Friday, March 30, 2007


Destiny is the first in the new series Rogue Angel published by Gold Eagle--it came out in July of 2006--and the series promises to be both fun and entertaining.

Destiny is a fast read--the prose is smooth, the plot is tight and the characters, while not well developed, serve the storyline perfectly. Annja Creed is a terrific protagonist--she is beautiful, daring, intelligent and super cool. She reminds me a little of Buffy the Vampire Slayer mixed with Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt. She will appeal to both men and women, and if Destiny is reflective of future series titles, Rogue Angel should be around for a very long time.

To read my entire review of Rogue Angel: Destiny on SFReader go Here.

To read a great interview with author Alex Archer on Realms of Fantasy go Here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Leisure Set to Release Jack Ketchum's OFFSPRING

Leisure Books has become the leader in paperback horror. They have done it one author at a time: Richard Layman, Douglas Clegg, Brian Keene, Jack Ketchum, Graham Masterton and so many more I can't begin to think of them. Which brings me back to the point: Jack Ketchum.

Jack Ketchum is one of their better talents, and they have been doing a tolerable job of getting some of his older out-of-print titles back into print in affordable mass market paperback editions. Last summer they published Off Season, the summer before The Girl Next Door, and before that they brought She Wakes back into print. Not bad. Now we just need to get Jack to write a few new ones to go along with the vintage.

Fortunately, until Jack writes something new, we have his older work--much of which we, at least I, have never seen let alone read--and this summer, June to be precise, Leisure is scheduled to release Offspring. Offspring is the sequel to Ketchum's classic novel Off Season.

I haven't read Offspring, but I've heard about it. And I hear it rocks. At least I hope it rocks. I'll find out soon.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The New Destroyer

Good news on The Destroyer front. I found the Amazon listng for the new improved version of the old series. They have a new publisher--from Gold Eagle to TOR--and Warren Murphy is back in charge of what happens, when it happens and how it happens.
There have been rumbles among the fans about the last several (maybe a dozen or so) titles--apperantly they took Remo places he shouldn't have been--and Murphy plans to fix that. How? Pretending those particular novels never happened.
Guardian Angel is the first title in The New Destroyer, and is expected to hit bookstores May 1. TOR also plans to release some of the better of the older titles in trade paperback, three to a book.
I haven't read a Destroyer title since I was a teenager. I can even remember the where and the when. Early Nineties on the shore of a beautiful lake in the Uinta Mountains. Damn if I can remember the title, or even what it was about, other than the expected Remo ass-kickings and the always present sly humor. Great trip. Great book? Maybe. Just can't quite remember.
Hmmm. Time to try another? Or maybe just dust of the old Fred Ward Remo Williams VHS? Did I just admit I liked the movie? Damn. Sorry.

A David Goodis Review

Anyone who reads noir knows the name David Goodis. His work has been in and out of print so often it isn't difficult to find, but somehow the man remains elusive. His story is one of tragedy--much like the sad, seedy novels he wrote for the paperback houses in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. He died at the age of 49 after a long, quiet career as a paperback writer, in the same home he was raised in Philadelphia. To many he remains a master of the noir novel, but to read him is to see the world as something less than gritty, not to mention mean, nasty and very unfair. Maybe they are just the way Goodis viewed the world.

There is a terrific review of Goodis's novel Black Friday on Pulp Pages. It was written by G.L. Hauptfleisch, and it quotes Ed Gorman:

“'David Goodis didn’t write novels, he wrote suicide notes,' mystery writer Ed Gorman once wrote. 'He was a sad, suffering guy and he was able to get that sadness and suffering down on paper.'"

That pretty much sums up Goodis, and his writing. He is a little dark for me, but if you can get past the desperation, the poverty and the ills he portrays he was a pretty damn literate and entertaining writer.

Go Here to read the article/review.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

RUNNING BLIND by Desmond Bagley

Bookgasm runs a weekly column called Bullets, Broads, Blackmail & Bombs written by Bruce Grossman I read faithfully--he writes about those old fashioned thrillers that told one hell of a story in about 200 pages. You remember those, don't you? The good old days of Alistair MacLean, Hammond Innes, Jack Higgins--before the bestseller list ruined him--and a bevvy of other talented writers who knew how to tell a story at breakneck speed and keep you thrilled the entire time.

