Monday, 16 November 2020

The Memoirs of Solar Pons

Author: August Derleth
First Published: 1951
File size/Pages: 1373KB / 251pp
Ebook Publisher: Belanger Books
Ebook Date: Jun 2018

Despite what may have been published in the 1970's, the second collection of cases for Solar Pons was actually The Memoirs of Solar Pons. So in keeping with the republished and reformatted ebooks by Belanger Books I am following their sequence and downloaded the next chronological installement of the adventures of the most famous of Sherlock Holmes successors.

Memoirs sees author August Derleth in fine form. He weaves Holmesian influences, references and homage into his second book about Solar Pons, the private detective who uses prodigious powers of observation and deduction to solve crimes in 1920's and 1930's London, from his base in an apartment at 7B Praed Street. There is even a reference to that other man of exceptional detecting talent, Dr. John Thorndyke (I'd recommend grabbing a copy of the The Red Thumb Mark or The Eye of Osiris if you can). Derleth cleverly manages to squeak in a sneaky appearance of Lovecraftian literature, which adds a bit of spice to one of the tales (see below).

There are eleven stores, one less than in Regarding Sherlock Holmes - however, these are in my opinion far superior in structure and in the telling. Derleth is able to weave more variety and greater story-building into Memoirs than he did before. The stakes are higher, the need to deduct more quickly is evident, and the supporting characters are more finely drawn. It's clear that the author had improved in his wirting skills at this time. Despite my miss-givings with the first book, this one starts well and, with only a few exceptions, holds its interest throughout. A number of the tales are longer in form, allowing for more interaction between Pons, his assistant Dr Lyndon Parker, suspects, and Police Detective Jamison.

Pons' relationship with Parker begins to take a different slant over Holmes and Watson in this collection I feel. Whereas Holmes elicits some comradeship and even a little brotherly love towards Dr Watson - Dr Parker doesn't appear to receive the same treatment from his exceptionally talented partner. There is a more critical vein running through Soalr Pons. He is only too quick to put Parker down, and seems to relish it more than Holmes ever did with Watson (or perhaps I'm more familiar with the later and have a tendancy to over romanticize it?).

Monday, 2 November 2020

Hard Target - The Zone #1

Author: James Rouch
Ebook Publisher:  Speaking Volumes
Ebook Date: Jul. 2012
File size/Pages: 513KB / 158pp
First Published: New English Library, 1980

"For two years The Zone has been alive with death, ravaged by war beyond sanity, raped with fire and poison."

So goes the blurb on the back of Hard Target: The Zone #1 by James Rouch. An alternative timeline novel where the fall of the Berlin Wall never happened and a Third World War has developed between NATO and the Soviet Union. 

There isn't a lot of information available about the author. His is (was?) British, lives in the west of England. The Zone series and three other war fiction novels appear to be his only books to date. He became a literary agent and had his own company website at one time, but that no longer exists and I can't find anything else.

Written in 1980 at the height of the late era Cold War when President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher - best of chums across the Atlantic - were battling tooth and nail with Leonid Brezhnev, the Russian leader. The 'Ruskies' had invaded Afghanistan in 1979. There was even a videogame issued by Atari called 'Missile Command' in which you could play at thermonuclear war. Nuclear warfare was just the twitch of a finger on a big red button away from reality.

Playing on this atmosphere, Rouch's series of books, running up to ten installments by 1990 I believe, pit the combined NATO forces of a group of American and British soldiers together into numerous missions in the ravaged wasteland now called The Zone. 

Hard Target takes place two years after the outbreak of WWIII. There isn't any supporting history to explain the current fictional political situation, or the evolution of the contaminated land that most of the action takes place in. Rouch relies upon segments of the book that take the form of reports to HQ, or messages to the Team, to give a little back-story. However, he does cheekily recommend that the reader might want to locate some reference sources such as, "Pawns of Politics; A study of the refugee problem inside The Zone."