Monday, December 16, 2013

3 to kill (Jean-Patrick Manchette, 1976)

Wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time plus revenge story. Usually not my cup of tea but this one was pretty special. Not (just) a thriller but also a weird mystery about what the hell is going on inside our main protagonist's head. He acts and reacts totally unpredictable and Manchette never really bothers to explain his odd behavior. A few hints are dropped every now and then, but we don't really know (until the end) whether Georges Gerfaut was a bit mental from the very beginning or was it this whole violent affair that pushed him over the edge.

And this "confusion" is beautifully complemented with the writing style. There are sections of totally dialogue-less text (opening ten!!? pages), pace alters from the rapid action scenes to static and (more or less) none-eventful periods lasting months, most chapters are about Georges but sometimes narration moves to hit-man Carlo or his asshole employer and so on. Pretty wild and incoherent but still cool and very enjoyable. So if poor Georges is confused about what the hell is happening to him, we are confused about what the hell we are reading and what kind of twist the next chapter will bring us.

Language used is also pretty unique. It's told in a third person with narrator using very minimalistic and sparse vocabulary that just serves facts and avoids any emotions. Maybe a bit hard to follow at the beginning, but once I had gotten into it, I enjoyed it a lot and laughed my ass off on few occasions. Just check out the "Cool Lines" section below and you'll see what I mean. And btw, I loved the fact there was no family shit - we don't even get to know the names of his two daughters.

Another thing I liked about 3 to Kill was its autobiographical aspect, it made Georges more real and probably a bit more sympathetic. He is described as a jazz lover and "leftist militant in his distant youth" and Manchette himself was political activist and saxophone player. There are numerous references to jazz music and musicians and it's too bad I don't know shit about the genre because it seemed to me that they were chosen carefully to give specific atmosphere when used. This book is so cool and weird that it wouldn't surprised me if guy attempted to create a soundtrack for it.

One last thing before I wrap this up. Don't let you my blabbering about style, jazz and psychological crap fool you - this is still a first class hard boiled stuff!! Check out the "Body Count" section and keep in mind that this little jewel is less than 150 pages long.

5/5

Facts:

Hero
Salesman Georges Gerfaut

Location
Paris, briefly at the seaside town Saint-Georges-de-Didonne and countryside town Vineuil and some remote village in the Alps 

Body count
8 and not counting Raguse (died of wicked cold). Plus bull mastiff Elizabeth 

Dames
Raguse' grand-daughter Alphonsine and Georges' wife Beatrice aka Bea: Catholic on one side and Protestant on the other, Bordelaise on one side and Alsatian on the other, bourgeois on one side and  bourgeois on the other.

Blackouts
Yes, one - when he gets thrown from the moving train

Title: 
Cool sounding but not very accurate. Georges certainly didn't plan to kill 3 people and hit-men planned to kill just one or - including Georges - two at most.

Cover
Cool and iconic picture of Paris metro station. But again, not very accurate because not much of this novel actually takes place in Paris.

Cool lines:  
From the aesthetic point of view the landscape was highly romantic. From Gerfaut's point of view, it was absolute shit.[The Coolest!]


Alphonsine and Gerfaut were having almost nonstop fun. Between the two of them, things were going well. They were delighted to have engaged at last in sexual congress and intended to repeat the experience as often as possible. 

"You bastard!" Gerfaut cried. "You stinking dirty shit! Son of a bitch of a son of a bitch of a bastard!"[The Coolest!]


But then they had run into this moron Georges Gerfaut. A travelling salesman, though, is usually very easy to kill. Carlo ad Bastien were well placed to draw comparisons because they had exercised their skills in the most varied social milieus, They were beginning to get quite angry with Georges Gerfaut.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Long-Legged Fly (James Sallis, 1992)

James Sallis wrote a foreword to Derek Raymond's He Died with his Eyes Open which I really liked. It is good and honest text, full of (deserved) admiration for that strange novel. So that aroused a bit of curiosity in me, together with the fact that he also wrote a Chester Himes' biography which is now pretty high on my to-do list. I've heard of Sallis before of course and have seen his books in bookstores but somehow never got around to read any of his stuff. At least I wasn't sure about it until I have read The Long-Legged Fly. Now I know for sure that I haven't read him because I would surely have remembered such brilliant and unique style of writing.

And this one is also a bit strange. By form and overall feeling it is definitely hard boiled noir-ish stuff. But instead on crime(s) it concentrates entirely on its protagonist. We follow PI Lew Griffin, who specializes (I think) in missing persons cases through the various stages of his life and career spanning from years 1964 to 1970, following an episode in 1984 and finally concluding in 1990. Author doesn't really bother to explain what made our guy successful in one period or what drove him into the alcohol and gutter in another. Individual cases are not related and also not very complicated (or coherent if I'm completely honest) and again, author doesn't even seem to be interesting in plotting.

Sounds strange and disjointed, but it's anything but. At least once you realize that this is not about whodunnit at all. It's masterclass in writing, characterization, atmosphere creating, treating people (and readers) honesty and with respect. Clever and thoughtful stuff that - at least for me - was hardly a page turner. Quite opposite in fact as I've read it slowly in the evenings with a cup of tea and not on the bus on my way to work. Just wanted to enjoy it as long as possible, absorb it and let it sink under my skin.

So my only complaint about it would be that it's too short.

5/5

Facts:

Hero:
Lew Griffin, PI

Location:
New Orleans

Body count: 3

Dames:
Vicky, the Scottish nurse and LaVerne, his lifelong friend/partner

Blackouts
Third part (year 1984) starts with "Light: it slammed into my eyes like fists". But we soon learn that he'd just awoken after a binge drinking (the air reeked of alcohol). Still this can be at least partly considered as unconscious as we all know how bad those hangovers can be, right?