Today Grossman has a small review of one of my favorite Desmond Bagley titles: Running Blind. Bagley wrote adventure and spy novels in--mostly--the Sixties and Seventies, and they were tough, raw, sparse and a hell of a good time. I can still remember reading Running Blind, I found it in an old paperback exchange and kept it in the glove box of my car for about a week. Everyday I would leave for work an hour early. It only took me fifteen to get there, so I had a good forty-five minutes to get lost in Bagley's world of hijinx, espionage and paranoia. I loved it.

Grossman sums up Running Blind perfectly: "I can’t stress how much of a blast this book is. If you’re a fan of this type of spy fiction, dig through your used stores for it. You won’t be disappointed at all."

You should read the review--maybe catch the one about Hopscotch by Brian Garfield as well, and then get your hands on anything Desmond Bagley. You won't regret it.

Go Here to read the review.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Jack Pot: A Few Lucky Finds

I have to be honest, I'm a poor student and the high cost of new books is often beyond my budget, which makes me a window shopper of the worst kind. The kind who buys only on special occassion. But yesterday I hit the motherlode! It wasn't a wide vein of gold or silver, but rather a table loaded with dozens of titles--new titles released in the past year--listed at 2 for $5.98. When I saw them my pulse quickened, my heart fluttered and that damn vein on my forehead began a morbid little dance. Hell, I probably even turned red from excitement. Maybe cut a few years off my life from the stress of surprise.

I found several titles I have wanted, but was too cheap to shell out hard currency for, including, Grave Descend by John Lange (a pseudonym for Michael Crichton), The Peddler by Richard S. Prather, The Guns of Heaven by Pete Hamill, Witness to Myself by Seymour Shubin, and Off Season by Jack Ketchum. These are all either Hard Case Crime, or Leisure titles. And they are all books I have wanted to read, or in two cases reread.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Another Richard Laymon Cover

Okay, I've been meaning to do another cover art comparison post, but I haven't. Don't hate me bacuase I'm lazy. Please. So a faithful reader found and sent me the U.S. and U.K. versions of Richard Laymon's In the Dark. In the Dark is Laymon's best novel, by far. The only title that even comes close to its creepy visceral power is The Traveling Vampire Show--you know, the title Laymon won the Bram Stoker for.
The photos are a bit on the small side--my fault. Don't even think about blaming the faithful reader. And they are both cool. Real, real cool.
In the Dark

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

DEADLY BELOVED by Max Allan Collins

Good news on the Hard Case Crime front--they have just announced and released the cover art for their newest title--Deadly Beloved by Max Allan Collins. Deadly Beloved is an original title; something Hard Case should do more of, and it is different from their usual fare, in that the protagonist is a woman. The book sounds great, and the artwork is great. (see right)
Collins is the author of two previous HCC titles: Two for the Money and The Last Quarry. Two for the Money is a reprint of two early titles--Bait Money and Blood Money--featuring professional criminal Nolan. Nolan is Collins's homage to Richard Stark's Parker, and don't tell anyone, but I actually prefer Nolan to Parker. Wow. I feel like I just committed an act of heresy.
Two for the Money is my second or third favorite book HCC has produced, and I hope Deadly Beloved is pretty damn good, too. And speaking of Nolan, I figure it's about time HCC released a couple more--maybe publish them like the old Ace Doubles, back to back.
Cool, no?
Unfortunately Deadly Beloved isn't scheduled for release until December, 2007.
Go Here to visit Deadly Beloved's promotion site.

