Current Reading: Frederick C. Davis, Bob Woodward

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Please Pass the Poison by Frederick C. Davis, pulp mystery, first in Bill Brent series. Brent is a tough reporter who has been forced into the role of love columnist for The Recorder newspaper. Published between 1941 and 1946, these novels appeared in Dime Detective. In this, the first novel in the series, Brent gets mixed up in a poisoning case, against the wishes of both his editor and a rival reporter. Not bad.

Fear by Bob Woodward, non-fiction. What to say about this? A thick book full of often surprising, though on second thought not really that surprising, behind-the-scenes looks at the inner workings of the Trump White House. I shuddered a lot, exclaimed often, shook my head in disgust many times. Read it if you have the stomach.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 21 Comments

Forgotten Book: Jeopardy is My Job by Stephen Marlowe

Jeopardy Is My Job by Stephen Marlowe, © May 1962, Gold Medal 1962 paperback, mystery featuring Chester Drum

I picked this up at the L.A. paperback show, Lessercon, a few years back and finally got around to taking it off the shelf to read during a recent trip. I finished it up when I got home.

Drum is hired by “the Governor”, his superior, to find his adult son, who has gone missing in Spain. As the search gets underway, Drum is put off by the lifestyle of American expatriates living on the Costa Del Sol, and wonders if the missing son has simply melted into this live-for-today group. As he digs deeper, however, he uncovers widespread smuggling. It’s used as a form of investment: give some money to an “agent” to invest with a smuggler, get your dividend which is a share of the profits of the shipment.

He also discovers the missing man’s beautiful daughter, who is in love with a local bull fighter, is involved up to her pretty neck and seems to know a lot more than she’s admitting. With few clues to follow, in true hardboiled P.I. fashion Drum has to poke his nose in wherever he can to sniff out motive and try to figure out where the missing man may have gone—and whether he is alive or dead.

This is an entertaining P.I. novel, and the setting, typical of Drum novels set around the world, provides a nice change from big-city grit. Though I suspect this isn’t the best of the series, I like the character of Drum and have more of these on the shelf. You might try one.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 10 Comments

Current Reading: Lippman, Hyzy

Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman, (Tess Monaghan #1) mystery. After reading about, and meeting, years ago, Lippman I finally pulled this first in the series off the shelf. As expected, Lippman does an fine job of establishing a sense of place, not surprising since she and her character are Baltimore natives.

Tess is a recently laid off newspaper reporter and is scrambling to earn a living with a few part-time jobs given to her by family members. She is also a rower, and finds solace and sustenance rowing her shell on the river, often with her friend and competitive rower, Rock (Darryl Paxton). Paxton hires Tess to trail his fiance, whom he suspects is carrying on with another man. When there’s a murder, her rowing friend is a suspect and Tess goes to work as an investigator for his lawyer. A good start to a series I’ve heard improves with each book.

Virtual Sabotage by Julie Hyzy, science fictional thriller. In the near future, virtual reality is sophisticated big business, and the environments can be so real-seeming that sometimes clients of the big VR firms get lost in the experience and need someone to pull them out.

When this happens and one of the rescuers find herself in a situation so real physical harm occurs, it’s clear something more than “virtual” is happening, and code can alter life, It’s a huge conspiracy, and someone has to stop it. Interesting.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 11 Comments

Forgotten Book: Stakeout On Page Street by Joe Gores

Stakeout On Page Street by Joe Gores

Stakeout on Page Street

I like Gores’ DKA [Daniel Kearny Associates] novels a lot and have read them all a couple times each – or more – but perhaps it’s the short stories that are the most fun.

Gores takes his experience as a P.I. and the cases he worked or knew of and turns them into his stories. There is the ensemble cast for the DKA  and all of the stories in this book include them. With these stories it’s not the what so much as the how that matters, and the character’s interaction with each other and the people with whom the case brings them into contact. Of the stories here I especially liked “The O’Bannon Blarney File” and “The Maimed and the Halt”. Very enjoyable and highly recommended.