Title: 
It was pretty much WTF title until I had asked uncle Google about it and he explained it to me that this was the title of one of Yeats' poems. You can listen to it here and try to decipher it if you feel like it. But then again, maybe it's not about this poem at all because Sallis plays in a band called Three-Legged Dog so it's possible that he has some weird fixations about animal legs? Nah, just kidding;)

Cover:
Nice one, always cool to see air conditioner (or elevator) as a metaphor of descent into darkness. Or am I just imagining things and it just means that it's pretty fucking hot in Lew Griffin's New Orleans?

Cool lines:  
We are not angels, Lew. Angels couldn't breathe the air down here. They'd die.[The Coolest!]

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Secret Lives of Married Women (Elissa Wald, 2013)

Two unrelated stories about the identical twin sisters. Leda, pregnant with her second child, moves into a new home with her husband and their kid. There's a guy across the street renovating some vacant house and for some reason she feels threatened by him. True, he's a bit pushy and doesn't exactly respect her privacy, but still it seemed to me that his only real sin was the fact he had recognized Leda in an old porn movie. And if I understood that shit correctly, it wasn't even hard-core porn. By this time we are well into 100+ pages and events finally start to unfold a bit. In a pretty ridiculous turn of events Leda is left to believe that her husband had killed that poor schmuck which turns her on so much that they can finally have a decent fuck.

And that's it, the end of the first part. Now we need to go back in time and endure another story, this one about her sister Lillian. She's as stereotypical tough bitch top lawyer type as they come (these writers really shouldn't watch so much TV) who gets assigned to a case involving an ex-nun/ex-professional slave in BDSM house now working (and being obsessed by) some blind clueless guy. Again nothing much really happens for the most part. Except that Lillian gets more and more horny and finally gets fucked hard in a tame SM scene where only act of sadism consist of a few belt spanks of her ass. And chapter later her court case drama ends with a pathetic twist.

In short: it's awful. Truly bad. I guess it probably tries to explore female sexuality but it falls short and immature. Far, far, far from a trashy exploitation or pulpy hard-boiled or even a simple erotic story. When I think about it, it's basically far from everything. Which is usually not a bad thing at all, but problem here is that it is just so fucking boring! Won't even go into the style as the whole thing feels like being written by the 15 years old aspiring kid encouraged by winning some literary award in a local newspaper contest.

Why did I buy this piece of shit in the first place? Well, it is published by our beloved HCC and occasionally I do read a novel written by a female author just to prove myself right about my rule about not reading them. Was also a bit intrigued by Junot Diaz (loved! his Oscar Wao btw) cover blurb but this too proved right my rule about ignoring that publishing marketing crap printed on the covers.

So this is what I get for disobeying my own rules and it serves me right I guess. But you have been warned! Just skip this and leave it to the bored housewives and 50 Shades of Gray fans. Many of them wondering around airport bookstores where this one belongs.

1/5

Added 7-Dec-2013:
Got a very passionate response (to put it mildly) to this blog post recently and after re-reading the text I admit I have pretty much deserved it. It does read mean and nasty and makes me look like a misogynistic asshole so I do feel a need to apologize and to clarify it a bit. Of course I do read books written by women; I just don’t read crime/mystery books written by women. I’m not saying they are all bad and won’t go into details about this issue so let’s just say I don’t seem to understand feminine sensibility about the dark side :) But would love to be proven wrong and will gladly check out any reading tips.

Again, sorry if this text was offending to you - it certainly wasn't my intention to insult anyone. Will definitely be more mindful about how I put together my posts in the future.

Facts:

Hero:
Twins Leda and Lillian

Location:
Portland and New York

Body count:
none. Or maybe a couple if we count an orgasm as a little death.

Dames:
Twins and ex-nun, ex professional slave Nanette "Nan" Magdalene

Blackouts: /

Title: 
Not many secrets of these two married women. They are pretty honest to their hubbies except for that Leda's porn flick and Lillian's "SM" quicky in the Hilton hotel..

Cover:
Good as all Orbik's covers are - in this one he caught both of their expressions exceptionally well. But it's not too accurate because Lillian is not naked during her Hilton affair. It probably portraits the picture that Nan used for blackmailing.

Cool lines: /

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Shaft's Big Score! (Ernest Tidyman, 1972)

Begins with Shaft returning home to Brooklyn from his vacation in Jamaica which is a bit odd. I mean, he did visit Caribbeans but that was two years later in Carnival of Killers. But let's not split any hair over this, we don't really expect these pulpy novels to be very consistent, do we?

And this one is as stereotypical as they come. After 10 pages the stage is set - his good friend murdered, leaving behind a hot widow and shitload of hidden money over which two rival gangs (blacks and Italians of course) will fight merciless. And with few horny dames thrown into this pot, there's our hero in the middle of it trying to save his friend's honor and missing cash.

Cops are of course totally disinterested and incompetent. After the initial killing they simply conclude that "this was professional hit and it wasn't the last one". Which I found a bit odd because blowing up the entire building's floor in order to kill a single guy (not even a mobster!) don't seem very professional to me. But again, it's a Shaft novel and we shouldn't try to make much sense of this black and white violent world. It's better to just let it ride and enjoy such little nonsenses. My favorite one was towards the end when just two (?) bad guys are chasing our main man who's btw armed with a shotgun (!) It's obvious that these two suckers are no match for "two hundred pounds of meat and meanness" so why the hell are they chasing him and not the other way around? Maybe because "the lessons of escape were bred into his bones"? Anyways, when they do manage to "corner" him, he simply shoots both of them. The end.

