Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Danger Is My Line (Stephen Marlowe, 1960)

I read Drum Beat - Madrid recently and quite liked it. Nice mix of a private eye mystery and spy thriller with a decent story (there are actually two of them) and a bit of a globetrotting plus some sex thrown in. This one follows such template but is far inferior.

Opening part, let's call it "P.I." section, that takes place in Washington is okay and, although pretty short, it sets up things nicely. There's a guy found not guilty of a murder who later confesses the crime and sells his story to some newspaper publisher. There's also a beautiful blonde and we don't need to wait long for the first corpse to appear. Didn't exactly grab me by the throat but it wasn't bad at all.

But then it just goes from pretty good to somewhat decent to kind of okay-ish to... a bit boring and towards the end it's just a struggle to get over the line.

Story is just too fragmented and numerous action scenes are too static. The damn thing hardly moves anywhere and when it does, it is usually in the wrong direction. And you know that writer wasn't very confident (dare I say skillful?) when in the middle of the novel you come across a two page recap which reminds the readers what the hell they are reading.

In short - disappointment. Stephen Marlowe and his Chester Drum post was long overdue on this blog but I wish that it would be for some other book. This one is memorable only for one of the most idiotic takes on the cold war (see 'Object of Desire' section of the facts below) and maybe also for some pretty ridiculous LSD trips descriptions.

2.5/5

Facts:

Hero
His eyes examined my card for the first time.  It said I was Chester Drum. I did confidential investigations, I had an office in the Farrell Building on F Street in downtown Washington and could be seen with or without appointment or any way at all.

Bad guy(s):
"He runs the show. You want a name for it, I'll give you one. He's the chief hatchetman for the Reds. He can make men dance on five continents."

Location
Washington, Reykjavik, Akureyri (400 km from Reykjavik), Stockholm

Body count:  
9 + Wally's dog Benards. It's interesting that the main villain survives in this one and gets away with a broken arm only.

Object of desire: 
Preventing a fishing war between Iceland and UK that Commies would like to exploit.

Huh? Let's see how this gets explained to our hero: 

"And Chet, if the key to world mastery, thanks to intercontinental missiles whose shortest route lies over the Pole, is the Arctic Ocean, then the key to the Arctic is Iceland, Now do you see where we stand?"

Makes sense now, doesn't it?

Dames
Maja Kolding, a small blonde with ice-blue eyes only a little colder than the Rhone glacier. Unfortunately, after the opening, she's mostly out of the picture.

Baroness Margaretha:
She was not quite  twice the size of Anita Ekberg, and all of it in splendid proportion... She was that kind of woman. Her eyes were green, her large breasts fought against the white wisp of the Bikini top, her hips, bare for a couple of devastating inches above the Bikini bottom, were broad and firm-fleshed, her long legs were as tanned as a beach-boy's and as shapely as a Grecian statue's. She was an insolent-eyed, thick-lipped sex-bomb of a woman, to end all insolent-eyed, thick-lipped sex-bombs. she was probably a Swede.

Stewardess Freya, a fine-boned, almost delicate. brunette:
It was as if there were two Freyas - the one pleasantly and lightly seductive who did all the talking, the other silent and deeper with an almost astonishing understated desire and need. Alone either one of them would have been a memorable occasion for a man who likes such memorable occasions. Together they could have stirred even an octogenarian.

Fine-boned (!!?!) part I understood but what the hell is an octogenarian? Let's ask Google:

So now we know. And when both Freyas finally have sex with Drum, the whole thing is described pretty - oh well - octogenarian-istic:

It was swift and explosive and then it built - a slow mounting fusion of lips, arms, legs, bodies - to magic.

And to conclude this section - there's a cool blurb on the cover saying: "She was a daydream turned into a nightmare - the most lethal beauty Chester Drum had ever met"

Nice one indeed although I'm not 100% sure whether it refers to the Baroness or to Freya.

Blackout
She held it [the rifle] by the metal barrel and was swinging it like a baseball bat. I dove for the ground and got halfway down before the heavy walnut stock took the top of my head off.

Peculiar thing about this one is that afterwards Drum still manages to walk for three hours before collapsing. But let us not question this too much since even "Dr. Ericksson says it sometimes happens like that, even with severe concussion.

Anyway, he loses his consciousnesses twice more but neither one is especially memorable:
Dark sky split and spun sickeningly a hundred and eighty degrees until it was beneath my feet, and I plunged in,

The blow drove me to my knees and a dark closed on my brain, squeezing out consciousness.

Title: 
One of the early Drum titles in the form of:

Murder/Trouble/Terror/Violence/Homicide/Danger/Death/...
is my 
Meat/Dish/Name/Trade/Business/Comrade/Pay/Job/...

