Current Reading, July 16: Ryan, Horowitz, McBride, Cole

Confession: I’m still catching up, so some of these were read slightly more than a month ago.

The Other Woman by Hank Phillips Ryan – thriller/mystery – One of the many blogs I visit is Jungle Red Writerscontributed to by seven or more writers of various genres, mostly soft or cozy, but also historical and thriller. One of those authors is Ryan, and I wanted to try one of her books and choose this one from 2012. At 433 pages I think it was too long and needed editing down. The main character, a reporter kicked off her lead TV job after refusing to reveal a source, is interesting and likable, though her tendency to get flustered is bothersome. Her love interest and the second main character is a cop.

Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz – thriller, James Bond. It’s been a long time since I read any James Bond; many years, I think. But Horowitz is hot right now and a strong review of this got me to try it. Not bad, but I’ll always prefer the originals by Ian Fleming.

Forsaken by Michael McBride – Horror, Unit 51 Book 2. I came across and read the first Unit 51 book, Subhuman in May, and followed it up with this just a couple of weeks ago. Not as good as the first one, which is a very Alien-like story of the monsters deep in the Antarctic ice. In chambers that are thawed. If you like that sort of thing, try the first one (I read them in ebook format).

Ragged Lake by Ron Corbett – mystery. This was shortlisted for the Nero Award. The setting in Canada is very well realized, the characters strong, the mystery well laid out. The author puts in a twist near the end. My only complaint is a character I liked didn’t survive. But I guess everyone can’t stay alive in a mystery novel with dope gangs and a hired killer stalking in the woods. This is Corbett’s first novel, and I’ll read his next one when it comes out this Fall.

The Pride of Chanur by C. J. Cherryh – science fiction. Though the author’s – perhaps – best known work, Downbelow Station, left me cold, I wanted to try one of her Chanur books and this is the first in the series. Very enjoyable.


So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 14 Comments

FFB: West of Guam: The Complete Cases of Jo Gar

another in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

Image courtesy of Altus Press

West of Guam: The Complete Cases of Jo Gar by Raoul Whitfield – Altus Press, May 11, 2013

(edited by the Black Mask Library series general editor Keith Alan Deutsch)

I really, really love these stories.

“In the February 1930 issue of Black Mask Magazine a new character was introduced to the American detective story. Jo Gar is both a classic “thinking” sleuth and a tough man of action who inhabits the exotic noir world of the Philippines between the two World Wars. Jo Gar faces a rogue’s gallery of colorful villains from mixed-race Chinese to high society American exiles.

In these Jo Gar stories, Whitfield creates a vivid world where typhoons threaten the harbor, criminals escape from the local prison, and the waterfront is home to cutthroats from all countries. Manila’s great international seaport is home to luxury liner travelers of all classes from all around Asia, and the world.

This new, expanded edition from Altus Press of the long out of print, very collectable 2002 anthology, contains every word written about Jo Gar, and presents every story, novella, and novel. It includes two legendary Nagasaki novelettes not seen since 1930 as well as the only Jo Gar novel, The Rainbow Murders, complete and unabridged!” – from the introduction

This volume includes two important, critical, biographical essays about Whitfield and Jo Gar by Black Mask scholar E.R. Hagemann, and a portrait of Professor Hagemann by his colleague, Dr. R.H. Miller. The new book is richly illustrated with line drawings by one of the greatest dry brush illustrator of the pulp age, Arthur Rodman Bowker.