Of course, it's much more about the style than content but still Mr. Tidyman could try a bit harder on the story aspect. It reads more like a screenplay (maybe that's the reason for the aforementioned chase) which can actually be the case here because IMDB doesn't state that movie is based on the book so maybe it was published after the movie came out.

Anyways, fun read with great dialogues, cool slang and some hilarious one-liners. But it does get a bit repetitive and dull towards the end as there's 100+ pages gap between the initial killings and the final bloodbath.

2.5/5

Facts:

Hero
John Shaft, PI - Just under two hundred pounds of meat and meanness ... A man in motion, moving almost as quickly as his mind.

Location:
NYC, mostly in Queens where "It is is easier to get a cab than a cop. The cabs either have a better radio system or they are more eager to get the work"

Body count: 9

Dames
Arna, the widow. Gail Sharrett, daughter of a mobster kingpin. Rita Towne, mistress of another mobster kingpin. 

The latter one is nymphomaniac (deep pit that could never be filled, a fire that could never be cooled) who fucks Shaft and it's pretty funny fuck too because our main man just cannot satisfy her. So after the intercourse he simply concludes that "If he could have unscrewed his cock he would have given it to her to play with." He also tries to give her some advice to which she simply responds by "Don't talk. Fuck." [Fatale]

Blackouts
Two - on the first occasion he gets knocked off by the explosion, but second one is a more proper because he gets beaten to a pulp.

Title: 
A bit silly but, on the other hand, well aligned with exploitation genre. Also inaccurate, because I have no idea what Shaft was supposed to score. Rita Towne doesn't really count and he gives recovered money back to Arna so she can establish fund for crippled kids and build a school for them. Also not sure wtf's about that exclamation mark at the end?

Cover
My paperback is first UK publication from 1972 and they didn't even bother with some original artwork for the cover. Just used movie poster with Richard Roundtree which is of course totally understandable - you can't get much better advertisement that that.

Cool lines:
"Say goodbye to your fucking empty head," Shaft told him. "I don't need it any more." [The Coolest!]


"Got another back there?" he asked the pudgy stewardess, holding up the plastic glass at her. She smiled the pudgy little smile. Did the pilots have to wind them up before each trip? Could she hold that smile as an engine fell off?"Here you are, sir. Scotch on the rocks." The voice had all the sincerity of a radio commercial for hemorrhoid ointment and the girl would probably smile all the way through a blow job. [The Coolest!]


He could see how nervous Kelly was getting. He was jumping like a broad with a sniff of coke on her clit. [The Coolest!]

Mascola didn't answer. He lay stretched out beside Cal's coffin. The right side of his head was missing. A coroner would say there had been probable brain damage before death. [The Coolest!]

"My car or yours?" Gail Sherrett asked coldly as they waited for the elevator.
"Mine's yellow," Shaft said, "with a build-in meter."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The First Quarry (Max Allan Collins, 2008)

Max Allan Collins takes us back to the early 70s on a ride with his anti-hero's debut assignment. Quarry is dispatched to some small college town in Iowa where he's supposed to "take out" some asshole professor/writer working on a "non-fiction" book on Chicago's mobster. Two women are involved and gang war over the drug turf is taking place so we know there will be plenty of sex and violence.

And since we are reading Quarry book, we know it will be fun.

It moves forward pretty rapidly, at times maybe even too fast as character don't have time to fully evolve and breathe. Collins either drops them altogether (cute blonde at the very beginning) or Quarry simply kills them. There's this likable private detective Charlie who brings few possibilities of mystery entanglement but he too almost immediately ends up with additional hole in his head and storytelling goes back to linear mode. Which is cool, Quarry's novel are by their definition character driven, sometimes (like in this one) it's just too bad that the only character that drives them is Quarry and others are somehow neglected.

But, again, it's fun. Especially after reading initial few chapters and getting into the mood and into our protagonist's sense of humor. He's simply cool guy and I'll give his first adventure an extra half point on account how effectively he managed to finish this whole affair without "leaving any loose ends". Nice work indeed.

3.5/5

Facts:

Hero:
Quarry

Location:
Iowa City

Body count:8

Dames
Dorothy "Dorrie" Byron, asshole professor's abandoned wife and Annette Girard, artistic and slightly confused daughter of the mobster Lou Girardelli. Quarry fucks them both. Twice.

Blackouts: /

Title: 
Quarry's first assignment.

Cover:
Excellent one, done by Ken Laager. Liked its dark and sexy feel and it's also very accurate - it depicts a scene from the page 118. One small remark though - Quarry seems to be a bit lost in thoughts and uninterested but in the book he's actually horny as hell.

Cool lines:  
"I'm nothing to you but your 'girl' - I'm not a serious writer doing serious work!"
I wondered if a serious writer would use the word 'serious' twice in the same sentence.

She said, "I'm not in love with Professor Byron or anything. We're just good friends."
I could use a good friend who looked like her who would blow me.

[Before killing a guy]  He'd gone to the store. He had to eat, didn't he? Well, actually, he didn't, but he didn't know that.

"Do I look like I was born the fuck yesterday?"
For all the gunk on his hair, he might have been born the fuck a few seconds ago.[The Coolest!]

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pop. 1280 (Jim Thompson, 1964)

Straightforward story about a local sheriff of some godforsaken Texas hillbilly county. A simple-minded dude with simple problems concerning women, trying hard to be re-elected since being a local law enforcer is about the only thing in the world he feels he knows how to handle. See "cool lines" below and you'll get the picture.