I think it's fair to say that it is one of the coolest. With an exception of course of "Killers Are My Meat"!

Edition:  
Gold Medal #947, First Printing, January 1960

Cover
Iconic and super cool illustration by Barye Phillips (I think).

Cool lines
With her left hand she shut the door and leaned on it. That made her right-handed, because in her right hand, and pointing it where such things will be pointed, she held a small, snub-barreled revolver, a belly-gun.
The phone went on ringing. the shower went on hissing and drumming. I went on living - for a while.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Don't Call Tonight a.k.a. End of a Call Girl (William Campbell Gault, 1958)

Had a pretty shitty streak of book choices lately, ranging from an ultra boring and annoying Perry Mason to a couple of old British spy thrillers so I just wanted to get back on track with some classic PI stuff. Had read Gault's Million Dollar Tramp not long ago so I knew what to expect with this one.

And I did get the classical detective stuff that I'd wanted. But unfortunately, except for my favorite type of opening (PI hired by a damsel in distress in his shabby office), there's nothing really positive to report about this one.

I think the biggest problem is our protagonist. He's simply not very imaginative and totally lacks initiative. At times he gets so lost that instead of doing proper gumshoeing, he reads western paperbacks (cool) or goes playing golf (not fucking cool). On one occasion he simply goes out on a stakeout because "I had nothing else to do"?!? And even though he works with the police, he gets most of the information from newspapers and radio.

It gets worse. Or maybe better since it's a bit comical. When he finally gets a hold of the suspect who might be able to give him some useful clues, our man Joe fucks up the interrogation and subsequently gets so frustrated that he beats this poor schmuck so hard that the guy ends up in a hospital. Not exactly Marlowe-esque, right? So, due to his inefficient techniques, it takes him 150+ pages to get a vital clue. He goes for a lunch and accidentally runs into one of his fellow sleuthing colleagues who investigated one of Joe's current suspects a while ago in a totally unrelated case. During the chat he then opens Joe's eyes with an information that both him and police have somehow managed to overlook. Eureka! And again - not exactly Marlowe-esque...

A bit amateurish but still bearable and in a way amusing. But coupled with a corny romance that involves one of his suspects and topped with some lame self-pitying midlife crisis philosophy it proved to be a bit too much for me.

Not good, not bad, just another formulaic novel. I think I'm probably a bit pissed off and mean towards Joe because of the climax. You see, the twist has got to do something about homosexuality. I'm certainly no prude, don't care much about the political correctness and try not to judge old books from the modern perspective but at the same time reading about the queers, degenerates, half-people, etc, etc did leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, for fuck's sake - half people!?

Okay if you were reading Perry Mason prior to this one, but otherwise...

2.5/5

Facts:

Hero:
"My name is Puma," I said.
She stood in the doorway of her apartment and looked at me without interest. "Is that supposed to mean anything to me?"

Location:
L.A.

Body count: 2

Dames:
Jean Talsman, the call girl. Her madame Mrs. Dora Diggert. Her flatmate (and Joe's playmate) Mary Cefalu, the model. Mrs Rafferty, red headed secretary with a shady past.

Blackouts:
Redness flooded my brain, but I was still conscious as I went down, conscious and powerless. As soon as I went prone, they began to kick me.
The last thing I heard, before a shoe caught mu chin and brought oblivion, was the voice of the man whose throat I had held.
"God-damned snooping shamus," he was muttering.

Title: 
Have no idea where this "calling tonight" business came from. I'm pretty sure there was no fatal phone call in this one. The original American title "End of a Call Girl" is a bit more appropriate and in a way accurate too. The call girl in question survives this book but she's now engaged to be married so I guess it is the end of her as a call girl.

Edition:
Mayflower B-39, 1962

Cover:
Nice colors with nice Kim Novak lookalike blonde. Original one with Marilyn Monroe lookalike doesn't look bad either.

Cool lines: /

Monday, September 26, 2016

Dolls are Deadly (Brett Halliday, 1960)

Pretty cool opening. Shayne is in his office nursing a glass of his Hennessy cognac, working on the dilemma of putting out his cigarette. He opts for the hardest of the three available choices by actually swinging his long legs to the floor and thumbing it out in an ashtray. And then the trouble comes knocking on his office door. Only this time the trouble isn't shaped as some beautiful damsel in distress. The distressed one is a muscle-man of the local loan shark and there are two reasons for his disturbed mental state. Someone has sent him a couple of voodoo dolls!