Monday, March 12, 2007

CREEPERS by David Morrell

Today is the official release date for David Morrell's latest novel, Scavenger. I saw it in the local Barnes & Noble on Saturday, so I know it's available. I can't wait until I get my copy--I'm hoping SFReader gets a review copy. I'm preparing for Scavenger by rereading Creepers. I like it as much the second time as I did the first. This time I'm smart enough not to read it at night, before bed; the first time I read Creepers, it wound me up so tight I couldn't sleep. It made for a few long days at work. It was worth it, though. Read on for my September, 2005 SFReader review of Creepers. I'm especially proud of this review because it was featured on at least two websites including the Paragon Hotel site, which was the official website for the novel. Read on, and if you haven't read Creepers, read it very soon. Then join me in reading his latest novel, Scavenger.
David Morrell's latest novel Creepers defies categorization--it is part thriller, part horror, part crime novel, and every word drips with harrowing suspense. It is the story of Frank Balenger, a New York Times Sunday Magazine reporter who is doing a piece on "creepers" -- history and architecture enthusiasts who infiltrate abandoned buildings using caving and climbing gear. They take only photographs and leave only footprints.

The group Balenger joins to get a firsthand look at creeping is led by history professor Robert Conklin, and includes Vinnie Vanelli, a high school teacher, and graduate students Rick and Cora Magill. The target is the Paragon Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The Paragon was built and designed by hemophiliac Morgan Carlisle and has been closed since 1968. Carlisle was an enigmatic genius and shut-in who lived his life through the lives of his guests: he built an impressive grid of hidden passageways throughout the hotel to secretly watch his guests in their most intimate moments. He built the Paragon to hold secrets, and the urban explorers will discover them in frightening detail.

It begins with the expected: dark, spooky passageways; rooms filled with furniture and dust. It is an invasion of the past. The group walks into a time forgotten: the inhabitants long gone, most of them probably dead. It begins this way, but it is not long before everything changes. The expected becomes the unexpected when the group discovers they are not alone, and their unwanted company is far from friendly. It continues when they find the corpse of a long dead woman, and then it climaxes with a violent clash of psychological and physical warfare.

The images Morrell creates are haunting. He uses simple language to create the illusion of the hotel, of the past. "Vinnie opened the closet doors wider and showed them a Burberry raincoat, its wide lapels drooping, its tan belt hanging." The lives of forgotten guests fill the place, almost haunt it. While there are no ghosts, the evils are very real, very human, and very much alive--the prose, the story evokes the feeling of a haunting. Almost as if the hotel is alive, feeding off the images, the ghosts, and memories of the past.

This rich atmosphere is created with seemingly little effort. While it is powerful and real, the main thrust of the story is the action and terror the group members face as they make their way into the hotel. The secrets--those of the hotel and the explorers--are revealed slowly and terrifyingly. The action sequences are done so well your heart rate will rise. They are written with a stark and bleak realism. They do more than tell the story, they show it in clear detail: "An impact jolted him. He rolled, stopping on his back, and struggled to clear his lungs as water sprayed behind him. Rats scrambled over him."

Creepers is a novel that will keep you reading late into the night and when you finish it will stay with you. It, like the Paragon Hotel, is filled with images of the abandoned past. There is something wistful, almost sad and melancholy in its allusions to the dying and dead--all of us--to the forgotten who once lived, and even to those who never really did. Creepers is that rare novel that will scare the hell out of you, and yet make you ponder your own humanity. It really is that good.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"The Techno-thriller" by William F. Ryan

I've been in a nostalgic mood recently, at least so far as my fiction reading is concerned, and that nostalgia has led me back to the novels of my youth. Technothrillers, mostly. I have read a few in the last couple weeks and even checked a Tom Clancy novel out from the library--I gave up on Clancy back in 1991 with his voluminous, over-technical, and down-right boring, The Sum of All Fears.

In my Internet perusing I found an interesting article about technothrillers in general, and Tom Clancy in particular. It was published by the venerable Virginia Quarterly Review in the Winter 1993 issue, and was written by William F. Ryan. Ryan asserts that Clancy is the father of the technothriller--an argument he doesn't quite prove--and that technothrillers are less literature (something I could agree with) and more propaganda than anything. Mr. Ryan captures the essence of the technothriller well:

The stories ring with patriotic fervor and a Manichean discernment of good versus evil. You always know your enemies. You quickly spot the good guys. You know from the outset which side will win because destiny commands it....The plots and crucial sequences always rely on advanced technology for waging war.