Of course it's not as simple as that. Although incredibly entertaining and easy to read and follow, Pop. 1280 is anything but a simple read. Story alone is pretty complex with a bunch of characters and events that amount to a fair decrease of the initial population at the end. Plotting is superb and tension build-up together with the final twist are good enough alone for the highest grade this total masterpiece gets from me.

But the real story and detective challenge (for the reader) takes place inside the Nick's head. Who the hell is this guy? At the beginning he's just a simplistic, clueless and almost retarded asshole driven by the desire to be re-elected. With first bodies coming up we soon realize that he's not exactly harmless but still he's almost cute and in a way we are still sympathetic with him. At least I was. Maybe because of his hilariously cunning scheming or his incredible (ab)use of grammar or simply his questionable luck with women. But there's just so much that man can take and it becomes more and more clear that our main man is not exactly right in his head.

And this, for me, is novel's main appeal - was he crazy all along or did something finally push him over the edge? We will get the answer and it will be a creepy one. Also unexpected one, I couldn't see it coming at all.

Pottsville definitely deserves a few words.Cesspool of humanity it is, without a single likeable character around. Liars, cheaters, wife beaters, misogynists, people fucking their relatives (kids not excluded), nymphomaniacs, mentally retarded, simply mean, greedy and ignorant hillbillies (I caught him reading a book!) and most of them total racists. Racism is one of the prevailing themes and Thompson uses it as a tool to emphasize storytelling, sometimes even its humorous parts - I giggled at the scene when Nick spreads around the rumor that his election competitor Sam has "raped a little two year old nigger baby" but stuff like "niggers shouldn't be counted as a regular population since they have no souls" just makes you speechless and leaves you sad. No wonder Nick went a bit crazy in such environment.

Cool thing - and another touch of maestro - is that Pottsville doesn't really feel like some big ass metaphor for America's little towns. At least not at the beginning that is. I had the impression that Thompson simply had fun inventing these oddballs and enjoyed playing with them. But the more story progresses and more darker it gets, it becomes clearer that author is a pessimist whose only suggestion about how to get out of this state of decay (=Pottsville) is to become as insane (religious?) as other people living there. To put into Nick's words: "There can't be no personal hell because there ain't no personal sins. They are all public."

Unforgettable stuff, should be made mandatory reading in primary schools.

5/5

Facts:

Hero
Sheriff Nick Corey

Location:
Pottsville, 47th largest county of the state (of Texas I assume)

Body count: 6

Dames
His mean and bitchy wife Myra plus mistresses Rose and Amy

Blackouts: /

Title: 
Pottsville has a population of 1280. But it could also be titled Pop. 1274...

Cover
Orion edition's cover is hardly worth any commentary. So I'm also including some older cover that I find interesting because it tries to sell this dark masterpiece as a light western comedy. Although, when looking at the guy's facial expression long enough, you'll see a glimpse of psychotic tendencies in his eyes.

Cool lines:  
"Me?" I said. "I do my job all the time."
"You! You stupid silly spineless fool! You don't do anything!"
"Well, that's my job," I said. "Not doing nothing. I mean. That's why people elect me."

What I loved was myself, and I was willing to do anything I god-danged had to to go on lying and cheating and drinking whiskey and screwing women and going to church on Sunday with all the other respectable people.[The Coolest!]


"Can't very well run a town without one, right, Buck?"
"Right! Why if they wasn't any whores, the decent ladies wouldn't be safe on the streets."
"Kee-reck!"  Ken nodded. "Fellas would get all full of piss an' high spirits and take right off after 'em."

"The next time they even look like they're goin' to sass you, you just kick 'em in the balls as hard as you can."
"Huh?" I said. "But - but don't it hurt awful bad?"
"Pshaw, 'course it don't hurt. Not if you're wearin' a good pair o' boots without no holes in 'em."
"That's right," Buck said. "You just be sure you ain't got any toes stickin' out and it won't hurt you a-tall."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Lemons never Lie (Donald E. Westlake aka Richard Stark, 1971)

I'm not too keen on crime books in which heroes are ordinary people somehow sucked into the sinister underworld. True, occasionally this formula can function (can't remember a good example from the top of my head though) but Lemons Never Lie is definitely not one of those instances.

Alan Grofield is a stage actor that runs summer theater (whatever the hell that is?) in some rural godforsaken place. This requires money and he finances this whole operation by occasional theft. Because, you see, he's also a professional thief.

Could decent novel would ever be possible to come out of such a moronic premise? I don't think so, not even when written by one of the genre's greatest craftsmen.
After initial setup, it turns into cat-and-mouse kind of chase around USA involving Grofield and some insane psychopathic asshole Myers. It is written very simplistic and fast paced with a decent body count piling, so it is pretty easy read. Quite fluent too although on few occasions the whole thing becomes simply laughable. I think I shall remember it by one of the most original torturing scenes - our main man Grofield strips down some poor schmuck and starts opening the front door. Since outside is so cold, guy gets terrified of catching pneumonia and immediately spills everything out to his ruthless torturer. I kid you not, read it yourself (page 193) if you don't believe me.

Not good, not bad. Something you take on a plane and forget about when you arrive to your destination and pick up the next book.

2.5/5
Facts:

Hero: 
A member of a increasingly disappearing breed of professionals, Alan Grofield was an actor who limited himself to live performances before live audiences.

Location
Las Vegas, Mead Grove, Indiana, St. Louis, Monequois, New York

Body count: 6

Dames
None really. There's his understanding and artistic (also actress) wife but she hardly qualifies for a dame.

