Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Kill Angel - Angel #3

Author: Frederick H. Christian
First Published1973
Fileseize/Pages: 451kb/141pp
Ebook Publisher: Piccadilly Publishing
Ebook Date: April 2014

(Note: My  numbering of the Angel series is based upon the publication order by Sphere UK)

I can't believe its been over a year since I last read a Western! I don't know why such a long time elapsed, but I'm glad I've got back in the saddle. Kill Angel is another tale of the Justice Deptartment's "get-it-done" special investigator, Frank Angel, written expertly by Frederick H. Christian (aka Frederick Nolan). I had a great time reading Send Angel back in May 2020, and I'm happy to report that Nolan entertains even more so with this exciting installment.

This time around Frank Angel is called upon to find and bring back to justice the head of the notorious Blantine clan, father Yancey Ballantine. Charged with his mission by the Attorney-General, Angel sets out to enlist the help of two friends, Chris Vaughan and Pearly Gates to travel with him into Mexico and ride right up in to the heart of the Blantine-controlled town of Agua Caliente. They not only have to contend with a town full of Blantine henchmen, but also the sons of Yancey named Harry, Burke and Gregg.

Frank Angel devises a plan to bring the Blantines out of thier hideout with a brazen entrance to Agua Caliente's saloon. Its a risky venture, as he throws himself into the lion's den with the help of his two partners - but somehow they need to find and capture the ring-leader who was responsivle for the mass murdering rampage of an entire town.

Nolan provides an excellent book. Afast, no-nonsense Western that skirts around the edges of the Piccadilly ultra-voilence that dominated at the time. His characters of suitable balck or white, and the action incridibly satisfying. There are a couple of stand-out scenes, a nighttime attack by local apache indians, and a show-down in a dead-end canyon.

My only negative was that possibly the order the Sphere paperbacks as published in the UK might mean that this was the first appearance of Angel's friends, Vaughan and Gates - whereas I have a sneaky feeling that perhaps they had already been characters in one or two of the other Angels books if they had been released in the correct order? I can't be sure, but the way both of the men are introduced, its cleaer that Angel has back-story with them, which as a reader I wasn't privvy too.

If you are after a neat, solid quick Western with a just a touch of bloody action, this could be the one for you. I really enjoyed this Nolan title.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Coyote Moon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Author: John Vorholt
First Published1998
Ebook Publisher: Simon Pulse
Ebook Date: Sept. 2017

I was so impressed with the first Buffy YA original novel, Halloween Rain that I couldn't help myself and jumped almost immediately back into the Buffy-verse and try out the next original story to be published by Pocket Books in January 1998, Coyote Moon.

This one is set between the conclusion of  Season 1 and the start of Season 2 of the television series, albeit with a non-canonical reference to Buffy having spent the summer in Sunnydale rather than in Los Angeles with her father as shown on TV.

There are some notable exceptions. This book does not feature vampire-with-a-soul, Angel, in any way other than references to him being Buffy's boyfriend; and Cordelia Chase has a very minor part in the proceedings. I initially thought that Buffy's Watcher, Rupert Giles was going to be a no-show as well, but he does eventually play an active role in the drama that unfolds.

Coyote Moon centres around a carnival that has arrived in Sunnydale during the summer. Apparently it has become a regular feature, visiting the town for many many years. Both Xander and Willow are keen to go and sample the delights of the fair, but Buffy is less convinced and considers the whole thing a bit childish. Her friends tell her that the carnival is a great place to mix with others of their own age, and many kids turn up just to show off, or flirt with each other. Reluctantly she agrees to accompany them, seeing as the summer break is about to end and the spectre of returning to high school is looming.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Skull Still Bone (A Dr Quarshie mystery)

AuthorJohn Wyllie
Publisher: Barker Suspense
Date: 1975
Pages: 158
Cover illustration: William Rankin
Not currently available in Paperback or eBook format

One of the most pleasurable aspects of reading fiction is to be transported to another world from the one you live in. In the case of Science Fiction this can literally mean being whisked off to an alien world or a far distant universe unlike anything the human race has experienced. But for me, when it comes to other genres, being taken out of my own environment can be as simple as a different part of my own homeland, an alternative period in time, a foreign country, or even another continent. The most enjoyable of these 'trips' I favour, is when I am reading about the exploits of people who come from a decidedly different culture from my own. So although reading about Philip Marlowe in 1940s or 1950 Los Angeles might be a joy I will never tire of, reading about a Doctor and amateur detective set in a West African state in the 1970s really captures my imagination and pleases the soul so much more.

I guess if you were to ask me before I wrote this article to name a literary detective based in Africa, I'd never have been able to come up with a response. To be even more honest if you were to ask, name a novel set in Africa, I'd probably have said "Tarzan of the Apes", and not be able to add many more to ERB's legacy. So it was a very refreshing change to be able to find out that there is a series of detective (sort of) books set in that continent.

The Dr Quarshie books were written by Canadian author John Wyllie during the 1970s and 1980s. As far as I can make out there are eight of them, beginning with the novel I read, Skull Still Bone from 1975. Some of them were eventually published in paperback from Keyhole Crime although I haven't actually found a copy of Skull Still Bone in that format so far.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Halloween Rain (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

AuthorChristopher Golden & Nancy Holder
First Published1995
Pages: 118 (163pp)
Ebook Publisher: Simon Pulse
Ebook Date: Dec. 2017

Sometimes you just need a fast, fun, satisfying read that doesn't tax your brain too much and can be consumed over a weekend or less. I had a hankering for precisly such an experience so plumped up £2.99 for the eBook of Buffy the Vampire: Halloween Rain by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder. It was perfect - a real blast from start to finish, full of the vim and vigour that the television series exhibited.

A Buffy book first appeared in 1992 - but this was only the novelisation of the original movie from that same year starring Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer and Luke Perry, with Kirsty Swanson as the eponymous Slayer. Following the success of the television series, it wasn't long before paperbacks began to appear on bookshelves. And for fans, it was a surprising combination of novelisations of the TV episodes, as well as original novels. Many fans highly praise the novelisations - and quite rightly. Some of them expand upon the broadcast versions very well. But for most of us, with re-runs and streaming services so readily available, it is original fiction that draws us in to buy tie-in paperbacks. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer books have been written for both the young adult market as well as the mainstream market and flourished in both. This is no mean feat, I remember buying these books back in the day for my partner who was a huge fan (she still has an Angel mousemat I bought for her years ago) and there where a steady diet of books up until 2008. Even as recently as 2019 saw a number of books attempting to reboot the franchise with a new Slayer taking over from Buffy.

For those uninitiated, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the story of schoolgirl, Buffy Summers, the last in a line of young women known as "Vampire Slayers", or "Slayers". These young females or "Chosen Ones", are fated to battle against vampires, demons and other such forces of darkness that arise. But Buffy Summers wants to live the life of a normal teenager before learning to accept her destiny. As with all the previous Slayers, Buffy is aided by a "Watcher" (School librarian, Rupert Giles) who teaches and trains her to become a better Slayer. Buffy surrounds herself with her circle of loyal friends who later become known as the "Scooby Gang".