Apr 182014
(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on May 21, 2008.) By the time Frederick Faust wrote this novel (which was originally serialized in ARGOSY), he had been turning out Westerns for almost twenty years, and it shows because this is a clever twist on just the sort of plot that he’d been using for a long time. The typical Faust hero is a larger-than-life figure, able
Apr 112014
The Modesty Blaise series started as a British comic strip written by Peter O'Donnell and drawn by Jim Holdaway. But I didn't know that when I discovered the Modesty Blaise novels, also written by O'Donnell, in the mid-Sixties. All I knew was that they were marketed as secret agent adventures (which they really aren't) and had sexy covers, which meant that whenever I came across one of them I
Apr 042014
Case Hardesty is in a tough spot. On the run from the law after a bank robbery, his partners double-cross him and try to kill him, but he winds up with the loot. His former partners are still after him, though, and so is a posse led by a relentless lawman. To reach safety he has to cross a stretch of brutal desert along the border between Arizona and Mexico. While trying to do that he runs
Mar 282014
I hadn't read a Northern in a while and was in the mood for one, but this short novel by L. Ron Hubbard (originally published in the June 1938 issue of the pulp FIVE NOVELS MONTHLY) isn't a Gold Rush/fur trapping/frontier story like I expected. Instead it's an adventure yarn contemporary to the time it was published, featuring radium mining, payroll robberies, and Mounties who fly planes and
Mar 212014
My general dislike of H.P. Lovecraft's work, while still acknowledging its influence and historical significance in the field of Weird Fiction, has gotten me in trouble on more than one occasion in the past. But for some reason, every so often I get the urge to read something by him, maybe in the hope of finding a story that I like. And whaddaya know, I finally did. I'm fudging a little with
Mar 142014
(This post originally appeared in slightly different form on October 18, 2007.) PAL JOEY is an early novel of John O'Hara's from 1940 that’s told in the form of letters from Joey, a struggling nightclub singer in the Midwest, to his friend Ted, a much more successful singer and bandleader. I was aware of PAL JOEY only as a movie musical I’ve never seen starring Frank Sinatra and didn’t know
Mar 072014
It had been a while since I'd read anything by our old pal Orrie Hitt, so I figured it was time. PLEASURE GROUND was published originally by Kozy Books in 1961. It's not one of the novels that's been reprinted in recent years, although it seems to me to be a good candidate. Hitt wrote a number of books set on farms, including this one. Bert Forbes is a typical Hitt narrator/protagonist: a big
Feb 282014
Like many of the novels in the various imprints published by William Hamling's black box empire, ESCAPE TO SINDOM is essentially a crime story. Val Sparkman is a professional criminal—a con man, a forger, a thief, a killer when he has to be. A bit of bad luck lands him in a small-town jail in Iowa. The local lawmen don't really have a clue who they've locked up, and Sparkman knows he has to
Feb 212014
THE YEAR WHEN STARDUST FELL is one of those Winston science fiction novels that were so popular when I was a kid, what we called juveniles back then but are considered YA now. I remember seeing this one numerous times on the bookmobile shelves, but for some reason I never read it until now. That's probably good. For one thing, it's not only a fine novel, but reading it now fifty years later
Feb 142014
I think that like science fiction, the Golden Age of MAD Magazine must be twelve. That's about how old I was when I discovered it. A friend of mine had one of the Signet paperbacks reprinting material from the first few issues of the magazine about ten years earlier. I'm not sure, but I think it was THE BROTHERS MAD, the fifth in the paperback reprint series. Whichever volume it was, I

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