Blackouts
Yes, two of them. And since our hero is hardly some bad ass criminal (although he is professional) we can forgive him for the both of them. None is described particularly vivid - In the first one "Grofield turned around and faced the wall. He knew what was coming, and hunched his head down into his neck, trying to make his skull soft and resilient. It didn't do any good. The lights went out very painfully." In the second one he was simply hit in the face by two-by-four and was subsequently out for mere 5 minutes.

Title: 
One of those intriguing and funny wtf titles but it has really simple explanation. Right at the beginning Grofield scores jackpot (three lemons) on the slot machine and gets a little annoyed about it because he feels that he had used all his luck.

Cover:
Pretty cool, although girl should be more in front I think. But very accurate, it depicts the corpse #3 and the fact that Grofield burns down the house in order to destroy all the evidence (I think) since he's such a professional. Credited to a guy R.B. Farrell but google search on him didn't come back with nothing useful.

Cool lines:  
Tired and aging mixed-race jazz quintet tried to figure out how to make transition to rock. So far, all they were sure of was the volume level; you couldn't hear yourself think. Looking at the conversations going on up and down the bar, and in the booths behind him, Grofield decided the place must be full of lip readers.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

He Died with His Eyes Open (Derek Raymond, 1984)

This one is really unusual, almost weird. Not too surprising since I picked it up because I remembered the name of Derek Raymond was mentioned by Mark E. Smith in his hilarious autobiography Renegade. So welcome to the wonderful and frightening world of modern British noir!

Begins as yet another police procedural with badly beaten body found in some dark alley of the dodgy part of London. Inspector in charge of the case finds victim's letters and some recorded tapes (ah, good old days!) and starts searching for the bad guys using these recordings.

Kind of. Our nameless sergeant works alone, at his own pace using some pretty unconventional methods. His sense of justice and punishment is also a bit strange so his character resembles more to a classical PI than policeman. So much for the police procedural clichés - which is btw just fine with me.

Letters and recordings also prove not to be much of an evidence. In fact they serve just as a vehicle for telling parallel story about our unfortunate victim. Which is kind of cool since his background is really interested. In fact it is so fascinating that even our nameless detective becomes more interested into the guy's story than the actual crime and begins to form some mental link with him. I think.

This goes on for the better half of the novel and then it gradually gets more and more bizarre. Our hero tracks down and immediately afterwards starts fucking victim's wife. He even moves with her into her apartment because (I guess) at this point he's already connected mentally with her dead ex so this means he can connect to her physically. Not sure again, but they also fall in love. Or something. In any case, he seems to have figured the whole thing (crime and fucking/loving part) out so not much of investigation will follow. There will be shocking and bizarre (not only metaphorically) ending but it is not really unexpected or surprising one. Simply because there's no way that this strange novel could finish in the classical whodunnit style.

So we have two or three stories entwined but the whole thing is anything but mess. Very concise, seems to me that Derek Raymond knew exactly what he was trying to tell and how to convey all those stories. Great storytelling with effortless shifts from hard-boiled violent stuff to more mellow psychological drama. Bleak and depressing at times (Staniland's journey and fate) but masterfully written. Not trying to be clever with tough one-liners but still with fair amount of sharp black humor and slang. Not really character nor action driven but still tense and compelling. It loses some of its charge towards the end, but it is still immensely enjoyable.

Unique and memorable. I think it got under my skin a bit and I will definitely check out other Raymond titles.

4/5

Facts:

Hero
Nameless sergeant. Working for the Unexplained Deaths department - A14 branch, "the most unpopular one"

Location:
London

Body count: 2

Dames:
Barbara/Babsie - Frigid iceberg with gross psychic problems and the mind of a petty criminal.

Blackouts: /

Title: 
Probably refers to the poor Charles but I honestly cannot remember whether his body was found with its eyes actually opened. Doesn't really matter, it's cool sounding title anyway.

Cover
Nice and intriguing one with a great artwork. Also relevant - our hero is Nameless (faceless), he smokes (see cool lines below) and tape recorder plays an important role in the novel.

Cool lines:  
I lit a Palace filter. It tasted revolting; I only smoke them because I hope they might help me give it up.

"Good evening to you,"  he boomed heartily. "My wife tells me you've come about my brother Charles. What has he been up to this time?"
"Well, he's gone and died," I replied.

Nice and gentle way to break the bad news but needs to be said it's still not as nearly as cool as Hoke did it in New Hope for the Dead.

"Well, what about him?"
"Well, he's dead."
"As if I fucking cared," he said. "Who are you, you cunt?"
"I'm a police officer," I said. "And watch your tongue. One more slip like that with it, and I'll tear it out of your head."[The Coolest!]


"Look," he said furiously, when the penny had dropped, "do you want me to come out an round an give you some manners right in the mush?"
"Yes, why not" I said. "If you've got a spare face at home."

"Well, the vehicle wasn't marked." [traffic warden]
"There's a silly reason for that," I said, taking the ticket. It's because a lot of these modern villains can read.

Monday, September 23, 2013

City Primeval (Elmore Leonard, 1980)

The last one of the grandmasters is gone. Not exactly tragic considering his age and recent health problems but still very sad. But fuck it - this is a hard-boiled blog so instead of whining about it, I gave my respect to the main man by reading some of his brilliant stuff. Just went to the bookstore and picked up the book with the coolest cover (not easy task at all thanks to Tim Marrs) that I haven't read yet.

Starts very originally and very funny by quoting the report of "Investigation of the Judicial Tenure Commission" against the judge Alvin B. Guy. Hilarious reading! We know all about Leonard's crazy characters (and love them all!) but it needs to be said that this guy ranks high in his weirdness top ten chart. In short - he's even bigger asshole than Maximum Bob.