After mere five pages (of pretty large print) our shamus throws the big man out and reminds his secretary (who stopped typing and looked up reproachfully):

"I draw the line, Lucy, at keeping a professional murderer from being murdered. I know the law doesn't, but I have a code of ethics which I don't think it would hurt the law to embrace."

And then off he goes fishing with his Cuban friend Sylvester!

Pretty funny, I liked it. But in the very next chapter things start to go downhill a bit. It turns out that his little Cuban captain is being exploited by three shady characters and it doesn't take long before he ends up under his ship tied to an anchor. Which is not that good. I mean, obviously it's pretty fucking bad for Sylvester but what bothered me was that personal crap got involved and I don't like that in P.I. stories. However, on a positive note, at least it's not family crap which is the worst kind of personal crap.

But I'm digressing. So, we have two unrelated cases that our sleuth needs to solve. Not much of a spoiler to reveal that it turns out they are not unrelated. Nothing unusual of course about that, it follows well established and proven formula and we read such stuff all the time. What is worth mentioning, is that these two affairs are linked with a sheer coincidence. Protagonists of both sub-plots simply attend to Madame Swoboda's mystic seances.

Unlike coincidences combined with a personal/family shit is normally a recipe for disaster (sometimes for laughter) but in this one it still works. The story is quite complex and it culminates with a cool twist in an almost Ross Macdonald-ish type of tragedy.

I also liked the style. This is one of the first Shayne novels that were ghostwritten (according to this website by Walter Ryerson Johnson) and it seems to me that the author tried to capture the original style of the 1940s and in my opinion pulled it off more than well (check out the 'dames' and 'cool lines' of the facts below). But at the same time it has to be said that it also feels like it was penned out pretty quickly without much of reviewing and/or rewriting. There are some scenes that simply don't make much sense and are probably just some leftover ideas that the author forgot to drop when trying to reach his word count before the deadline. I mean, why would Shayne take his secretary to an interview with his client and then leave her waiting in his car?

Charming. The coolest Shayne I can remember of.

4/5

Facts:

Hero:
"Michael Shayne?" Ed repeated quickly. He looked at Shayne, as did Slim and Vince, from the wheelhouse. "You mean," Ed said with unsteadiness in his voice, "you're Michael Shayne, the private detective?"
"The same," Sylvester said proudly. "My friend, he is famous everywhere."
"Well, I'm damned!" Ed smoothed his angel's halo of graying hair. "Miami's best-known detective on our boat. Wait'll I tell the folks back home."

Bad guys:
It was rumored that he had known Lucky Luciano before Luciano was deported to Italy, and had since visited with the dope and vice czar there. However, as yet no crimes of consequence had been hung on De Luca by local or federal lawmen, for he was cunning and capable as well as ruthless.

Location:
Miami

Body count: 3

Dames:
There's Clarissa Milford with a smooth golden head... tall, but her bones were light... she gave the impression of delicate fragility... she seemed to be one of those rare feminine creatures without imperfection.

But the real star is the mystic Madame Swoboda. Check out her anatomical details: 
...ample and worldly breasts, extraordinary long lashes, slim fingers, aquiline nose. Her features were regular, her skin clear and fair, her face beautiful and tantalizing. 

Blackouts:/

Title: 
Someone is sending around voodoo dolls and some of the recipients end up dead.

Edition:
Jove Books, May 1989

Cover:
Some horribly generic photograph so I'm also including the original McGinnis illustration. Far from his best but still million light years in front of this.

Cool lines:
In any case, since murder unaccountably was breathing down the necks of some people, a talk with Sylvester was strongly indicated.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Coxman #25: The Penetrator (Troy Conway, 1971)

Who's Afraid of The Big Bad Russian Wolf?
Certainly not Rod Damon!

Unlike my first two Coxmans, this one doesn't start in his cabinet at Wisconsin college with our stud "studying" the species of opposite sex and being interrupted by his superior. Instead, the entire opening chapter is dedicated to introduction of his soon-to-be adversary Countess Marie Antoinetta Rubinov. You can read more about her in the facts below, but for now - just to keep your interest - let me just add that she has had over seventeen thousand men and was "mounted" by a heat-crazed horse on her tenth birthday! Yes - welcome to the crazy and sexed world of Troy Conway!

She is briefed about her assignment while being fucked with a dildo for several hours. The whole thing (I mean the assignment of course) is a bit odd but it involves a British super-spy called Penetrator. I think she is supposed to track him down and use her female charms to convince him into changing sides. Or something like that.

It's pretty unclear and as funny as it is, it doesn't really push the plot anywhere. So Mr. Avallone switches over to a proven formula. In the second chapter we do find Rod in his Wisconsin University cabinet, working on one of his sex theories with an assistance of his student Sarena. And being interrupted by Walrus-Moustache - Party-pooper, Killjoy, Bad News and Joe Btsplk Number One.

