Sunday, September 10, 2023

The Rest Must Die by Richard Foster

Richard Foster’s secret identity is Kendall Foster Crossen. Ok, it’s not that much of a secret, it’s all over the internet. He’s been outed! I’ll tell you who he’s not though and that’s "Richard Foster author” on Google because that guy is a total square.

The year is 1959. The looming threat of nuclear war is an everyday worry. In New York City they have random air raid warnings wherein everyone has to take cover in practice for the big bomb. Seconds before the air raid alarm goes off, we get to meet the small group of main characters; super star ad agency man Bob Randall, tough streetwise longshoreman Johnny, a mousy accountant, a secretary, a pickpocket, and a call girl. What is this obsession with the ad agencies in this era? I really don’t get it.

Down into the subway tunnels they go. Everyone is of the mind that it’s just another drill, but ad agency wizz/part time air raid warden Randall takes it seriously. The ground shakes as a bomb hits. Then another and another. Randall realizes it’s his time to shine and starts bossing people around with his air raid training. Also, he just happened to recently do an ad for the city about the preparations in the subway for bomb threats, so he is beyond prepared to take the lead. He’s rock solid in the know-how department, has unbiased moral prowess out the yin yang, doesn’t frighten easily, he’s a hopeful dreamer with aptitude to make it all come together. If you’re ever in a tight spot when the bombs drop, don’t YOU want Bob Randall on your side? Paid for by the Bob Randall for fall-out leader committee 1959.

Ok Bob Randall for the white-collar readers. But who’s going to represent us blue collar shlubs? That would be Johnny Larson. He’s macho but cool. I imagine him as the leader of a greaser gang who has to keep reminding the lesser men to, “cool it.” Yeah, his old lady died when the bomb dropped but it’s been minutes since that’s happened, it’s old news.

Randall and Johnny team up to take the lead and coach the frightened flock on survival. The author has a lot to say about character, who you really are-it has nothing to do with your job, and how to be a decent productive member of society. He really goes to hate town on business world upper management. Some digs at cops. Some digs on religion. But it’s not preachy. In fact, the Randall character is pretty open to people who have different beliefs than him. He doesn’t need a church, but other people do, we should build one. I’m giving him a lot of shit here but he’s totally levelheaded. He doesn’t take the lead, balls swinging like a men’s adventure hero. I mean, he has some moments where he has to throw some hands and he may or may not have a submachine gun and mow down some crazies but he’s not a superman. Crazies being people from other groups who are starving and trying to steal food. But once again just to be fair, Randall even asks, is there no way we can talk to these people to join our group and share our food before shooting them down?

The minor main characters are quickly relegated to the side. Their parts diminish as the book goes. Except of course the ladies who hook up with our two manly heroes. There is a lady physicist who lackadaisically helps. At the beginning she is almost raped by two guys though so I can see why her heart isn’t in it.

We got gang warfare, shootouts, nuclear fallout, survival, giant rats, stack of dead bodies, hopelessness, orgies, new religions/cults, fist fights, philosophy, and a big ol’ mirror to take a good look at yourself.

It was a pretty fun read. Not cartoonish but not bleakly realistic. Preachy but not a blowhard Facebook post by a first-year college student. Very practical. At times it read like a parable which was a bit annoying, but it also had cops that lose their shit and join forces with mafia hitmen so there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

Fawcett Gold Medal 1959

Review by: Nick Anderson

Saturday, September 9, 2023

In the Midst of Death by Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block is an extremely famous author so I don’t think we need to deep dive into him as a writer. Quick fun fact I did find though; he attended Antioch College which is a prestigious liberal art school located in Yellow Springs, Ohio which is fifteen minutes from me and is walking distance from Dark Star Books and Comics which is one of our favorite spots. Most notable alumni of Antioch college, among others include Rod Serling and Mr. Spock himself, Leanord Nimoy. I tried finding out what years Lawrence Block attended but to no avail. He did publish his first story in 1950 though and Rod Serling graduated Antioch College in 1950 so I’m just going to assume they were there at the same time and were roommates. The end.

In the Midst of Death is the third entry in the Matthew Scudder series. They are all stand alones. I don’t believe you need to read them in any specific order.

Backstory. Matthew Scudder was a cop. In the pursuit of a bad guy, he fired his gun. The bullet went through a wall and killed a little girl. Scudder quits his job, abandons his family, lives in a motel and binge drinks constantly. He will take odd jobs of the detective nature when they fall in his lap.