It's too bad he doesn't last very long though because he gets killed right away in the next chapter by the mandatory psycho. In City Primeval this honor belongs to 'Oklahoma Wildman' Clement Mansell who "likes to live dangerously and likes to kill people". He's an okay psychopath/sociopath but my problem with him was that I just couldn't decide whether I liked him or not. Which is not necessary bad thing, right?

But did have a much bigger problem with our hero detective Raymond Cruz who gets assigned on judge's murder investigation. Won't go into his family shit or macho bullshit or psychological crap, let's just say that he's simply not very convincing or interesting.

So after super promising judge asshole we are left with a mediocre villain and dull policeman. Plus the usual partner (btw Hunter is also cool but totally underused!), hot blonde pot-head bimbo, hot bitchy criminal lawyer and some shady underworld figures with ridiculous names (like Skender Lulgjaraj for fuck's sake!). Decent cast, but not great. At least not in Elmore Leonard world.

Major flaw is the story and lack of good plot. Which is even more obvious since the whole thing is basically character driven so its foundations are not very strong to begin with. After the furious start (car chase, followed by the double killing) it just doesn't move anywhere. It gets stuck somewhere between character study and standard police procedural. Instead of some new events being introduced, Cruz falls for Carolyn and shit like that.

There was a moment though when I had hoped that pace was about to finally shift a gear up. When Albanian gangster Toma arrives at the scene it's pretty obvious that he's a mean bastard who'll make things happen. Check out his exchange of Steven Seagal like bad-ass one-liners with Raymond:

You do what you have to do, I do what I have to do.
No, it's not that simple, because I want him too.
...
You always look in their eyes?
If there's time.
...
It takes time.
No, it doesn't. Tell me where to find him. It takes only a few minutes.
...

A bit silly, but still cool. But it just goes on for too long and becomes tedious game of whose dick is bigger. But must admit that conclusion is cool because Hunter simply comments that "Fucking Albanians are crazy"

It is funny, there's some sex and some action so even though it turns into a predictable thriller towards the end, it is still very enjoyable reading right until the final showdown. Without giving away too much, let's just say I didn't choose the word showdown as a metaphor. I will admit I didn't see it coming in spite of warning signs (Gregory Peck) so both the ending and the final twist were surprising. But unfortunately I was just surprised how bad maestro has finished the novel.

3/5

Facts:

Hero
Homicide Detective Raymond Cruz

Location:
Detroit

Body count: 3

Dames
Sandy - Not the type, at first glance, some management consultant would keep in his stylish apartment. But look again and see fun in her eyes. It gave a man feeling that if he turned her little motor on she'd whirl him back to his youth and take him places he'd never been.

Carolyn Wilder - Prosecuting attorneys referred to her as the iron cunt. [Fatale]

Blackouts: /

Title: 
Cool sounding, but not very accurate in my opinion as Detroit city doesn't play significant role. Probably "Primeval Justice" would be more appropriate considering American wild west sense of punishment. 

Cover:
Super cool collage of the city, car and Raymond in front. Done by Tim Marrs who's also author of other Leonard's book published by Orion. Somehow ruined by Ian Rankin's cover blurb but luckily enough, my copy has one from New York Times (An entertainer who can write circles around almost anyone) so it is merely damaged and not entirely ruined.

Cool lines
Better to take an extra twenty seconds to be sure than to do twenty years in Jackson.[The Coolest!]


Jesus, the man had nerve. ... Men with nerve died like anyone else if shot in the right place.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Four Novellas of Fear (Cornell Woolrich, 1936 - 1940, republished in 2010)

Reading The Vengeful Virgin got me a little nostalgic and in a perfect mood to read this short collection of four Woolrich stories republished recently. It has been sitting on my shelf for a few months just waiting for the right moment.

As expected, not much of the asphalt jungle's bright city lights here with cynical detectives investigating complex plots involving dirty politicians blackmails or addicted celebrities doing porn flicks. These are simple stories about everyday people who are driven by simple pleasures and whose actions are motivated by the most basic instinct and feelings. Although fear is mentioned in the collection's title, I would say that greed is their most common theme.


Eyes That Watch You (1939)
Nasty and pretty hard-boiled one even though its protagonist is an old handicapped lady who cannot even speak. She overhears her daughter in-law plotting murder of her son but she's (obviously) powerless to do anything about it. Everything takes place in this old secluded house which gives a novel great tone. Thing I liked the most about it was great suspense. Woolrich plays kind of cat and mouse game with his characters (and of course with us) and just when you think that poor sucker might get away, he actually gets killed. Nice!

Good story, masterfully written and executed - my favorite of the collection. It's such a good material that I find it a bit surprising it has never been made into a movie. Especially since (according to Wikipedia) Woolrich has had more books adopted into film noirs than any other authors of that era.

The Night I Died (1936)
Greed again. And plot of killing a close family member again. It even starts similarly as Eyes That Watch You by our hero over-hearing sinister conspiracy about killing him. And once again is his greedy spouse, but in this one he manages to escape the dark demise that she had arranged for him. But unfortunately in the process he crosses the line to the dark side becoming greedy, violent and paranoid asshole himself. Cool stuff and good combination of hard boiled story and psychological drama.

You'll Never See Me Again (1939)
Good opening line (It was the biscuits started it) that implies that once again there will be family trouble. Not murder this time (at least not yet), but classic plot with inexplicable wife disappearing and her hubby frantically trying to find her while becoming a prime suspect himself in the process. Fast paced page turner at the beginning but unfortunately in the second half it dissolves into standard and predictable "run against the time" type thriller. With 70 pages (and only one corpse!) this is the longest entry of the collection and also in my opinion its weakest. Good story but plotting towards end somehow didn't work for me, some stuff was pretty hard to believe.