Rod's briefing is more conventional and his assignment also includes the mysterious Penetrator but there's another problem he must deal with. He needs to find out as much as possible about the "cobalt special - a granddaddy of all bombs".

So Rod is off to Moscow and this is where the plot basically ends before it has even really begun. For the next hundred pages or so there's nothing but fucking. And it's cool but it does get repetitive. There are several attempts to revive the story (dead spy, assassination attempt) but they don't amount to much so Mr. Avallone just wraps the whole thing up with a couple of surprising twists (for a lack of better expression) and a little reminder that this is not a spy story anyway.

And also tells us in his unique way to go fuck ourselves in case we expected one:

Spying just isn't all that it's cracked up to be.
But sex is.
And it's the only crack in the world that I, Rod Damon, will ever be interested in.
Local Russian spy rings, please copy!
And why you're at, go screw yourselves.
Da, da!

Da, da?

3/5

Facts:

Hero:
You see, I'm kind of the male Rubinov of the West when you get right down to it. A pure born satyr, first class. Only thing is I'm not sick about it. It's no hang-up.
More a hang-down, you could say. Ahem.

Bad guys:
"And who is the General?"
Him I hadn't heard of. Aside from Motors, Electric, etcetera.
Walrus-Moustache smiled at me almost fondly.
"I hope you never meet him, Damon. Few people that we know have. And lived to tell the tale. A man of mystery. A physical giant of over six feet six. Handsome as a statue, older than time itself. He drove a tank in World War I and led armies in World War II. And now he is the head of anything Russian that requires violence, liquidation and aggressive action. He is their executioner, as it were.

Driving tanks and leading the armies but yet only a few people have seen him?

Location
"Go ahead. Hit me with it. Tibet? Nope, Alaska? The moon-" 
"No, Damon. Russia."
I opened my eyes and in spite of myself, I felt a quickening of interest. You see, lately I've been on a Russian kick. Culturally, I'm kind of stuck on Redland. What with the Moiseyev Ballet, their opera, all those great-looking ballerinas and busty peasant dolls - in fact, I'd been toying with doing a thesis on Russian females. You know - Better Bed Than Red - or something like that.

Body count: 2
Not counting a dead CIA spy William Watts and a bunch of scientists that crashed down in Russian foothills in some deluxe private charter jet. But none of this has nothing to do with the operation Penetrator. At least I couldn't make a connection.

Anyway. As usually, let'rather go through Rod's sexual conquests. More fun.

Sarena #1
As mentioned, his student Sarena is the first one. He deflowers her and she comes back the very same night for more action (she couldn't study after THE experience). But she's not that inexperienced (she was natural) because she starts the foreplay with sticking her tongue in Rod's ass! Once finished, she concludes that "You are not to be believed! I thought you were a mirage!"

Nosha 
Upon his arrival in Moscow, the commies send a call girl Nosha to his room. This "steamrolling female tank" fucks him savagely but then he gives her the full treatment (I reamed it, steamed it and dry-cleaned it.) that includes a couple of his famous "sex ploys". And this is where we get the only Avallone LOL/WTF trademark moment. Check this:

Things got so worked up I once mistook her right ear for the natural target but she didn't howl or pull back but considered it another innovation until I explained my muscular mistake to her.

You get it!? I almost missed it the first time and had to reread and decipher it. Anyway, after they are finished, she just utters "You are not bad, Comrade. Not bad at all. In  fact, you are in a class by yourself."

Orgy at the Smirnski School of Psychology with "the finest scholastic specimens"
Rod is undercover in Russia as a visiting professor at Smirnski School of Psychology where he teaches cadets of Cosmonaut Space Agency his "Sex and Weightlessness" seminar. You know, to make sure they know how to fuck in outer space. On the very first lecture there's a brief introduction (8 Ivans and 4 quintessential babes) that ends with:

"All right! Now, select your partners. Two males to one female. And let's go. Fornicate! As best or however you can. And I warn you - I'm watching - I'm talking notes - and I'll ask questions later."

Ina the Ballerina
On his way back to the hotel he runs into Ina (torrid tomato)... who btw is the only Russian person he knows... and they end up doing the Wanton Waltz the whole night:

"Ah, Rodski - " she murmured happily as we careened around her bedroom floor. "You are Nijinsky, Nureyev - with something extra added - what drive you have! What extension!"

In limbo
For the next three days Rod is just waiting for something to happen and keeps his rod busy with spending his days with students and nights with Nosha.