West of Guam: The Complete Cases of Jo Gar by Raoul Whitfield contains the following stories:

  • “West of Guam”
  • “Death in the Pasig”
  • “Red Hemp”
  • “Signals of Storm”
  • “Enough Rope”
  • “Nagasaki Bound”
  • “Nagasaki Knives”
  • “The Caleso Murders”
  • “Silence House”
  • “Diamonds of Dread”
  • “The Man in White”
  • “The Blind Chinese”
  • “Red Dawn”
  • “Blue Glass”
  • “Diamonds of Death”
  • “Shooting Gallery”
  • “The Javanese Mask”
  • “China Man”
  • “The Siamese Cat”
  • “The Black Sampan”
  • “Climbing Death”
  • “The Magician Murder”
  • “The Man From Shanghai”
  • “The Amber Fan”
  • “The Mystery of the Fan-Backed Chair”
  • “The Great Black”

This one is Very Highly Recommended!

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

Current Reading July 9, 2018 – McGown, Buck

Murder At the Old Vicarage by Jill McGown – I liked the first couple of the Lloyd and Hill detective stories I read, the first two in the series, and this seemed like a good one to try next. However, I found it to be over-plotted and over-charactered. There were several very obvious red herrings, (pink herrings?) which didn’t fool me and slowed things down considerably. The most interesting aspect of the series, at least in the books I’ve read, is the Lloyd-Hill relationship, which stuttered along here and remains unresolved, I’d give this one a “just okay”.

A Bridge for Passing by Pearl Buck – This is the autobiographical story of the filming, in Japan, of Buck’s novel The Big Wave. But it’s also a meditation of sorts on the difficulty she had accepting the death of her husband during the same time, and her struggles to focus on the film when she needed to. I enjoyed this a lot, and will now read the book the film – one I’ve never seen – was based on.

Bossypants by Tina Fey – Fey has a certain kind of humor, and you either like it or don’t, not much middle ground. Since I liked almost all of her work for Saturday Night Live, both as writer and on camera, I decided to try this when I spotted it at the library. I’d rate it “pretty good”.

So, what have YOU been reading lately?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 15 Comments

FFB: Worldmakers: SF Adventures in Terraforming edited by Gardner Dozois

Another in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

Worldmakers: SF Adventures in Terraforming edited by Gardner Dozois, 2001 St. Martin’s Griffin trade paperback

I’ve long admired the editing of Gardner Dozois, and I have many of his anthologies, read and unread. Many are thick books that take time to read through, but with quality contents it’s worthwhile.

Such is the case with this one, published in 2001 but still contemporary with a subject of terraforming. Once man moves to the stars, or rather the planets around some of them, there will need to be adjustments, and these 20 stories give a wide variety of how those changes might work.

The first story, one of my favorites, is “The Big Rain”, which I first read when it was the cover story of the October 1954 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.

The stories in Worldmakers vary in length from a dozen pages to novella length. With Dozois at the helm, you’d expect a good anthology, and with Worldmakers you get one; very few misses and many highly enjoyable stories. Plus this is an interesting theme for a collection: remaking a world to make it suitable for humans. This is a good one.

ix • Preface (Worldmakers: SF Adventures in Terraforming) • essay by Gardner Dozois
1 • The Big Rain • [Psychotechnic League] • (1954) • novella by Poul Anderson
50 • When the People Fell • [The Instrumentality of Mankind] • (1959) • shortstory by Cordwainer Smith
60 • Before Eden • (1961) • shortstory by Arthur C. Clarke
69 • Hunter, Come Home • (1963) • novelette by Richard McKenna
99 • The Keys to December • (1966) • novelette by Roger Zelazny
118 • Retrograde Summer • [Eight Worlds] • (1975) • novelette by John Varley
134 • Shall We Take a Little Walk? • (1981) • novelette by Gregory Benford
150 • The Catharine Wheel • (1984) • novelette by Ian McDonald (aka The Catharine Wheel (Our Lady of Tharsis))
166 • Sunken Gardens • [Shaper/Mechanist] • (1984) • shortstory by Bruce Sterling
179 • Out of Copyright • (1989) • shortstory by Charles Sheffield
193 • A Place with Shade • [The Remarkables] • (1995) • novelette by Robert Reed
221 • Dawn Venus • (1995) • novelette by G. David Nordley
245 • For White Hill • (1995) • novella by Joe Haldeman
277 • The Road to Reality • (1996) • novelette by Phillip C. Jennings
311 • Ecopoiesis • (1997) • novella by Geoffrey A. Landis
342 • People Came from Earth • (1999) • shortstory by Stephen Baxter
352 • Fossils • (1999) • novelette by William H. Keith, Jr.
379 • A Martian Romance • (1999) • novelette by Kim Stanley Robinson
394 • Dream of Venus • (2000) • novelette by Pamela Sargent
417 • At Tide’s Turning • (2001) • novelette by Laura J. Mixon