Murder Always Gathers Momentum (1940)
Excellent and very promising title that indeed delivers (see body count section below!). This one is not so much about money or greed, it's more about cowardice and how it sucks our anti-hero into a spiral of crime. Actually pretty sad and you really feel bad and sympathetic for the poor sucker. Reminded me of Mickey Rooney in Quicksand. Minus happy end (thank god!) plus cool final twist.

3.5/5

Facts:

Location:
Various small towns

Body count: 1 + 1 + 1 + 6

Dames
I think it's safe to say that only Vera from Eyes that Watch You qualifies as a dame:

She came, the murderess, in pink satin and foamy lace, like an angel of destruction, stroking her loosened hair with a silver-backed brush.  [Fatale]

Title: 
Cool sounding, but I think it would be more suitable to replace fear with greed.

Cover
Super eerie photo, unfortunately uncredited. This journey into the darkness with meaningless speed limit is relevant to all four stories.

Cool lines:  

Eyes That Watch You:

- Are you sure everything's shaped up right?
- Yeah. He's insured up to his ears. All his stock's been bought in my name. The business has been doing pretty good, and there are no other relatives to horn in.

They exchanged a kiss. A blood-red kiss of death. 

The Night I Died

Then we turned in, one to a bed. "I'm dead," was the last thing he yawned.
"You betcha sweet life you are, brother!" I thought grimmly.

Murder Always Gathers Momentum 

He kept buying off time with bullets.[The Coolest!]

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sideswipe (Charles Willeford, 1987)

Another highly enjoyable ride full of thrills and quirky characters with my new best friend Hoke Moseley. It continues from where New Hope for the Dead has finished. Hoke now lives together with pregnant Ellita Sanchez and his two teenage daughters but for some reason he has just had enough. It could be the pile of cold cases at work or simple case of midlife crisis. Willeford thankfully doesn't even bother to tell us what exactly has made him so fed up with the world. One morning he simply suffers a nervous breakdown (I think) so he decides that he needs to simplify his life. He moves to small tourist resort and starts managing his father's small motel.

But there will be crime of course. Because parallel to Hoke's story we follow formation of a very peculiar gang, weird even by Willeford's high standard of craziness. Its leader Troy with reptilian looks is self proclaimed criminal psychopath who in prison befriends an elderly Stanley. Also psychopath but not yet criminal one, as for the time being he seems to be happy enough by occasional dog poisoning. These two men form some kind of weird father/son homosexual relationship and are joined by Troy's hot ex-stripper girlfriend with disfigured face and failed abstract artists.

Sideswipe feels like a combination of the first two Hoke's novels. Structure of mixing his personal story and gang preparing for a job is almost identical to the one from Miami Blues and little episodes concerning his daughters keep the tone similar to New Hope for the Dead. There's once again a mandatory minor case that Hoke solves along the way. There's a robbery in the local hotel and he helps the police force to find the thief.

Troy's gang is so colorful and such an insane bunch of characters that it almost threatens to steal the entire show from Hoke at times. Sometimes I could almost sense that Willeford was aware of that and that he would react by giving his hero some additional storyline to prove that he still is the main man. One of the novel's highlights is the episode where Hoke promptly ships his daughter to her mother on the first plane to L.A. immediately after he learns that she has some weird medical problems (bulimia) and doesn't have a clue how to deal with it. And she's accompanied by some lowlife teenager that Hoke has just met 10 hours before. She informs his wife that she's a trained nurse and to make sure they would stay together he even handcuffs both girls together!

Don't like to repeat myself, but this is truly great stuff. Simple and effective. Funny but also ugly at times. Full of black humor but also compassion.

And maybe it also comes with a message. Is life even possible to be simplified?

5/5

Facts:

Hero
Sergeant Hoke Moseley

Location:
Miami and Ocean Mall where Hoke is recuperating and trying to simplify his life.

Body count: 6 (+one baby in the past)

Dames
Possibly Ellita Sanchez and questionably disfigured Dale Forrest, once Miss Bottlecapping Industry of Daytona Beach. And Hoke's daughter Sue Ellen is on the right track to become a real babe - she had grown a green mohawk and went to see Dead Kennedys gig (ticket costing 35$!!?).

Blackouts
None, unless we count that weird nervous breakdown.

Title: 
Another intriguing one that escapes my understanding. Did check few online dictionaries but couldn't find anything relevant. Any suggestions?

Cover:
Nice and in the same style as the rest of Penguin reprints of Hoke Moseley novels. Maybe a little to similar to Miami Blues.

Cool lines:  
Like mentioned, Hoke is still our main man, but this time I will use cool lines to let Troy explain his complex personality:

I'm a professional criminal, what the shrinks call a criminal psychopath.[The Coolest!]


What it means is, I know the difference between right and wrong and all that, but I don't give a shit. That's the official version. Most men in prison are psychopaths, like me, and there are times - when we don't give a shit - when we act impulsively.
- I don't have time to go into all of the ramifications of my personality, it's too complex. I've been tested again and again, and it always comes out the same. Psychopath. And because I'm a criminal, I'm also a criminal psychopath. You follow me?
- Yeah, I think so. But if you aren't crazy, what are you?
- It's what I told you already. I know the difference between good and bad, but it makes no difference to me. If I see the right thing to do and want to do it, I do it, and if I see the wrong thing and want to do it, I do that too.
- You mean you can't help yourself then?
- Certainly I can. I'll put it another way. I can help myself, but I don't give a damn.
- And because you don't give a damn, you're a criminal psychopath, is that it?
- You've got it.
- But why don't you give a damn?
- Because I'm a criminal psychopath. Maybe, when they give you some tests, you might could be one, too.