The stories, in the order in which they were intended to appear:

  • “File #1: The Mayfair Case” (December 1967, EQMM; also First Cases; aka “Find the Girl”)
  • “File #2: Stakeout on Page Street” (January 1968, EQMM)
  • “File #3: The Pedretti Case” (July 1968, EQMM; aka “The Three Halves”)
  • “File #4: Lincoln Sedan Deadline” (September 1968, EQMM)
  • “File #5: The Maria Navarro Case” (June 1969, EQMM; aka “Be Nice To Me”)
  • File #6: Beyond the Shadow” (January 1972, EQMM)
  • “File #7: O Black and Unknown Bard” (April 1972, EQMM)
  • “File #8: The O’Bannon Blarney File” (1973, Men and Malice)
  • “File #9: Full Moon Madness” (February 1984, EQMM)
  • “File #10: The Maimed and the Halt” (January 1976, EQMM)
  • “File #11: Jump Her Lively, Boys!” (July 1984, EQMM)
  • “File #12: Do Not Go Gentle” (March 1989, EQMM)
Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 6 Comments

Current Reading: Reavis Wortham, James Benn

Hawke’s Prey by Reavis Z. Wortham, thriller. This is the first in the Texas Ranger Sonny Hawke series. Ballard, Texas is typical small town west Texas, and not a lot happens there. But the beginning of this book changes that. A terrorist squad shoots up a border patrol stop, then enters Ballard and takes over the Courthouse.

Texas Ranger Sonny Hawke happens to be inside the courthouse, with his school teacher wife, Kelly and her class of high school students, including their twins. The terrorists are an odd bunch, comprised of jihadists, Mexican cartel members and American alt-right militia members. The man in charge put them together in that manner to confound the authorities. The mastermind had a goal, but the guy on the ground in Ballard had a different agenda: terror and control. Expect non-stop action, plenty of shell casings to fly, and because of the 100 year blizzard, plenty of cold and snow. I don’t read much high-action fiction, but I really enjoyed this.

Hawke’s War by Reavis Z. Wortham, thriller. …and this one as well. The second in the series, it picks up shortly after the above described book, and has just as much, perhaps more, action. This time Hawke is lured into an ambush in Big Bend National Park, where he is captured by some of the “bad guys” who escaped in the first book. It’s a grueling time for Texas Ranger Hawke, as authorities search for him and his captors head for the border to deliver him to the vengeful brother of the man Hawke killed in the first book. Tons of action. I liked it even better than the first book and am waiting for book 3.

Billy Boyle by James R. Benn, WWII mystery. This paperback was a freebie way back when Left Coast Crime was in Monterey, CA. I brought it home and stashed it away with the other book bag goodies, and just recently pulled it out to give it a try.

I enjoyed it more than I expected, both character and setting, World War II England, were good, and American Billy Boyle, who was a Boston cop before the draft, winds up as an aide to some guy named Ike. He stumbles his way to a satisfying conclusion to the murder mystery. I may try the next one, which the library has in ebook format.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 11 Comments

Forgotten Stories: The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard October 22, 2013 trade paperback, 672 pages (2.3 pounds)

Here comes the Christmas/Holiday season, and this is just the time for reading crime-themed mystery set at this time of year. Though the anthology is a mere five years old, and probably not forgotten, the contents are old, ranging from the 1890s to the 1970s. Take a look at the table of contents below to see what a rich cornucopia of stories is included.

This wonderful, thick collection is a bargain and for those who don’t like to hold doorstop weight books is also available in Kindle/ebook format. I easily enjoyed almost every one of these stories, many of which were new to me, and I’ve been reading Christmas crime anthologies for years. Speaking of which, I’ll admit I started this one last December, and didn’t get much past halfway, so I picked it up this November and finished it just this week. Good stuff.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION Otto Penzler
 
A Traditional Little Christmas
THE ADVENTURE OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING Agatha Christie
GOLD, FRANKINCENSE AND MURDER Catherine Aird
BOXING UNCLEVER Robert Barnard
THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING Peter Lovesey
THE ADVENTURE OF THE DAUPHIN’S DOLL Ellery Queen
MORSE’S GREATEST MYSTERY Colin Dexter
MORE THAN FLESH AND BLOOD Susan Moody
THE BUTLER’S CHRISTMAS EVE Mary Roberts Rinehart
THE TRINITY CAT Ellis Peters 91
 