Six Three
This idle period ends with an appearance of Six Three, his contact agent. Who has a little anatomical problem:
"I am very large down there, you see, It takes a big man to fill me, As you will see should you take on my problem."

He of course takes her problem on sooner as he can say Shostakovitch and two pages later we are treated with this unforgettable line:  
IT FITS! GREAT JUMPING TROTSKY - IT FITS!". 

To which he replies with yet another one of those inner-monologues spoken in Avallone language: 
"Of course, it did. Pooh-pooh and tut-tut."

And the scene ends with her simple:
"Comrade Demon - I love you - "

Rod-Manya history-maker
Everything until this moment was just a built up to Rod's encounter with the Countess aka the Silver Hair aka Manya. So when this historical moment arrives, it is first properly introduced:

BOOMMMMMMMMMM!
No, that's not an elephant breaking wind.
That's the sound of Rod Damon and Silver Hair meeting on even ground in the dark of a bedroom. A Rod-Manya history-maker.
A most historic occasion in the annals of the Coxman.

Then it goes on for several pages in such manner:
"- ohmylenintrotskymarxgodddd - " you are a man among men - truly, you are a might bull - ohmylord - againagain - and againagainagainagainagainagainagainagainnnnnnnaaahhhhh!"
"You're repeating yourself, Manya."
"Of course I am! And I want you to repeat yourself! A dozen times over - oh, Comrade - a whole troop of infantrymen have never given me so much pleasure - you are a marvel!"
"Thank you."
"You are welcome - come - do that once more - I tingle all over - and the itch is driving me insannnnnnnnnnne!"

But it suddenly totally anticlimaxes when Rod realizes that she's in fact nymphomaniac. He's appalled (She was sick for the stick, all right. And those are the worst kind!) and even gets pretty fucking mean to her:
"My baby shivers," she murmured. "Is Manya hurting him?"
"Not a chance, baby. Shut up and suck!"

Tumultuous orgy
Next day he's half dead after being ravaged the whole night by Three Six and Countess so Comrade Proffesor's lecture at the institute is about reviving a dead man with sex. Tumultuous orgy follows.

Manya's punishment
And it was there, I swear by all I hold dear, that I perpetrated the most incredible love act of my life.
...Even Fay Wray got a better break than she did

In short: he fucks her to death.

Sarena #2
Similar to Had any Lately? this one too finishes with the same girl that he started with. Once he's back in the States, she demonstrates what she has learned from his books while he was away.

Dames:
Marie Antoinetta Rubinov. In a (very) condensed summary: the swingingest lady this side of a Playboy centerfold,... the most rapacious Russian nymphomaniac since Catherine the Great put a whole regiment of Cossacks through their nighttime paces,... Vavavavoom!... some mad artist's horniest fantasy...even a bishop with his Bible would burn with a fervor not precisely religious... a body of creamy white sculpture that Michelangelo might have chipped out of pure Carrara marble if he hadn't been one of the wrong kinds of boys... big, beautiful breasts with scarlet nipples that look like a bloody sacrifice on the snowy white mounds they adorn... perfect Venus... 

And so on and on... And on and fucking on. But if you still haven't grasped the idea, there's her whole dossier on page 9 (interesting reading). In essence: Marie Antoinetta Rubinov, nymphomaniac extraordinaire, was the greatest spy in Russia's history.

And there's a reference to some fantastic beauty who specializes in sado-maschoism named (check this!!!) Legget E. Split from "Coxman #9: The Man-Eater". I guess I know now which Coxeman book to pick up next.

Blackouts:
He blacks out during the bomb blast when he's about to join the orgy #1.

Title: 
"Ahhhhhhh, Boris," Marie cooed, "and what is my assignment, pet?" She kept grinding away with her thighs, like a coffee-maker.
"Stop The Penetrator!" Boris panted, exerting himself mightily behind his artificial manhood.
..."- And who is that - Rod Damon of America?"
As you can see, my fame precedes me. The world knows me...

"No, no, Manya - not he, though he is bad enough - this is a British superspy. The Penetrator -"...born in London... raised in America... has a fluent command of most Russian dialects... has been able to penetrate the deepest Russian military secrets for M2 of Britain and the CIA... genius... 

But Rod does know him well:
I knew all about The Penetrator. Someone who made James Bond seem like a kid playing with an erector set. Heard of him? Has the Lone Ranger heard of Tonto? Has Dick heard about Liz? Does Raquel Welch know that every man in the world wants to tag?

Although he's not very impressed a couple of pages later when he's shown Penetrator's photo: 
"He looks like Woody Allen in advanced stages of tuberculosis."

Edition:
Paperback Library 73-125

Cover
Rod with some hot Brigitte Bardot look-alike.

