Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Blackmailer

Author: George Axelrod
First Published: 1952
File size/Pages: 394KB / 202pp
Ebook Publisher: Hard Case Crime
Ebook Date: November 2011

Let me make it clear that the publishers of Hard Case Crime books introduced me to Crime novelists and books that I might never have known about. This range of books and the Facebook Group Men's Adventure Paperbacks of the 20th Century are the reason I got back heavily into noir and genre fiction a few years back.

Although I had always greatly admired Chandler and Hammet, I never had the opportunity or knowledge to seek out or source more books in a similar vein. It wasn't until I saw some of their great covers on the bookshelves of a Waterstones in central Manchester that my interest was able to be satisfied by new stories by Block, Westlake and Goodis. This lead me to searching the internet with the names of some of the authors, and suddenly I was finding reviews by bloggers, articles on web-sites and reading posts from people on Facebook talking about the same kinds of books, their authors and other types of novels I might like. Joining the brilliant Facebook Group Men's Adventure Paperbacks of the 20th Century was a turning point and really opened my eyes to the fact that so many other stories were being published in eBook format and even reprinted in paperback by other publishers such as Black Gat.

Blackmailer by George Axelrod, was reprinted by Hard Case Crime in 2007 with cover art by Glen Orbik. It was the thirty-second book to be issued by them, and is presented as being 'complete and unabridged' (although at only just over two hundred pages, unabridged is not much of a stretch). It was his only published crime novel.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Sudden

Corgi 1974 UK Edition
Author: Oliver Strange
First Published: 1933

If I had done a little bit of basic research before starting to read Sudden, I'd have realised that it is in actual fact the third book in Oliver Strange's Western series, rather than the first. I mean, it seems logical that the opening book would be named after the central character doesn't it? Not in this case it isn't. Well, that's taught me a valuable lesson that I won't take for granted anymore!

The original novels of Oliver Strange are not available in eBook format. However, after his death in 1952, the series was still selling rather well into the sixties, so a set of follow up books was commissioned by Corgi Books in the UK. These have been released as eBooks by Piccadilly Publishing. They are written by Liverpudlian author Frederick Nolan under the pen name of Frederick H. Christian.

I could find very little information about Oliver Strange the man. Other than a quote on Wikipedia telling us that he was an English author, there is not much else about. I guess him being English perhaps explains some of the odd things about the style of the writing and the language which I'll go into in a bit. (Maybe he could be considered as the first Picadilly Western Author!). The Sudden books under Strange began in 1930 and lasted till shortly before his death, with the final book published in 1950.

The Range Robbers (1930)
The Law o' the Lariat (1931)
Sudden (1933)
The Marshal of Lawless (1933)
Sudden—Outlawed (1934)
Sudden—Gold Seeker (1937)
Sudden Rides Again (1938)
Sudden Takes the Trail (1940)
Sudden Makes War (1942)
Sudden Plays a Hand (1950)

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

The Plague of Silence (Dr Palfrey #20)

1966 Edition
Author: John Creasey
First Published: 1958
File size/Pages: 776KB (Omnibus) / 190pp
Ebook Publisher: House of Stratus
Ebook Date: October 2013

The usual disclaimer: Although many Creasey books are readily available in eBook format, I saved some pennies and picked mine up (the one pictured) at a local used bookshop for just £2.
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I think you can safely call John Creasey a 'prolific' writer.

He penned a staggering amount of novels, over six hundred. He was born to a family of limited means in 1908 in Surrey, England, and died in 1973. An author of ostensibly crime and science fiction thrillers, who had his first book published in 1930 - there was no holding him back from that moment to produce some of the most famous and long-lasting series of books starring some memorable characters who are still lovingly collected by bibliophiles across the world today.

No stranger to the pseudonym, Creasey used twenty-nine of them. Among his most notable pen-names are; J. J. Marric, Gordon Ashe, Michael Halliday, Anthony Morton and Jeremy York.

Due to polio as a young man he was unable to take part in the War, so he determined to write as many books as he could to support the soldiers and their families during those hard times.

In order to have written and published quite so many books, Creasey had to have been successful right? Well, yes indeed. His most popular books were those that had recurring roles for his creations such as The Toff (an amazing 59 novels over the course of forty years), Chief Inspector Roger West (43 novels), Commander George Gideon (21), Dr Stanislaus Alexander "Sap" Palfrey (34 science fiction novels), The Baron (47 books and an adaptation into a TV Series by ITC) and the Patrick Pawlish series (50).

Sunday, 8 March 2020

The Running Man

1983 NEL UK Edition
Author: Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)
First Published: 1982
File size/Pages: 978KB (Omnibus) / 317pp (Individual)
Ebook Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Ebook Date: March 2010 (Omnibus)

I wonder how some publishers had the cheek to put covers like the one highlighted here for Richard Bachman's, The Running Man. Its a total missrepresentation. At no point in the book does anyone approach anything near to dressing up like an extra from the 1975 film Rollerball...and the cover is too early to tie into the 1987 film version starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, so what gives?

However, putting that to one side the book is the fourth and last published novel that Stephen King issued using this pen-name before he was 'outed' as Richard Bachman with the release of Thinner.

King has quoted (and has written in various introductions) that he wrote the entire novel in a single week. In some ways this is an amazing achievement - and in others its a shame because you can tell when you read The Running Man. Its much the inferior novel to the other Bachman book I reviewed recently, The Long Walk.