A Funny Little Christmas
THE BURGLAR AND THE WHATSIT Donald E. Westlake
DANCING DAN’S CHRISTMAS Damon Runyon
A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS Ron Goulart
THE THIEVES WHO COULDN’T HELP SNEEZING Thomas Hardy
RUMPOLE AND THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS John Mortimer
A REVERSIBLE SANTA CLAUS Meredith Nicholson
 
A Sherlockian Little Christmas
A SCANDAL IN WINTER Gillian Linscott
THE CHRISTMAS CLIENT Edward D. Hoch
THE SECRET IN THE PUDDING BAG & HERLOCK SHOLMES’S
CHRISTMAS CASE Peter Todd
CHRISTMAS EVE S. C. Roberts
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BLUE CARBUNCLE Arthur Conan Doyle
 
A Pulpy Little Christmas
DEAD ON CHRISTMAS STREET John D. MacDonald
CRIME’S CHRISTMAS CAROL Norvell Page
SERENADE TO A KILLER Joseph Commings
 
An Uncanny Little Christmas
THE HAUNTED CRESCENT Peter Lovesey
A CHRISTMAS IN CAMP Edmund Cox
THE CHRISTMAS BOGEY Pat Frank
THE KILLER CHRISTIAN Andrew Klavan
THE GHOST’S TOUCH Fergus Hume
A WREATH FOR MARLEY Max Allan Collins
 
A Scary Little Christmas
THE CAROL SINGERS Josephine Bell
WAXWORKS Ethel Lina White
CAMBRIC TEA Marjorie Bowen
THE 74TH TALE Jonathan Santlofer
THE UNINNOCENT Bradford Morrow
BLUE CHRISTMAS Peter Robinson
 
A Surprising Little Christmas
NOEL, NOEL Barry Perowne
DEATH ON CHRISTMAS EVE Stanley Ellin
THE CHINESE APPLE Joseph Shearing
 
A Modern Little Christmas
AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE Ed McBain
AN EARLY CHRISTMAS Doug Allyn
THE LIVE TREE John Lutz
THREE-DOT PO Sara Paretsky
MAD DOG Dick Lochte
 
A Puzzling Little Christmas
SISTER BESSIE Cyril Hare
THAT’S THE TICKET Mary Higgins Clark
DEATH ON THE AIR Ngaio Marsh
THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS Isaac Asimov
THE CHRISTMAS KITTEN Ed Gorman
THE SANTA CLAUS CLUB Julian Symons
 
A Classic Little Christmas
THE FLYING STARS G. K. Chesterton
CHRISTMAS PARTY Rex Stout
THE RAFFLES RELICS E. W. Hornung
THE PRICE OF LIGHT Ellis Peters
A PRESENT FOR SANTA SAHIB H. R. F. Keating
THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN Will Scott
MARKHEIM Robert Louis Stevenson
A CHAPARRAL CHRISTMAS GIFT O. Henry
THE CHOPHAM AFFAIR Edgar Wallace
A CHRISTMAS TRAGEDY Agatha Christie

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 13 Comments

Current Reading: John Scalzi, Will Murray

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi, science fiction. The Interdependency series number two. This is the second in the series, following The Collapsing Empire. The Interdependency—humanity’s interstellar empire—is on the verge of collapse. The extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible – the Flow – is collapsing, leaving entire systems and human civilizations stranded.

Emperox Grayland II of the Interdependency is ready to take desperate measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least an opportunity to an ascension to power.

Scalzi sets up an interesting scenario for a star empire facing it’s possible end, and as always his characters are intriguing, if somewhat foul-mouthed. I read this in a couple of days, and it’s obvious from the ending there will be another in the series. Bring it on, Scalzi!

