”

Christopher Paolini began Eragon at age 15. His skills with storytelling and writing beyond his years and show improvement as the book progresses through it’s 497 pages.

Eragon, a young farm boy, is hunting in a mountainous area near his home when a flash and explosion occur nearby, devastating a small area of forest. He goes to investigate and finds among the burned brush and trees a large blue stone. He tries to barter it for food but townsfolk are suspicious of anything unusual, no matter how attractive, fearing it may be evil in nature. So he keeps it. The gemlike stone soon cracks open, hatching a beautiful sapphire-blue dragon with which Eragon bonds. This is all unexpected as dragons are thought to be extinct.

Soon afterward his family is killed by the evil marauding Ra’zac, and soon Eragon discovers that he is the last of the Dragon Riders, fated to play a decisive part in the coming war between the humans dwarves and elves versus the diabolical Shades, Neanderthal-like Urgalls and the evil King Galbatorix. Soon Eragon and his dragon Saphira are thrown into a complex political situation which they struggle to understand while they endure perilous travel, battles, dire wounds and capture.

The book shows the influence of Tolkien (as does every fantasy written since Lord of the Rings) and also perhaps Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey and George RR Martin. It’s a traditional fantasy tale of a young boy who comes to realize he is special and his quest to find himself and overcome evil. We have the generally agreed-upon nature of dwarves, elves, dragons, magic swords and heroic warfare. The endpapers are a helpful map. This book got better as I read and by the end I was ready for the next volume, Eldest, which was published just over a year later.

The gap stretched out for the final two novels, and the four book series wasn’t in hand until 2011, nearly eight years after Eragon appeared. After I read this first book, I bought each successive one but did not read them until the quartet was complete. At which time I re-read this book and then went straight through the others. At the end, I found I had enjoyed the entire story immensely and wished there could be another book carrying on the story of Eragon and his dragon, Saphira. 

These didn’t get the positive reaction I believe they deserved, and the 2006 film didn’t help matters any, though I find it to be watchable, just not great. I think fantasy readers who only read this first book and stopped have been short-changing themselves. I can recommend the entire set.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 8 Comments

Current Reading: Penny, Connolly

12-lrg-a-great-reckoningA Great Reckoning by Louise Penny came Wednesday, but I didn’t start reading for a couple of days. First I finished the last few stories in the hard-boiled anthology for the special Friday Forgotten (or seldom read) Book posting on September 30. I enjoyed it a lot.

Then I lost a day to a migraine, so it was only on Friday that I began the new Penny. So far, so good. It’s interesting how the author continues the long story arch while finding new ways to involve the characters and the village of Three Pines in each book. I’m at the three-quarter point, and I’ll not say anything about the story as I’m not sure where it’s going or how things will wind up. Too early for opinions.

Barbara also has a copy, from the library, but before starting it she finished A Time of Torment by John Connolly, a Charley Parker thriller. She liked it a lot, but I gather from her comments that it’s not for the faint of heart.

So, as rarely happens, we’re both reading the same book at the same time.

How about you?
What are you reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 29 Comments

Forgotten Book: A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King

this is the 235th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King, Bantam 1997 paperback, Holmes & Russell, 2nd in series

Monstrous Regiment of WomenI very much enjoyed the first in this series, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which I read in March 1997. I see from my read list I gave it a rating of “excellent” (4.5 of 5 stars) and when I reviewed it in The Perp, saying I liked the book a lot and gave it a “highly recommended”.

At the time I bought the next three books in the series, available in paperback. Why I didn’t read another until a couple of years later had to do, as is so often the case, with the number of books in the TBR pile and my own idiosyncrasies of what appeals at any particular moment. I plucked this from the shelf a couple months ago, read about 30 pages, then left it in the car, and every now and then I’d pick it up and read a few pages, perhaps while at the pool or in the car waiting for someone. But the book grabbed me and I decided to finish it, which I did in a couple of days. I wrote this review and then that got set aside until now.

A series of murders claims members of a church/suffrage organization’s wealthy young female volunteers, and Mary Russell, with Holmes in the background, investigates, little knowing what danger she personally faces. Mary has come into her majority and so has the means to match her intellect and skills in determining the truth behind the murders and a near-fatal accident.

I don’t think this is as good as the initial book, but that’s my reaction comparing the plots, I like the writing in both. I know people who liked this one better. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this one at all, I just didn’t happen to like it as much The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Since the time I read this, I’ve gone on in the series by several more books. There hasn’t been one I didn’t like. However I’m several books behind in this series, so I can’t speak for all of them.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 14 Comments