Cool lines
I'm telling you, you learn something new every day. In every way. With every lay.

He said nothing, merely grunting, but he did shove very hard behind her and she felt every delectable inch of that delightful instrument [=dildo] probing deeper into her soul.
"My sainted ass -" she screamed dropping exhausted on the bed, physically spent and battered.

"Shut up," I snarled, "and let's fornicate!"

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Masters of Noir - Volume 1 (1953-1959, published in 2010)

Great collection that starts slowly but gets better with each story.

Identity Unknown (Jonathan Craig, first published in Manhunt, August 1954)

Nice police procedural. All it takes for our detective is a pair of victim's expensive shoes to establish her identity and consequently her killer. I liked its sharp style. No need for (too much) drama and emotions in a short story, right?

The Girl behind the Hedge (Mickey Spillane, first published in Manhunt, October 1953)

Seems like a logical decision for the editors of this compilation to shift a gear up with Spillane to follow up the pretty plain opening story. You know - throw in a bit of a sex and violence. No, sir.

I really don't like writing this and I think it is slowly beginning to look I have something against good old Mickey but this one is really bad. Instead of private eyes, cops, gangsters, dolls etc here we have a moral story about a couple of Wall Street brokers. One good (?) and the other (surprise, surprise) not so good. A real asshole in fact. Some time ago this asshole stole the good one's fiance so the poor sucker then masterminded a demonic revenge plan by making the asshole desperately fall in love with a mentally disabled girl and killing himself upon realizing this.

And yes, that's it. Rings a bell? I forgot most about the classical adventures I read back in my primary school days but this certainly resembles one of those Count of Monte Cristo romantic revenge plots. So I don't know, I sure hope that this is the case and that Spillane was fooling around and/or paying an hommage to some old master. But at least he himself stayed the classical Spillane as we know - one of his two protagonists calls this unfortunate girl a "hopeless imbecile". Fucking hell, what was this guy's problem??

Carrera's Woman (Ed McBain writing as Richard Marsten, first published in Manhunt, February 1953)

More like a western but still pretty cool. Bad guy vs good guy & woman playing cat and mouse game in the scorching Mexican sun. Memorable for avoiding the obvious twist at the end.

Butcher (Richard S. Prather, first published in Manhunt, June 1954)

Can a good serial killer hunt story be squeezed into a short story? Probably not. But can a mediocre serial killer hunt story full of incredible coincidences be squeezed into a short story? Yes, definitely - this one is a living proof. Not all bad and with some okay moments and a decent twist at the end. Also nice to see Shell Scott being a tough guy and not just some douchebag babbling about women.

Look Death in the Eye (Lawrence Block, first published in Saturn Web Detective Story Magazine, April 1959)

Another serial killer story! And it took exactly ten minutes to answer the above question and reject my hypothesis. Yes, it is definitely possible to write a good short serial killer story although this is not about the hunt, it is about the hunter instead.

It's Lawrence Block doing his Jill Emerson-ish erotic thing. But this time I was prepared and knew what to expect... and surprisingly I liked it. Liked it a lot to be honest. Hot, a bit crazy and also little nasty! Decided to check out his recent The Girl with the deep Blue Eyes.

On a Sunday Afternoon (Gil Brewer, first published in Manhunt, January 1957)

Sexually repressed wife and her cowardly (impotent?) husband going to a family picnic after the Sunday mass where they are attacked by a gang of juvenile delinquents. Cool stuff by the master of sexy psychological thrillers.

Frame (Frank Kane, first published in Manhunt, December 1954)

Now we are getting somewhere! This one is a proper P.I. mystery with mobsters, dames, stolen loot and even a decent body count. Great story too, kept me guessing right until the end.

Double (Bruno Fischer, first published in Manhunt, June 1954)

My favorite one of the collection. The bitter and woman-hating cop is fixated by the idea that the killer is his cheating ex-wife lookalike. Savage stuff, my only little complaint would be that the apologies at the end are needless!

As I Lie Dead (Fletcher Flora, first published in Manhunt, February 1953)

It's hot and two young lovers sit by the lake. She's dreaming about Acapulco but his mind is elsewhere:

I saw that Grandfather had reached the raft. He was sitting on the far side, his back to us, legs dangling in the water. He’d made it out there in good time. For an old man, damn good time. He was strong, in spite of his fat belly. It didn’t look like he was ever going to die.

Guess what happens next?  You are right - grandfather won't be swimming much in the future. But that is just the beginning of the story. There will be blackmail and murder and betrayal. Excellent stuff, a bit depressing but a great choice for a closing story.