He takes a job from a cop named Broadfield, whom he did not know when he was on the force. There is a high-priced call girl bringing him up on (supposed) fraudulent charges of blackmailing her. Scudder needs to get her to drop the charges. Broadfield is turning on his fellow officers for a little tattletale cash in the form of a (hopeful) book deal. Seems like a pretty big risk to turn in your friends and fellow coworkers for but the guy is a reckless narcissist. Also, he’s on the take more than anyone so he’s a hypocrite to boot. This makes him none too popular with everyone. So, it seems that someone has hired the woman to file the claim to get Broadfield to shut his mouth. Scudder makes contact. Notices there is something deeper going on. Has a chat. Goes to a bar. Gets contacted to meet Broadfield in jail.

After just a few hours of Scudder speaking with her, the call girl’s stabbed body has been found in Broadfield’s apartment and now he is up for murder. He hands Scudder a grip of cash and asks him to solve the mystery. It’s most likely a cop but who? Broadfield has made hundreds of enemies. Scudder’s cop buddy comes to talk him out of doing the job. Broadfield may not have really done it but the force doesn’t care. No one is looking into the murder. Scudder is like, a job’s a job and we all know he didn’t do it and that aint right.

He then proceeds to investigate and get drunk. Holy beer bong batman. Much like the private dick stories of old he drinks from the moment he wakes up until bedtime. Unlike those stories he actually gets drunk. It’s a little too realistic for me and as someone who has been there, pretty dang depressing. I’m sure it’s to grime up the ambience. I tell you what though, after a certain amount of drinks you don’t give a fuck about anything let alone still solving murders. Also, the hangovers this guy would have would be crippling not just, I have a headache and need some water. I’m talking whole day hangovers on the couch under a blanket with the lights off.

The mystery is suspenseful though. It’s so obvious it’s a cop who did it that it’s obviously not a cop. We meet nefarious characters of the odd variety. Think Norman Bates instead of Al Capone. I think with a little deduction on your part you might be able to figure out the whodunnit before Scudder. I definitely figured out the WHY but missed the who until the reveal. It’s medium paced mystery. It probably would have upped the gears had we not been sloshed the entire time. There is some sad panda pity party moments where I’m just thinking, go to fucking AA already dude. Ha. But then while researching this for the review it seems at some point he does, so that’s good. Ok, I’m talking about him like he’s a real person now so that tells you Block did his job well. Great stuff and I love the look on these Avon era editions. It reminds me of 80’s slasher film covers. They didn’t recreate classic era paperback art but did something new and different and it works.

Originally published: 1976

This edition: Avon 1992

Review by: Nick Anderson

Saturday, September 2, 2023

The Greatest Adventure by John Taine

John Taine was a pseudonym for Eric Temple Bell, a mathematician whose hobby was all things science, writing science fiction novels and poetry. Party. He wrote fifteen novels from 1924 to 1954 and is considered one of the forefathers of science fiction.

I’m guessing the reason you clicked on this review is the same reason I picked the book up in the store. Just look at that cover art. The terrified woman, who in the midst of some outback adventure had time to set her hair in curlers the night before, with a giant Brontosaurus displaying oversize sharp teeth about to attack. It is simultaneously awesome, intriguing and hilarious.

Back in San Francisco Dr Lane, his daughter Edith and conceited giant crybaby archaeologist, Drake are hanging around doing science stuff. Dr Lane was a student who couldn’t afford science so he became an oil tycoon and now he can fulfill his true passion of science experiments at the age of 40. He loves strange creatures from the sea and offers the salty dog sailors’ money for any odd biological specimens.

One day Captain Anderson arrives with a tiny baby dinosaur carcass. Dr Lane’s curiosity is aroused. This thing was recently alive. Where did you find it?? Anderson tells him of a mishap in Antarctica wherein a bunch of oil shot up into the sea all around them and with it carried bodies of dinosaurs. Most of them giant but he found this little guy and scooped him up. Also, his first mate, Ole is an amateur photographer, scientist and philosopher who took pictures of some black rocks with ancient inscriptions on them. This of course interests Drake the archaeologist who immediately begins to have a mental breakdown trying to decipher the pictograms.

The captain wants oil, and the doctor wants dinosaurs so they make a deal, the captain will take Dr Lane, his daughter Edith and Drake to Antarctica to study the dinosaurs and find more of the ancient rocks in exchange for the doctor finding Captain Anderson oil.

