Sunday, 11 August 2019

Cannibals

eBook cover
Author: Guy N Smith
First Published: 1986
Pages: 208

There is something about the depiction of 'common-folk' in old horror films that always makes me laugh. Maybe that was always the intention of the movie makers - to provide some light relief before and between the scarier moments. All good films such as those produced by the original Universal Monster or Hammer House of Horror studios gave the viewer an example of the well meaning but misguided locals, or the terrified villagers cowering behind closed shutters of their cottages and German expressionistic inspired buildings.

Guy N Smith serves up this type of atmosphere in spades, making it the central point of the plot in his 1986 novel, Cannibals. While reading I couldn't shake off the feeling I have when I'm watching something like Universal's 1935, The Bride of Frankenstein, or Hammer's 1961 offering, The Curse of the Werewolf, where a group of villagers pick up their torches and pitch forks and gather into a mob to hunt down the 'monster'. (Smith even has one of his characters use a pitch fork at one point which was a nice touch).

Smith populates his village with suitably colourful characters, and he gives them their heavily accented speech patterns. At the beginning of the novel the speech text seemed over done and comical - and it was this that set me off with my old horror movie comparison. Thankfully, I was able to set this aside and enjoy the blood-curdling ride Guy had in store for me with his story.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Mute Witness (Bullitt)

Author: Robert L Pike (aka Robert L Fish)
First Published: 1963
Pages: 175

The usual disclaimer here - I recently acquired this in physical format for a very cheap price, although the copy I bought is the 1969 Penguin Books version that ties into the 1968 film Bullitt (more on the that later) and not the edition pictured to left which is currently available online at a staggering £100!

Robert L Pike was a pseudonym used by the American writer Robert L Fish (clearly he had a sense of humour).  Born in 1912, Cleveland, Ohio, Fish began his working life as an engineer, before moving to South America and eventually taking up writing crime stories. He contributed to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Allan Poe Award for best first novel in 1962, for The Fugitive (no connection to the TV series). According to Wikipedia he also used the name Lawrence Roberts but I have not been able to track anything down in that name yet.

Mute Witness is set in New York in the early sixties. It follows a few days in the life of Lieutenant Clancy of the 52nd precinct.

It's Friday 9:10am. Currently covering for his superior Captain Wise who is sick at home, he is summoned to the Criminal Courts Office by the District Attorney, a man by the name of Chalmers. He is not to be messed with; Chalmers and Clancy have recent history which resulted in Clancy's demotion so they are off to a difficult start. Chalmers orders Clancy to look after a witness for him. A member of the mob is turning evidence and has travelled from the west coast to New York to testify in order to work out a deal with the DA. Chalmers is very keen to make a name for himself with this case. He tells Clancy he must ensure the safety of the witness until the trial the following Tuesday and gives him the address of where the witness is holed up in a low rent hotel.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

The Kubla Khan Caper (Shell Scott)


Author: Richard S Prather
First Published: 1966
Pages: 123

Disclaimer - I read this in physical format. I have had this in paperback in the Four Square edition to the left for a while sitting on my bookshelf, so I had a quick scan online and what do you know it is out on eBook. In fact it appears every single Shell Scott book is available in eBook including some possibly that debuted in the Shell Scott Mystery Magazine. That's around forty books.

This is another book first published in 1966. Have I said 1966 was a great year? I think I have. Well I'll say it again in case you didn't hear the first time. 1966 was a great year. It is a great year to set a book!

The Kubla Khan Caper was the 31st book in the series, written by Richard S Prather between 1950 and 1987 (although most prolifically during the fifties and sixties). Shell Scott breathed life in the 1950 novel Case of the Vanishing Beauty, aged thirty, and never aged a day till the final novel, Shell Shock, published during Prather's lifetime in 1987. A final book called The Death Gods was published posthumously. It's also interesting to note that one of Prather's non-Shell Scott books was refitted to become the book Shell Scott and the Scrambled Yeggs. I'm sure he was not the only writer to experience this process and I wonder if that particular story reads any differently to the other instalments?

Saturday, 27 July 2019

The New Cover Gallery

My favourite Achilleos cover
I have always been a collector of paperback books. When I was very young the first books I started to collect were the Doctor Who adaptations published by Target. With their brilliant cover artwork by Chris Achille
os, and written mainly by people involved in the television series itself, authors like Ian Marter, Robert Holmes, David Whittaker and Terrance Dicks, who contributed massively to the series - these books started to take up precious space in the bedroom at home I shared with my brother.

As my tastes broadened I started to pick up others books, most of which have proved the test of time from the seventies and eighties, like Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes and Sci-Fi books by Asimov, Clarke and Phillip K Dick. The various covers would always have an attraction. The way collections would either be styled or numbered meant you could admire them even after reading, and ordering them on my few shelves (scratch-built by my father) was always a great past-time.