3.5/5

Facts:

Body count
1 + 1 (added reluctantly since Wall Street yuppies shouldn't really count right?) + 1 + 1 with at least 3 victims + 1 with a bunch of other victims (unfortunately those eyeballs count is not specified) + 0 + 3 + 2 + 4 = 17

Dames:
Linda from "Carrera's Woman" is pretty cool (or should I say hot?):

There was sweetness in her kiss, and an undercurrent of danger, a pulsing emotion that knifed through me like an electric shock. She pressed against me, and her body was soft and womanly, and I forgot the marks of her nails on my arms and face, forgot that she could be as deadly as a grizzly. She was a kitten now, soft and caressing, and her breath was in my ears, and the movement of her body was quick and urgent. I lifted her, the .45 still in my hand, and carried her to the deep shadows of the rocks.

And cousin Cindy from "As I Lie Dead":

She was gold all over in the various shades that gold can take. Even her brown eyes, behind dark glass in white harlequin frames, were flecked with gold.

Edition: eBook

Cool lines

From "Carrera's Woman":

I hesitated before answering. “Ten G’s is a lot of money, baby.”
“I’m a lot of woman,” she answered.

From "Frame:

He debated the advisibility of walking around back, decided to knock.

He slammed his fist against the big man’s mouth. There was the sound of crunching teeth. The big man went staggering backward and fell across a table.
“You won’t be needing teeth where you’re going.”

From "Double":

I growled, “Don’t flatter yourself.”
“Shouldn’t I?” She got off the chaise longue and ran her hands sensuously over her half-naked body. “Look at me, Gus. Don’t you think I have a right to flatter myself?”

From "As I Lie Dead":

I took the gun out of my pocket and pointed it at him, and then I saw what I’d been living to see. I saw the smooth assurance go sick in his eyes and fear come flooding in. When I’d seen that, I’d had everything from him I’d ever want, so I shot him. I shot him where I hated him most. Right in his pretty face. 

“Yes,” I said. “We’ll go away together, honey. I’ve got our tickets right here in the gun. One way and a long way.”

Monday, August 22, 2016

Bedroom Boulevard (Jim Dobbins, 1967)

Bought this one in a pack with some other books on eBay. Had no idea who Jim Dobbins was but I liked the cover and was hoping to get some quality sleaze. Surprisingly it turned out to be quite okay although totally un-sleazy (btw - is this even the right expression? Chrome's spellchecker doesn't underline it in red). Hadn't planned to write a post about it but after reading it I googled (again, no red underlining?) the name of Jim Dobbins and the search came up with virtually nothing. And I do think it deserves at least a short note that will immortalize Mr (or is/was it Mrs/Miss?) Dobbins on the blogosphere.

The story is built on a very simple premise. Our hero, marine on a medical leave from Vietnam, comes to LA to recuperate from his arm wound and to have few cold beers and hot women. The whole novel is pretty short so it doesn't take him long to get involved with the keeper of the motel where he's staying and also to accidently bump into his cheating ex-wife. To make things more interesting, there's also a gang of juvenile delinquents lead by lady #1's nephew and shady husband of the lady #2.

But all this doesn't really matter. The whole thing is just a pretext to throw in as much sex scenes as possible because our Kirk gets lucky in a biblical sense with no less than four different women. With two of them on multiple occasions.

And somehow curious thing about it is that I still had a feeling that it was leading somewhere. I mean, even as flawed with inconsistencies and coincidences as the story is I would still categorize it as a crime/mystery and not (just) sex/romance. Just too bad its climax is disappointing.

But this too is pretty much irrelevant. The reason why Bedroom Boulevard is memorable is its style. It's extremely conservative and it feels like it was written by someone who was assigned to write a fuck novel but was too shy and had opted to write this weird "erotic" stuff instead.

I'll give you an example. Kirk has no problem with picking up a girl but is later totally shocked when she gives him a blow job. Nothing kinky, no S&M stuff whatsoever, just a good old plain fellatio in a backseat of the car. Don't get me wrong - he's not appalled or anything. And when she goes down on him for the second time (in two minutes!) he even pulls and twists her hair but because she doesn't react with a yelp or cry, he concludes that:

How perverted can you get, I wondered. Not only was her sexual desire twisted, she was a damn masochist too.

Huh? Weird stuff indeed. Puritanic sleaze?

Kind of short but not sweet. Would gladly check Dobbins' other stuff but apparently there is none other :)

3/5

Facts:

Hero
See front and back covers for detailed (and not very accurate) description. But must say I kind of liked the guy. Just an ordinary kid who is a bit mixed up and keeps confusing love with sex.

Location
L.A.

Body count: 0

Dames
Karen, the ex-wife (the devil) and Joyce the next wife (the saint). 