There is a cute part after this that I can’t help to picture as an 80’s movies montage wherein Lane, Edith and Drake head out to Canada to camp out in the wintery night to get prepared for the oncoming cold adventure. While there Drake stops eating and sleeping as he becomes overwhelmed with solving the inscriptions. He’s also a complete asshole to everyone. I think this was to show how mind-boggling this discovery is and how amazing he is at being an archeologist, but I found it to be really annoying. Like, can we hurry up and find some dinosaurs so they can eat this guy, or what?

Now on the ship, Edith, yes, the ship’s name is also Edith, the greatest adventure has gotten underway. The three soft scientists are now hard as a block of ice. It’s a pretty uneventful trip, ship wise. There is lots of pontificating on what they will find. The first mate character Ole always chimes in with, “I have a theory…” and then is yelled at by the captain to shut the fuck up. It’s amusing at first but then loses steam quickly to become irritating. Just let the guy give his theory, fuck. There are some other moments of would-be humor that are cheeky era quips at each other that are the sort of thing you can tell were supposed to be funny but now seem prehistoric.

They land in Antarctica, scout around, find more dinosaur bodies, more rocks, more oil, snow and adventure ensues. I’ve read some reviews online that say it’s a precursor to Mountains of Madness. Woah there buddy, not too sure about that BUT I can see where they make the connection. There are moments that it does have that feel and there is a twist in the plot that heads down that icy cavern. They eventually find living dinosaurs and yes even the ones who are supposed to be herbivores have long jagged teeth. Why? You gotta read it.

This was a bit of a slog to get through. It’s very dry and dated. You can tell it was written in the 1920’s. The dialogue is super wordy and intellectual. Also, lots of science and biology jargon. Sooo much talking about what they’re going to do. Everything is discussed, argued, theorized and then executed. There were brief moments of immediate action but not much. Edith is by far the most exciting character. I’ve also seen (a lot) of reviews that consider her the main character. I don’t necessarily agree with that either. She is by far the strongest and most resilient character, but the story isn’t told from her perspective and it’s not soley her desires that make the plot move forward. There are many parts where she is just along for the ride. She reminds me of Kurt Russel’s character in John Carpenter’s The Thing. There is a ridiculous romance between her and asshole archaeologist that is him treating her like shit and her taking care of him. It’s depressing.

So yeah, this does have dinosaurs in it. They do have sharp teeth and try to eat people. It’s a pretty good adventure. It’s definitely not the greatest adventure. It has a presence to it. A feel. If you’re in the mood for something classic, this is it. There isn’t much from our current era in this. Everything down to how the people communicate is old timey. Like the beginning of the original Journey to the Center of the Earth movie where that pompous scientist drones on and on before the adventure begins and you just want them to start but everything must be explained first. They were in less of a hurry in those days and they filled it with talky talky. It was fun though once you mentally slowed down to a cool 25 mph.

Originally published in 1929

My edition: Ace books 1960

Review by: Nick Anderson

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Book haul for July 2023

We start up where we left off last month at Bell, Book and Comic. My first go in the place was last month. They have a small room of paperbacks but as we all know, you can fit a bunch of paperbacks in a small space. I initially grabbed all I allotted myself to spend, waited two weeks and went back for the rest. It’s kind of nice going to a place where they have plenty and you can look at everything thoroughly in one trip. I always ask if there are more books and each time they tell me they have 6 boxes to be priced and shelved, they’re just waiting for more room. Well, fellas, I bought a ton in the past few weeks, let’s get them shelves filled. I’m dying to see what’s next!

As stated in the previous book haul post Bell, Book and Comic has very affordable prices. There are a few that are more than a couple bucks though. Like this 1940’s Pocket Book copy of Dracula. Yeah, it’s beat up but look at that thing! It’s beautiful.

We got more nature disaster in The Last Hope of Earth. The Greatest Adventure (which all I can think of is the song from the Hobbit now) looks amazing. Just look at that Brontosaurus with long jagged teeth. Jurassic Park, eat your heart out. I’m almost finished reading this one so review will be coming soon!

Ice & Iron- naked guys falling from the sky. A copy of Raiders novelization with a silver reflective cover.

Four more Laser Books.

Aurther Machen is another author I hadn’t heard of in this HP Lovecraft-quote-on-the-cover Ballantine Books series. You ever see something and just know it would be a mistake to not pick it up even though you have no idea what it is? Like later on you’ll find out about it and regret not grabbing it when you had the chance. Also got Jerry Sohl, The Altered Ego. I love stories that are set in the future from the past. We’re closer to 2045 than we are to the 1950’s which is when this was written.