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 7 Comments

Current Reading July 2, 2018

It’s been a while since I did a Current Reading post, and it’s good to be back. Now that we’ve gotten caught up on my past reading in the nine-part What I Read posts I can get to more recent things.

The Zanzibar Shirt Mystery and Other Stories by James Holding, Crippen & Landru; Lost Classics edition, March 23, 2018

Recently TomCat at theThe Stains of Time Blog wrote a wonderful review of this book, which I had just finished reading. Rather than try to repeat and re-phrase his work, I’ll copy a few bits here, and encourage you to go over there for the whole enchilada.

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine rejected Holding’s first submission, but the second short story he mailed them, “The Treasure of Pachacamac,” was accepted and published in the June, 1960 issue of EQMM. Holding published an additional six short stories that year and, during his storied career, he would sell nearly 200 short stories to EQMM, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, The Saint Mystery Magazine and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, but also published a school of children’s (detective) novels – three of them appeared in the Ellery Queen, Jr. series.”

The ten linked short stories are about Martin Leroy and King Danforth, two collaborative mystery novelists, who wrote “more than 500 mystery books” about their series-character, Leroy King, of which “over 80,000,000 copies” had been sold in every language throughout the world – which were originally published between 1960 and 1972 in EQMM.”

All ten short stories are interlinked as they take place on a cruise ship on world tour aboard a Norwegian cruise ship, Valhalla, on which the two mystery novelists and their wives, Carol and Helen, are constantly confronted by puzzling problems.” I enjoyed the book quite a bit.

What have YOU been reading lately?

Posted in Books & Reading | 12 Comments

FFB: Tether’s End by Margery Allingham

Tether’s End by Margery Allingham, Carroll & Graf 1997 paperback, first published in 1958, featuring Albert Campion, amateur Sleuth

“The arrival of the bus was timed to perfection. Nobody of the slightest importance saw it at all.”

Tether's EndUnlike the larger-than-life master criminal of Mystery Mile or the politically motivated villain in Traitor’s Purse, the subject of the police pursuit, in this book Confidential Investigator Albert Campion, works with police to catch a man of no morals seeking personal gain.

Inspector Luke has a theory that a recent crime may be tied to an old one, farfetched as that may first seem. Campion becomes the sounding board for Luke’s hunch and is dragged into an intriguing case. Though the crimes occurred in the same general location, there doesn’t seem to be any common motive. It is left up to events to reveal the facts.

Annabelle Tassie has come up from the country to stay with a relation at Tether’s End, and her childhood companion Richard Waterfield who works in London has come to meet her. She’s no longer the little girl he remembers and he is struck by her beauty to the extent that he falls in love. When he sees a man coming from the house in which she will be staying, he follows to try and ascertain who he is and what his business might be. Thus begins a day which will end in terror for both Richard and Annabelle while Campion and Scotland Yard begin solving a puzzle with more pieces than expected.

This is an excellent example of Allingham’s mature writing and characterization. Campion isn’t in the least silly in this one, though he does look at events in a different way from his friends at The Yard. It’s a good thing for Annabelle that he does!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

More Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 10 Comments

What I Read … Part 9 – Heywood, Crowley, Benchley etc.

for parts 1-8 in this “What I Read” series, scroll down to previous posts
or use the search box for “what I read”

A good deal of variety for you this time.