Blackouts:
He loses his consciousness almost every time he comes. But that poetic (starts went off, just like the fourth of July) crap doesn't count. However there is one proper blackout when he gets beaten by a gang of juvenile delinquents, Nothing special (they kick him in the balls), but I really liked the way he comes out of it:

But I could see the angel, not clear, but I could see her white robe and long hair. But something was wrong. She couldn't be an angel, because that meant I was in heaven. I just never lived that kind of life, and besides, I had been told too many times to go to hell.

Title: 
See back cover.

Edition:
All Star #127

Cover
Nice and sexploitative as we like them, right?

Cool lines: /

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Too French and Too Deadly (Henry Kane, 1955)

After Peter Chambers the author it's now time for Pete Chambers the protagonist. A year ago I had mixed feelings about the Death of a Flack but this time around it was easy to reach a verdict. This one pretty much sucks I'm afraid.

It starts with an entire page of Chambers' whining about sacrificing his mustache just to impress beautiful and desirable Carlotta with dark and dreamy eyes. Of course I couldn't know it at the time but this was a warning about how things will proceed. From the very first page every single description of a scene, character or action takes ages... and our sleuth's constant "witty" wisecracking and sexists remarks doesn't help one bit.

As annoying as all this is, it is still bearable comparing to the story. As we all know, red herring is the most used plot device in mystery novels but in this one it reaches unprecedented levels. More than once the sequence of events doesn't make much sense chronologically (unless Chambers has at least one identical twin brother) and occasional introductions of "classical" clues are almost pathetic. I mean - do people really write next day appointment reminders on match boxes? Would you for example really pin down a short incriminating list under the Chinese light in your living room?

Enough bitching. In this mess anyone could be guilty so it's a bit ironic that the actual solution doesn't quite make sense. Henry Kane was just no Ross Macdonald.

A bit disappointing. I think it will take me at least another year to pick up another Kane's novel.

2/5

Facts:

Some of the facts are incomplete because I lost half of my notes. For all the Blogger users out there: do not press Ctrl+Z while editing your posts. It won't undo your last change...

Hero:
"A wise-guy peeper," Frenchie aid. "Yeah, I know him awright. A smart-type guy. Makes with the big words and makes with a lot of them. A sharp-shooter guy."

Bad guys:
Carl Dinello was the upper uppercrust of the undercrust. Carl Dinello was one of the ten most powerful men, without portfolios, in the world. It was open knowledge that Carl Dinello was the remote octopus whose tentacles held control over all illegal gambling in the United States....

And like everything else it goes on and on... Funny thing is that after this introduction Carl Dinello doesn't get mentioned again. Which is probably just as well since I think that the whole thing is confusing enough without any "remote octopuses".

Location: New York
Body count: 3

Object of desire: 
"Gold," Horace said.
The Lieutenant said, "Pardon?"
I said, "What?"
"Gold," Horace said.
"Gold?" Parker fumed, "Gold? What's gold?"
"This," Horace laid the bar on Parker's desk and pointed a long finger. "Gold."
"This?" Parker shot querulous eyes at me. "This is gold?"
"Gold," Horace said. "Gold ingot."
"Ingot?" I said. "What's ingot?"
"Bullion," Horace said.
"And what's bullion?" Parker barked. "Sounds like soup."

Dames:
"A dame, I hear."
"Carlotta Cain. And what a dame. Brains, class, and putting it mildly, gorgeous."

Edie Rogers - Flame-red hair and round brown eyes and a small red mouth that was puckered like a blister. She was small, with quick movements, and a figure that had launched a thousand tips. Her breasts were round, firm, pointed and protruding; her arms full, her hands and feet small.

Once more, it then proceeds for another two paragraphs with all her anatomical details and details about her wardrobe but I'm sure you've got the picture.

There's also french alcoholic beauty Carlotta (the only cool and interesting character btw) and let us not forget his "short, squat, ugly and wonderful" secretary Miranda.

Blackouts:  /

Title: 
A bit of a spoiler.

Edition:
Avon #672, First Edition. One of those in the small format with tiny print.

Cover
Nice illustration of a damsel in distress. There are two redheads in this one but since she looks a bit french I think she's Carlotta and not Edie.

Cool lines
Counsel for the defense was panting like an asthmatic hoofer announcing the next act.

I came up out of my chair like I had a wasp gone waspish in my back pocket.


I was more fatigued than a dealer in Vegas working over-time on New Year's.


I tore out its [car trunk compartment] insides like a taxidermist with a deadline working on the carcass of a buffalo.


Tom Reeves bounced around like a pogo stick that had been crossed with a Mexican jumping bean.