Mr. Ryan makes the obvious link between technothrillers and science fiction, but he also makes a more subtle connection between the technothriller and western. It is a disparaging connection--they are simple, the characters less than believable and very generic--but an accurate comparison. They are both uniquely American and very much rely on the upright morale code of the outsider to save and support society.

But what type of story doesn't rely on the alienation of the protagonist? And while it is true both genres can be insipid and stupid at times, I think it is an over simplification and a disservice to both readers and writers alike to label an entire genre, or genres in this case, as not worthy of an audience. Is The Hunt for October a classic? No, but it was original and really pretty damn good. While it may be difficult to cultivate a potential classic from the technothriller field, there are a number of westerns that have reached beyond their genre and become bona fide classics: Shane by Jack Scheaffer, The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie and many more.

Mr Ryan's views on the technothriller are interesting, but his analysis is skewed and biased; against genre fiction in general and military fiction in particular. In his final paragraph Ryan says:

What does all this say about the techno-thriller genre? Is it for fun and escape, or is it a bill of goods? Maybe it is both. Jules Verne couldn't be reached for comment. But I don't think he ever conceived a novel about science and propaganda.

I'm not sure propaganda can be removed from any art form, including literature. The authors biases, fears, hatreds and just about every other damn thing are bound to bleed into the storyline. It's who we are. A painter doesn't create a static, lifeless body, but they leave a portion of their humanity, their beliefs, on the canvas. Propaganda.

Why should a writer be any different? While we don't have to agree with the propaganda in any art form--and I certainly don't agree with the allegiance to authority, the inevitable wholesomeness of American culture and its war machine that most technothrillers espouse--it doesn't mean we shouldn't read it. Or enjoy it as a distraction. Instead it means we should understand what we are reading, what it means and its value as a vessel of perspective and morality. In other words, we should read critically.

Hell, I like technothrillers--at least the ones that can play out in less than 500 pages--and I don't support many of the ideas portrayed in them. I don't like violence. I don't think American firepower can solve much of anything. I have an aversion to authority, and I don't think the American military--or political system--is always right. But still, I like the books.

To read the article go Here

Friday, March 02, 2007

Books Covers--UK vs. USA (Richard Laymon)

I'm a sucker for book covers--the more interesting the better. Over the last few decades I've been an interested spectator of the changing artwork on different editions of the same novel. As a teenager I loved the work of Alistair MacLean (still do), and every time I chanced into a thrift shop I would look for a title or two. I wasn't looking for any new titles because I already had them all, but rather I was looking for new or different artwork from the titles I already had. I loved the Fawcett Gold Medal editions from the 1970s with their colorful covers and bold, lusty artwork.

It got me thinking. How are the US and British versions of the same titles different? I don't see many British books around here, but alas thanks to the Internet I can at least see their electronic images. So here we are. A comparison of a few Richard Laymon titles--both their US and UK cover artwork.

The first stop, Into the Fire, published in the UK as Glory Bus. I do like the UK title better because it fits the story better. I'll let you decide which cover is the best. The UK version is on the left and the US version is on the right.

The Lake

Mmm. Tough call, but I'm leaning--ever so slightly--towards the UK versions. They have more standard artwork--something you would see hanging on a wall--and less Photoshop photography. Although the US artwork is kind of cool in its surreal and seemingly haunted way.

David Morrell Interview at ITW

In the spirit of joyous celebration--David Morrell's newest novel Scavenger (check out the British Edition artwork to the right) will be released March 12. No less than ten days away. Heck, Amazon and have it in stock even as I type. But I digress--so, as I was the spirit of joyous celebration I have found, and linked to a terrific little interview David Morrell did for the International Thriller Writers' webzine, The Big Thrill. While the interview isn't long, Morrell does speak about Scavenger, his writing career, how he researches, and writing in general. It's well worth the read.

This is just a little nugget of what he said about Scavenger:

The primary emotion of CREEPERS is the claustrophobia of the hotel whereas SCAVENGER emphasizes agoraphobia and the overwhelming expanse of a mysterious valley with a sky so wide that the characters feel small and vulnerable.

Go Here to read the interview