I’ve been interested in muscle cars since I was a teenager, and every once in a while I get the urge to read about the topic. So these three came from the library last March. Several hours of fun reading, though some of the contents were repeated book-to-book.

Harder Ground by Joseph Heywood – After reading, at the suggestion of Jeff Meyerson, Heywood’s very good story collection Hard Ground, I was delighted to find and read this follow-up. Though I thought the stories in this one were a little weaker, it was worth the read. I plan on trying Heywood at novel length soon.

The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables by Catherine Reid – I came across this at the Timber Press website and couldn’t resist the beautiful photography and extensive biography of Montgomery.

Ka by John Crowley – After reading several reviews of varying opinions, I decided to try this fantasy about a young man and Dar Oakley, a very, very ancient crow, who tells the story of his life. It’s a long book, fascinating in it’s many details, there’s a lot of social anthropology, but mostly the book is about character. It’s really the story of both characters, man and crow. There were some slow spots, but I couldn’t seem to put it down for more than a day before wanting to get back to it. In the end, it’s a book I’m glad I read and one that has stayed with me.

Goodbye, Piccadilly by Cynthia Harod-Eagles – I’ve read some of this author’s Bill Slider police procedurals and enjoyed them, and have more unread I must get to one of these days. So I thought, “what the heck, why not try this one?”. “This one”, in fact, was a fairly typical English family saga which begins in 1914 and thus has a lot to do with the First World War. It’s part of a series. While the book was okay, I found myself skimming to the end. Not really my type of thing.

Jaws by Peter Benchley – I don’t know what put me in the mood to read this, but I got that itch and the library provided the scratch. I realized that though I’d seen the film several times, I hadn’t read the book and discovered there are several differences. An enjoyable summertime book, even if I didn’t read it in Summer.

A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig Johnson – This is the only Longmire I read during this period, and it’s one I started, paused, and finished nearly a month later. I was busy with other things, and somehow I kept looking at it and thinking I’d read it another day. I don’t know why I hesitated, maybe it was the snake on the cover (there aren’t any snakes in the book, the title comes from King Lear). When I finished it, I found I’d liked it a lot, as with all the Longmire books.

That wraps it up! I did read some other books while I was away, but those will be for Friday Forgotten or other posts. I hope you enjoyed this series of posts about what I was reading while the blog was on pause. I know I enjoyed looking back, and catching up.

Posted in Books & Reading | 14 Comments

What I Read … Part 8 – Farjeon, Burke, Himes, and others

for earlier parts in this “What I Read” series, scroll down to previous posts
or use the search box for “what I read”

I think we’re only one – maybe two – of these summaries, and I’ll be current. Here we go.

Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon – On a fine autumn weekend Lord Aveling hosts a hunting party at his country house, Bragley Court. Among the guests are an actress, a journalist, an artist and a mystery novelist. The unlucky thirteenth is John Foss, injured at the local train station and brought to the house to recuperate. Soon events take a sinister turn when a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled. Death strikes more than one of the house guests, and the police are called. Classic golden age country house mystery. I enjoyed it.

Semiosis by Sue Burke – An interesting SF novel. “In the 2060s, a group leaves Earth to create a new, peaceful society. They arrive 158 years later on a planet they name Pax. The botanist, Octavio, knows that planting seeds from Earth, without symbiotic microorganisms in the soil, would be futile, but Pax is already teeming with plants. He tests a persimmon-like fruit growing on snow-white vines and finds it safe to eat—but later, three Pacifists die after eating the same fruit from a different vine that’s now, somehow, poisonous. The deadly crop, he discovers, comes from an identical snow vine that’s competing for space with the vines closer to the colonists. He knows the chemical alteration is too fast to be mere ecological adjustment, and when the deadly vine changes its chemistry again to destroy a field of grain the colonists planted, Octavio begins to understand that the poisonous vine sees them as a threat. The plants of Pax are able to think and plan ahead—and the colonists must learn to communicate with them in order to survive.” – Kirkus

