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.

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


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.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Death's Head (SS Wotan)

Author: Leo Kessler (aka Charles Whiting)
First Published: 1974
Pages: 192

I was surprised how much I had enjoyed the opening title of the SS  Wotan series by Charles Whiting, writing as Leo Kessler. SS Panzer Battalion set the scene very competently for the long running SS Wotan series, introducing us to the soldiers and officers of The Bodyguard. This second book (chronologically that is) takes Von Dodenburg, Shulze, Schwarz, Metzger, and their commanding officer The Vulture, out to the Eastern Front to face the horrors of battling the Russians during a bitter winter.

Surprisingly Death's Head starts with a botched invasion of England, with the SS Wotan battalion being repelled by the British, leaving them weary, devastated and Von Dodenburg in a field hospital with a mild head wound. Whilst there he is treated by a sympathetic nurse, the Belgian, Simone Vannenberg. Upon recovering he continues a brief romance with her. She is an interesting character - despite her sympathies to the injured soldiers of the Reich, she is honest enough to admit that she stills regards them as her enemies. Von Dodenburg is eventually well enough to rejoin Wotan on active duty and they part.