I love the look on this Alistair MacLean, The Satan Bug book. Very 70ish. I picked up the Godsfire because of the catness. There is actually quite a bit of cat books this month. I didn’t realize it until writing this up. Also, it didn’t escape me that the author’s last name is one letter off from Feline. HA

Got a couple Horror short story collections. My wife said the monster on the Tandem one looks like a big vagina. And now I can’t stop seeing it.

The Night Walk and To Walk the Night. To be fair it is a lot cooler at night for a stroll. Ba dum bum!

Two Edgar Rice Burroughs horror books. I started that Monster Men book but was bored by it. It was very Island of Dr Moreau and I’ve already read it and wasn’t too excited to read it again. That chained up bear on the Oakdale Affair is calling my name though.

Got a Lumley doing Lovecraft and unrelated a nutbag William W Johnstone all American Rig Warrior. Looks ridiculously fun.

Sunbird looks to be some nazi occult type adventure and that Silverberg has mad Aztec vibes going on.

Here’s two that are a little different in style for me. One is the Vietnam war fiction and the other is Navy fiction. Don’t know anything about either of them but I believe the Sailor one has a mystery element.

Two more Jack Williamsons. I own a later copy of Darker that you Think but couldn’t pass up this first printing of the 1963 edition. The Reign of Wizardry is in old people font, and I love it.

Speaking of books I already had but wanted another copy, Manly Wade Wellman’s Twice in Time. My first copy is much older and in a state of almost non-readable brittle. The Hamelin Plague looks to be a horror novel involving rats and a new plague.

Like every other fantasy book collector, I’m a sucker for anything looking Frazetta-like and sounding like Robert E Howard.

Next stop for the month is The Bookery in Fairborn Ohio. They have a great small selection of paperbacks, and this is where I find a lot of my Fawcett Gold Medals. I had never heard of Steve Dodge but as previously stated, if it’s a “Oriental” based crime book from the era, it’s coming home with me. I’ve never read a Bruno Fischer but heard of him from the Paperback Warrior Podcast.

Got some even older crime novels. I love how on the cover of It’s a Crime it says, “My gun-butt smashed his skull!” and then the art reflects it. Ha! The John Dickson Carr had a Shadow/creepy doll vibe cover that really drew me in.

They got in the first ten or so Lasers in amazing condition. I picked up one, two and three.

I also picked up Young Man with a Horn by Dorothy Baker which I reviewed a couple posts back. It’s a pulpy jazz centered novel and it’s great. The author is interesting, and I even did a little research on that review. And then I posted it on the Vintage Paperback and Pulp Forum group on Facebook and a bunch of people preceded to tell me all the things in the comments that I wrote in the review meaning they didn’t read it which made me feel totally shitty. So, thanks guys! Ha!

Up next we went downtown to the convention center for the Gem City Comic Con. It was so much fun! I had never been to a Comic Con before because I don’t really care about new superhero stuff and I assumed that’s what it would be. Boy, was I wrong. There was tons of old shit. Golden Age comics and pre-code horror that I had only seen pictures of online. In fact, most people were selling older items. We picked up a bunch of 60’s/70’s horror comics and a couple pre-codes. They were really expensive, so we opted for the beat-up copies. This isn’t a comic blog though so let’s get to the paperbacks we found…

First off, I was very excited to actually find some Modesty Blaise books out in the wild. There was a bunch but there were lots of other items to spend money on also, so I just grabbed the first two in the series.

And then holy shit, look at that, two Cherry Delight books! This was all they had but if there were more, I would have charged it and worried about paying it later. I already reviewed Silverfinger, which is a couple posts back. It’s been the most popular review on the site because, duh, sex sells.

Finally found another Robert Dietrich book. Terrible guy, great writer. I don’t usually over-pay for books, but I really wanted this and plopped down the $20 for it. Oof. I don’t think it’s worth that much but ever since The Calypso Caper, I’ve been wanting to read more of his books and haven’t been able to find any. It is in really great condition though. I doubt it’s ever even been opened. Speaking of Calypso Caper, I found another old crime book with a calypso theme that I couldn’t pass up. I love a Caribbean setting.

More flower girls please. My favorite cover art of this haul belongs to Not Too Narrow…Not Too Deep by Richard Sale. This is also another one I just recently reviewed. Wow, I am really behind on this book haul post if there are that many already reviewed books here.

Not a lot of horror but they had these two Frankenstein Horror Series novels, The Marrow Eaters and Seven Tickets to Hell. Just look at those beautiful covers! Oh damn, just noticed that beard/cat/wife? hair in Seven Tickets. Oh well, I don’t feel like redoing it.

Also grabbed an HP edition of a series we collect but didn’t have and a book about movie monsters called, Super-Monsters.