Cotton Comes to Harlem by Chester Himes – This is considered a classic, featuring Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones in a war against scams and racism in Harlem. “Reverend” Deke O’Malley, a conman, is selling shares at a Harlem rally, for the purchase of a Back-to-Africa movement ship to be called The Black Beauty. During the rally, several masked gunman jump out of a meat truck and steal $87,000 in donated cash from the back of an armored car. Two Harlem detectives, Gravedigger Jones and “Coffin” Ed Johnson chase the car, and a bale of cotton falls out of the vehicle, unremarked at the time. Uncle Budd, a scavenger, finds the bale of cotton and sells it for $25 to a junk dealer, not knowing the money is hidden inside. This is rough, tough cop fiction.

Origin by Dan Brown – I’ve liked some of Brown’s books, and others have left me wondering why I spent the time. This one falls somewhere in between, as I liked most of it, but was dissatisfied with some of the choices Brown made late in the book in wrapping things up. Still,  in spite of criticism from many, I find his books readable and a nice break from tough mysteries or war in space.

The Complete Psychotecnic League, Volume 1 by Poul Anderson – And speaking of war in space, this is the first volume in the series presenting the complete stories in Anderson’s Psychotecnic League history. Though not my favorite set of his works, these are good solid stories. I especially liked “The Big Rain”, which I remembered reading in Astounding Science Fiction when it was a cover story.

Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel – I’m not sure how I came across this cozy series by Steel, this being the first book, but I got it for Kindle for next to nothing and found it to be a quick read, light, interesting setting of Nuala, Ceylon in the 1930s.

Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi – I was in the mood to re-read these, the first of the Old Man’s War series. In thinking they were the better of the series, and better than his more recent books, I was right.

The Long Arm of the Law edited by Martin Edwards – British Library Crime Classics are a series of novels and short story anthologies by golden and sometimes silver age authors. They are published by Poisoned Pen Press here in the U. S. and I think I’ve gotten just about every one of them.

In this one, the stories are, as the cover states, “classic police stories”, and they’re good ones. I had read a couple in other anthologies over the years, but most were new to me.

That brings us to the middle of March. Next time, Raoul Whitfield, maybe some muscle car stuff, some Sherlock Holmes stories and a novel by John Crowley, which will bring us to the middle of April. Almost caught up!

Posted in Books & Reading | 11 Comments

What I Read … Part 7 – Leslie Charteris, Rex Stout and more

for earlier parts in this “What I Read” series, scroll down to previous posts

At last we’re in the current year. Before you and I know it, these will morph into Current Reading posts (with many less books per week!) and some Friday Forgotten Books as well. So let’s get started with January 2018.

Sherlock Holmes in Montague Street Volume 1 by Arthur Morrison & David Marcum – It is Marcum’s opinion that the Martin Hewitt books written by Arthur Morrison are in fact Sherlock Holmes stories. Thus he has “edited” those stories into Holmes tales, and he published three volumes of them, of which this is the first. The covers for the 2nd and 3rd volumes look the same except the volume number. I prefer the originals.

Pioneer Girl Laura Ingles Wilder – This is a biography/autobiography )a little of each) and I found it very interesting to read the combined story of the writer and the books.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – The classic, which I got a yen to read for no particular reason, and enjoyed more than I expected.

The Saint – Wanted For Murder, The Further Adventures of Simon Templar by Leslie Charteris – I enjoy a Saint book now and then, and this one really hit the spot, as the saying goes. If you haven’t read one of these, recently, or ever, this would be a good time to pick one up and try it, and this is a good one.

Suddenly At His Residence by Christianna Brand – An Inspector Cockerill mystery. I know a lot of people like her books, but this is the last go for me. I liked Green For Danger, disliked the Crippen & Landru collection of her short stories, and I disliked this. Boring characters endlessly talking, Cockerill does no detecting. I felt the end was a cheat (I won’t say more, it would be a spoiler).