Over the years my tastes have changed - but I have never abandoned my love for a good-looking paperback cover. I'm still attracted by bright designs, great artistry and a consistent format for a seres of books by the same author. I have books that I am not necessarily eager to read, but love the design; a good example would be the Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes books by Laurie R King, published by Alison and Busby here in the UK - great covers - whenever I see one I don't own I just have to have it.

Alas, the amount of room, and the cost of owning every book that you would love have are incompatible. Well it is for me. I'm sure it is for many of you. So, what can I do about it? Well, I can collect those great covers digitally. I am doing this with Pinterest. I have added a page to the Digital Bibliophilia blog, it is called the Cover Gallery and can be viewed by using the menu link at the top of the blog. It is a direct representation of the 'latest saves' from the official Digital Bibliophila Pinterest account I have created, so that if you want to follow my growing collection you can.

Please feel free to browse as much as you want - I'd love to grow the collection as much as possible, and hope to include many different genres into it over time. I will add 'collections' (known as Boards on Pinterest) to arrange the covers into series as I go along.

I hope you enjoy this new part of the blog.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Without Mercy (Morgan Kane #1)

Corgi, 1971

Author: Louis Masterson (aka Kjell Hallbing)
First Published: 1971 (English), 1966 (Norwegian)
Pages: 129

eBook Cover
When I started this blog I  thought I'd end up reviewing tons and tons of hardboiled crime novels of the sixties and seventies. That's where my interests have laid recently, and I naturally assumed that was what I would continue to read and what this blog would focus on. Instead I find myself drawn towards Western fiction? Yet again, I'm here reviewing a series of books from that genre; this one written in the greatest of the decades, the sixties. and even greater in the best year of the sixties, 1966. Of course the fact that it is the year of my birth is a complete coincidence (honest!).

The subject for today's review is Morgan Kane, and the inaugural book Without Mercy. Morgan Kane is a Texas Ranger, and eventually a US Marshall. The books were written by the Norwegian writer Kjell Hallbing, who published them under the name of Louis Masterson. They run to a staggering 83 volumes and have sold over an estimated 15 million copies worldwide.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Operation Exocet (Strike Force Falklands #1)

eBook cover
Author: Adam Hardy (aka Kenneth Bulmer & Terry Harknett)
First Published: 1984
Pages: 143

The cover of Operation Exocet, the first book in the Strike Force Falklands series, shows the author as Adam Hardy. Hardy was the pseudonym used by the writing partnership of Kenneth Bulmer and Terry Harknett. I recently reviewed a book by Bulmer; Transit to Scorpio (Dray Prescot #1). I was less than impressed, being mainly confused and bewildered by his writing style. Harknett is the author of wildly popular and successful western fiction such Edge and Apache. I've read Edge, and it is fantastic.

I knew Bulmer was the co-author before starting this book. But I was intrigued with my reaction to the Dray Prescot novel. Why did I just not get this? Bulmer was a prolific writer and many readers love his work - is there something wrong with me? Was it just a blip? I just had to try another novel, so I opted for this one. Would Harknett have an influence? Would Bulmer's style overpower Harknett?

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Matagorda

Author: Louis L'Amour (born Louis LaMoore)
First Published: 1967
Pages: 140

Okay, so the first thing I should own up to is that I did not read a digital version of this book. Those readers that follow the same Facebook groups as me, may have seen that I was recently able to acquire a fairly large collection of books by L'Amour in the UK Corgi editions. This is the first of those I have decided to read. I don't think I would be exaggerating if I said that the vast majority, if not all, of L'Amour's books are readily available in eBook format. So I don't feel like I am cheating on the premise of this blog by reviewing after reading a paperback edition. And I will say now, that I fully intend to repeat this stance going forward. I am not a 'digital only' proponent - I love paperbacks, I collect them in modest amounts, and cannot ever see that stopping. But the reason I read more digital than I used to is because of a) a lack space in my home, b) to save money, and c) to avoid giving my partner an asthma attack (she can hardly spend much more than 10 minutes in most UK second hand books these days, so having a house full of old books needs to be avoided). I will always purchase a vintage paperback if the price is competitive in comparison to an eBook, and I will mention that in all my blogs. But the overriding principle is that an eBook should be available. In this case, my L'Amours worked out at less than £1 per book, whereas on Amazon UK, a single L'Amour could cost between £1.50 and £4.50 each.

With that out of the way, let's concentrate on Matagorda by arguably the most famous Western writer on the planet (anyone disagree with that?). L'Amour (1908 -1988) was born Louis LaMoore, in Jamestown, North Dakota. Hailing from French ancestry through his father and Irish through his mother, he travelled the world and finally settled in Oklahoma in the early 1930's where he changed his name to Louis L'Amour and settled down to become a writer.