The premise of the novel is, in a similar vein to The Long Walk, quite simple. Ben Richards, husband and father with a sick child, out of work and suffering poverty with the masses in a dystopian future America of 2025 (scary though that its not that far away), decides to try to enter the Games Network, a government-operated television station that is responsible for free-to-air "Free-Vee" violent game shows. The most notorious of which is "The Running Man". In this show the contestants are presented as crazed citizens and enemies of the state; they are to be hunted down and killed by the Games Networks security forces. All of this with the help of the general public - who are actively encouraged to assist in the contestants capture and public execution with the promise of lucrative rewards should they bear fruit.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

The West End Horror

Author: Nicholas Meyer
First Published: 1976
Pages: 222hb
Publisher: Dutton

This is another in my occasional series of reviews for books that are not currently available in the eBook format - but probably should be.*

The West End Horror, published in 1976 and written by Nicholas Meyer was published after the success of his first Holmes pastiche titled The Seven Per Cent Solution in 1974. It was followed by a third novel, titled The Canary Trainer in 1995. Meyer has returned to the memoirs of John H. Watson M.D. once more in 2019, with the novel The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols. The fourth book is the only one that is currently available in eBook format. I wonder why only this installment has been converted considering the success of the earlier works has enabled it to be released in the first place?

Nicholas Meyer produced an adaptation of his first Holmes novel into a screenplay for the movie version in 1976. Directed by Herbert Ross and starring Alan Arkin, Robert Duvall, Nicol Williamson and Laurence Olivier, the script by Meyer was rewarded with an Oscar nomination. Meyer never looked back from there (he'd apparently only written The Sever Per Cent Solution while waiting for the writers strike of 1973 to be resolved) and went on to direct Time and Again, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Volunteers, wrote the screenplay for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and also wrote and directed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He is also listed as an uncredited writer for Pierce Brosnan's James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies.

The West End Horror begins in the winter of 1894, Holmes is displaying manic tendencies and is currently obsessed with English Charters, even planning a trip to Cambridge so that he can develope his knowledge and consult with other experts in the field. Watson isn't so enthusiastic and so the interuption of a new case is a bit of a relief from his perspective.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

The Long Walk

1st Edition cover, 1979
Author: Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)
First Published: 1979
File size/Pages: 978KB (Omnibus) / 384pp (Individual)
Ebook Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Ebook Date: March 2010 (Omnibus)

During the 1970s Stephen King experienced literary success with a string of novels such as Carrie (1974), 'Salem's Lot (1975) and The Shining (1977). He was due to release The Stand in 1978, but had another older manuscript from 1966 languishing in his trunk. Thus was born Richard Bachman's Rage (now pulled from circulation due to its subject matter. If you can track down an old version of The Bachman Books omnibus you'll find Rage still included).

His test of the reaction to a non-King book with Rage resulted in the request for a folllow up by Bachman from the publishing house, so he delved back in to his trunk and out popped The Long Walk in 1979.

King has written that he was asked if he published as Bachman because he thought he was over saturating the market with 'Stephen King' books - his reply is categorically 'no' - but his publishers did want to limit his output at the time and he was reduced to launching a single book a year. Therefore writing as Bachman would allow him to issue a second book, as well as finding out if his success was due to genuine writing skills or simply buyer association to a famous name/brand.

The Long Walk has a wonderfully simple plot at its heart. In a dystopian future version of America, the country is transfixed by a competition run by a mysterious military 'Major'. Each year 100 teenage boys (called 'Walkers') are picked from a pool of volunteers to take part in a gruelling walk where they must maintain a pace of a least four miles an hour. They are not allowed to stop or take breaks for any reason, including eating, sleeping or bathroom breaks - everything must be done without stopping or slowing down below 4mph. If they slow down, they are Warned. They have only three Warnings. They can 'lose' a Warning by maintaining a pace above the speed limit continually for one hour, thus effectivly regaining a life. If they attract a fourth Warning they are eliminated from the competition - literally. They are ruthlessly shot dead by a group of soldiers who have been tracking them since the start line. The last Walker left alive wins whatever they wish for.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Aliens: Earth Hive

Author: Steve Perry
First Published: 1992
File size/Pages: 3368kb / 277pp
Ebook Publisher: Titan Books
Ebook Date: January 2016

Back in 1992, the motion picture Alien 3 was released. In an attempt to tie in with this new movie, Titan Books released Aliens: Earth Hive by Steve Perry. Earth Hive was a novelisation of the Dark Horse Comics story Aliens written by Mark Verheiden, which had orignally been published in 1989 and simply titled "Book One" when released in collected graphic novel format.

At the time of it's comic run, the story was fully intended to be a continuation of the story from the end of the second film, Aliens. Chracters and settings from the first two films, rescued child Newt, Colonial Marine Hicks and the planet LV-426 were used. However, Alien 3 changed the fate of Newt and Hicks so in Earth Hive Perry avoided confusion and changed the character names to Billie and Wilks and the planet they encountered the alien creatures on became Rim.

By 1992 Steve Perry had written a number of well respected science fiction novels in his Matador series and had also contributed to continuing the Robert E. Howard Conan series with five novels of the Cimmerian sword and sorcery adventurer. Perry went on to write another couple of books in the Aliens series, which form a trilogy of sorts. He also collaborated with other authors, including his daughter, S.D. Perry on a Aliens vs Predator trilogy.