The Spider: The Doom Legion by Will Murray, new pulp adventure. From the jacket blurb:
“When a weird meteor crashes in the heart of Central Park on Halloween night, its uncanny light attracts the attention of Richard Wentworth—alias The Spider! Investigating, the millionaire criminologist encounters a maelstrom of madness in the making. Drawn, too, are two sinister figures from the past—international master criminals who join forces to harness the power of the pulsing meteorite. Alone, The Spider confronts his greatest challenge, but he is not alone this time. For the unholy power of the meteorite draws James Christopher, alias Operator 5, and another government agent from the past, known only as G-8…. Together, this heroic trio must battle a pair of powerful adversaries intent on harnessing and unleashing the malevolent power of the Green Meteorite. But how can they work together when one of them is branded an outlaw?”

Pretty good pulp story, Murray is really good at these.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 13 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m thankful for so many things, today and everyday.

Today especially, it’s a beautiful Fall day, with some needed rain coming later.

Also, I’m thankful for, among many, many other things:
My wife, my home, my health, all my wonderful friends, both local and in the larger blogging world
Warm clothes, our cat.

Books, and that I can read them. Many, more things! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Oh, and what’s your menu today?

note: no Friday Forgotten post tomorrow…..

Posted in At Home in Portland | 7 Comments

Current Reading – ASTOUNDING by Nevala-Lee

ASTOUNDING – John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee, Day Street Books, October 2018 hardcover, 544 pages.

I started reading reading Astounding Science Fiction in 1955, at age ten. I loved the covers, the stories, the interior illustrations (Kelly Freas was my favorite) and the book reviews. I completely ignored the editorial material, and generally skipped the fact article, unless it was by Willie Ley, whose articles on rockets I found interesting. But my focus was on the short stories and serialized longer works. I gobbled up every issue as it came in the mail.

A few years later I  discovered a used magazine store in downtown Los Angeles who sold back issues by the year, tied in twine. Over three visits I bought all of 1950 through 1954. I read and loved those issues too, again skipping the editorial content, in which I had no interest. For me, then Astounding was a fiction magazine, pure and simple. Though later I read both Galaxy and Fantasy & Science FictionAstounding remained my favorite up to and a little past the time it changed name its to Analog.

When I heard about this book and read some reviews, I thought it would be just what I wanted: a book about the magazine and it’s editor’s influence on the SF of the decades 40s-50s-60s. This book is not that. The subtitle might indicate the author’s intentions, but with the word ASTOUNDING in caps at the head, I think the complete title is misleading. Certainly, there’s not really a lot about the golden age of science fiction.

I was extremely disappointed. It was not at all what I wanted or expected. There is far, far too much focus on L. Ron Hubbard and his obsessions of Dianetics and, later, Scientology. The book also focuses on how haywire Campbell became under the influence of Hubbard. Deleting all of the Hubbard material from the book would have improved it greatly, as would have the inclusion of the many other authors who contributed to science fiction’s “golden age” through their contributions to the magazine. Too bad.

How about you?
What have you been reading lately?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 23 Comments

Forgotten, or Not: The Will of the Dead by George Mann

I’ve read all of the Holmes canon several times, and I’ve read and enjoyed many pastiches. I’ve also come across some that were fairly wretched. One never knows what is in store when starting a new Holmes story collection or novel.

The Will of the Dead

The Will of the Dead by George Mann, Titan Books 2013 trade paper

I’ve been buying and reading some of the Sherlock Holmes pastiches being published by Titan Books, and enjoying them to various degrees.

The story opens with a death, an old man stumbles and falls down the steep stairs in his home. In the morning, the maid finds him, lying at the foot of the stairs, dead of a broken neck. The four nieces and nephews of the man are staying in the house after a birthday celebration the day before.

The attorney is called, but surprisingly the will is nowhere to be found. Thus instead of each child getting a quarter of the sizable estate, the eldest child will get it all. A younger child goes to Holmes to see if he can find the will and restore his share.

That’s the basic plot, and it is well written and the characters move the story along in spite of what may seem an obvious criminal and motive. But wait, there is  a secondary plot, because this isn’t just a Holmes pastiche, it’s a steam punk Holmes pastiche.

To say more might spoil things, so I’ll just add that I enjoyed this one, and you might too.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 13 Comments