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Vol 3 edited by David Marcum – The third in this excellent series of new Holmes stories. They are true to the originals, nothing out of place or time, no being “clever”. There are several more already published and on my shelf, but I am going slowly and savoring these.

I really recommend these if you’re in the mood for some Holmes but want something other than the Doyle stories.

Railroad Stories #1 by E. S. Dellinger – I found out about this collection of pulp railroad stories through James Reasoner’s blog Rough Edges. These were a lot of fun, and for me railroad stories are enjoyable as I’ve had an interest in railroading since I had an American Flyer model railroad set as a kid. Fun, light.

And now we come to a set of novels I read at the end of the month, after seeing a Friday Forgotten post on Yvette Banek’s blog. It’s the three Rex Stout novels that feature Nero Wolfe’s nemesis Arnold Zeck.

And Be A Villain by Rex Stout – This one introduces Arnold Zeck. Though Archie had never heard of him, and was curious as to why the man is, Wolfe tells him to forget he ever heard the name.

The Second Confession – Thinking Wolfe was interfering in his affairs, Zeck gives a dramatic warning, having the top floor orchid houses on Wolfe’s house machine-gunned. Wolfe decides it’s time to leave the brownstone and disappear.

In the Best of Families – Archie, on his own, tries to discover what’s going on, while threatened by Zeck’s thugs. Will Wolfe come back, or stay in hiding? These are terrific books, highly recommended.

Next time, Jefferson Farjeon, Sue Burke, Chester Himes, and more. We’re catching up!

Posted in Books & Reading | 10 Comments

What I Read … Part 6

for earlier parts in this “What I Read” series, scroll down to previous posts

Continuing with my reading during the Blog Pause of last year with the rest of 2017. As you’ll see, I read a lot of lighter stuff at the end of the year.

Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi – Golden Age of the Sith and Tales of the Jedi – The Fall of the Sith – Every now and then, and there was one last month, too, I reread a SW graphic novel for the fun of it.

Horror In Gold by “Kenneth Robeson” (Will Murray) – The second in the series of The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage. “It began with an uncanny encounter on busy Seventh Avenue. Two men pass each other in the street, walking along calmly one minute – struck down the next by a horrific fate. All over Manhattan, soundless detonations cut down prince and pauper alike. No one is safe. Only one man, Doc Savage, can penetrate the eerie enigma that threatens to bring the mightiest city on Earth to its knees. From the besieged canyons of New York to the rugged coast of Alaska, Doc Savage and his men race to solve the riddle.” I’m way behind on this series, but enjoy them once in a while.

The Aisiles Have It by Joseph Turow – Not that I was surprised by much of what I read here, and we all know this sort of analysis goes beyond the scope of this book in our internet-drenched times, but it was interesting.

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain – An enjoyable little book about the finding of a red notebook and the finder’s efforts to locate it’s owner. I liked it when I read it, and liked it more as I considered it later.

Morningstar – Growing Up With Books by Ann Hood – For a book reader and lover, this was like eating cake. Though I didn’t read the same books as a youth, nor do I read the same ones as the author does now, I liked discovering her taste and attitudes about books, and the attitudes of those around her in her life. Recommended.

Death By Dickens edited by Anne Perry – an anthology that I expected to be somewhat holiday-themed, but was not. I enjoyed about half of the stories.

Holmes for the Holidays edited by Anne Perry – after wading through the previous book, I decided to re-read a favorite holiday season anthology also edited by Anne Perry, but one I always enjoy. This is a perennial favorite.

That wraps up 2017. Next week I’ll start 2018 with some Sherlock Holmes, Laura Ingles Wilder, Christiana Brand and Rex Stout.

Posted in Books & Reading | 8 Comments