Though I wasn’t really in the mood to scour through the garbage, my wife wanted to hit up the Goodwill Outlet, so we went. I hadn’t been having too much luck there lately and this time was no different. I found nothing so I went to hunt down my wife to see if she was anywhere near ready to go and lo and behold, she’s holding a giant stack of books. Most if it was so/so but there were some interesting sci-fi titles.

The best being the Gordon R Dickson Mutants and Andre Norton, Android at Arms.

She got this Far-Seer because she thought the cover was funny. Which, it is. A pretty cool non-fiction book about ESP.

Greenmagic has some kind of wolf/bear/crab/man on the cover. That’s funny. Some unicorn action on The Warlock is Missing.

I love how space-sci-fi stereotype these two look. Especially The Trophy. It’s so perfect it’s almost a parody.

We’ve got three boobs on the Windhover Tapes and a Gordon R Dickson, Stranger.

Some more catness on the Cingulum and the Voyaging. I find the Cingulum kind of intriguing. Might have to put that in the coming up pile.

Always happy to get more Jack Williamson especially ones with Star Trek type monsters on the cover. We got a little historical fiction time travel with The Other Time.

What can I say about this cat cover?? Oh my god. Cats with human tits and thumbs. And another Gordon R Dickson. Meh, this one will probably go into the trade pile.

Last up is the Half-Priced Books haul. We can’t go one month without checking in to see if there have been any updates and this go around there was a ton of gold. I just went yesterday, and it was a letdown but hey what are you going to do.

We snagged a few horror books including this bee attack book, The Swarm and Save the Last Dance by Judi Miller. I read her book, Phantom of the Soap Opera which was as cheesy as it sounds but fun, nonetheless. I reviewed it but it was back when I was doing everything on Instagram so maybe I’ll have to pull that up, retype it and polish it up here.

How excited was I to find an actual book from the wantlist? Jaws mother fucking 4, The Revenge. Legend in bad shark movies. Super good. Was also happy to get some more 80’s thriller with Dark Fields. No one ever talks about the beauty of the 80’s thriller. Maybe that’s a good thing though. You can get them all for nothing. Let’s keep it that way, eh?

I started following the Instagram account, Vintage Nurse Romance Novels and though I’ll probably never actually read this (maybe? Who knows?) I wanted to pick up this classic nurse paperback, A Nurse Comes Home and it was only a couple bucks. Doubling down on the purple we have this prison escape novel, The Wooden Horse. I believe it’s a World War 2 prison story but it’s not sitting in front of me at the moment so don’t hold me to it.

If it’s cheap and has Rod Serling’s name on it, we usually grab it. This one is a collection of short stories compiled by him. I thought it was written by him, but I didn’t look that closely when I was in the store. I might not have picked it up had I known. Oh well.

Very very excited to find more James Bond PANs. Not just any James Bond but my two favorite (of the movies anyway) Thunderball and From Russia with Love.

Also got Dr. No. My third favorite. I just reviewed this one also. Spoiler alert, it is not a huge pile of shit. If you get it, you get it. Some more Gold Medal goodness with another writer I learned about on the Paperback Warrior Podcast, Wade Miller.

After being unimpressed with my first Travis McGee novel I thought I might take it back even further with an early John D MacDonald book, Border Town Girl. Seems to be sleezy noir with a Mexican-ish setting. I love Mexican things. Fog Hides the Fury attracted me by its ghostly gothicness and large type font.

Even more cat love with this HP Ballantine edition of The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. And man, I love the cover for this “Carter Dickson” mystery novel. It just looks so classic spooky mystery. Kind of gothic even.

Two super beat-up copies of MacDonald’s, Travis McGee series. I think The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper has the best cover of any of the series…that I’ve seen so far.

While researching the last Maigret book I reviewed I stumbled upon a third Jean Gabin, Maigret movie that I didn’t know existed wherein Maigret is in New York going against the mob. Whaaaat?? And then as these things happen, the very next bookstore I go to there is a copy of the book. And to unclass the joint up a little I got this Richard Blade series book that is a couple inches away from being a porn novel.

Some non-fiction-ish book in Jadoo. It’s based on real events but written in a fictional way. Wrapped for Eternity is a true non-fiction book about Mummies. The wife loves Mummies.

And that’s it. I hope you enjoyed the new way I laid out the book haul. I recently bought a scanner so I thought it would be more fun to have the pictures be bigger since they look better and hopefully it wasn’t too boring with my thoughts being on every book. This haul is almost a month late and we didn’t really buy too many this month so I might skip the August haul. I don’t know, we’ll see.