Smoking comforts ordinary men, but I'm not an ordinary man. There aren't many like me left. And it's good thing for the world that there isn't. There'll always be a few of us in America, in every generation, because only a great country like America can produce men like me.I'm not a thinker, I'm a doer. I'm considered inarticulate, so I talk a lot to cover it up. [The Coolest!]

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Badge of Evil (Whit Masterson, 1956)

Book on which my favorite Orson Wells movie Touch of Evil is based on. To be perfectly honest I had no idea that movie was even based on a book until back blurb on this one caught my attention in the bookstore. And since I'm obviously not Orson's die hard fan, I do must admit that he did one hell of a job on his screenplay. One of those rare occasions where the movie is much better than the original book.

It's simply not hard boiled enough. Story about dirty cops set in police stations and DA office should be driven by strong characters and sharp dialogues moving forward with a speed of light. Smoking, drinking, cursing, fighting etc etc etc. Or at least be solid police procedural. Instead we get predictable "one against all, good against evil" tale of the white knight fighting for the ungrateful lady Justice against flawed system orchestrated by the weak politicians and compromised media.

And family shit, lots of it. Mitch's wife Connie is so pure, cool, beautiful, full of understanding and dedication for her hubby that she doesn't even bitch too much about their ever postponed family vacation. I don't think that any of authors had seen Fritz Lang's masterpiece The Big Heat released few years prior. Because if they did, I think Connie would (should) be blown into the pieces sometimes at the end of the first act making Mitch go on bloody revenge rampage. But nothing like that happens - our hero is confused and scared most of the times and gets lucky break at the end.

Also didn't like the writing style much. Too technical and formulaic so it never really takes off. Once the McCoy's evidence fixing is established as a fact, plot becomes almost non-existent and the whole thing shifts into boring drama/thriller mode. Hard to say, but my speculation would be that maybe these kind of narration problems can occur as a result of collaboration of two writers working on the same book.

Decent enough stuff that unfortunately hasn't aged very well. But still immensely cool to read it if you like Touch of Evil. Totally incredible how Wells managed to turn this unquestionably original, but somehow mediocre novel into a timeless mastepriece.

3/5

Facts:

Hero:
Mitch Holt, 35, assistant district attorney

He knew that soon he would be in a position to open his own private practice without unduly endangering the eating habits of his family.


Location
Some big town in southern California near the Mexican border. I assume that would be San Diego (it's definitely not LA) but probably authors were vague about this intentionally to emphasize metaphor about corruption and weak legal system across the whole America.

Body count: 4 (2 suicides)

Dames
None really. His whining wife Connie hardly counts for a dame.

Blackouts: /

Title: 
Obviously it alludes to McCoy but I would hardly categorize a poor bastard as an evil one. He was merely an overworked asshole with a god complex. And since the title "Badge of an overworked asshole with a god complex" really does sound stupid, let's not bitch about it too much.

Cover
Good old fashioned one, like all covers of Prologue Books are. Maybe it would be cool to put little figures of Holt, McCoy and Quinlan into the web.

Cool lines:  
To be a successful prosecutor was the same as being a successful salesman or a successful preacher. You had to believe in your product.

He settled for a stubby .32 pistol that had both convenience and authority.

The bullet tugged at the lapel of  Holt's coat in passing and then went on its way with a complaining whine of having missed.[The Coolest!]

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Vengeful Virgin (Gil Brewer, 1958)

I knew I'd never get enough of her. She was straight out of hell.

Shirley and I generated something together that drowned out conscience. This was just something we were going to do together. And, of course, the money. I wanted it. I would get it.

Shirley Angela was under my skin like the itch and it was going to take a lot of scratching.

He was ready to die. He was old enough. He sure as hell was rich enough.

Doom. You recognize doom. It's a feeling and a taste, and it's black, and it's very heavy. It comes down over your head, and wraps tentacles around you, and sinks long dirty fingernails into your heart. It has a stink like burning garbage. Doom.

Boy meets girl. They are both young, horny and greedy and the only thing standing between them is the girl's rich stepfather. Sounds like a postman is ringing twice, doesn't it? Feels almost like heresy writing this, but in many ways this one is even better than Cain's famous masterpiece.

Basically we know the whole plot (and its ending) after reading just a first few pages. But what Brewer manages to pull off masterfully is the immense build-up of the tension and suspense as we dive deeper into the vortex approaching the inevitable doom of our condemned lovers.

And the trick is that in this crime book there will be no mystery! There are some characters introduced (Victor's doctor, Shirley's horny neighbor, Jack's ex girlfriend) that could (and normally would) form some sort of alliance with one of our protagonists in order to double cross the other. No such thing here, final big twist is basically nothing more than lack of any twist.

And Jack himself - as one would expect from the TV fixer-upper - is pretty lousy killer. To be honest, he's total amateur! He even prepares a list of all the possible fuck ups and then forgets to destroy it so it can be found by the cops when they search his apartment. He also has second thoughts about the whole thing and is prepared to call it off  (He'd croak natural, and everything would be perfect). But of course there's no way out, the greed got hold of him and he's doomed.

Great stuff, just don't expect intriguing story full of twists and sub-plots centered around some colorful anti-hero. Without a question, still pure pulp with both sex and violence pretty graphic and disturbing ending but this is for me foremost a sad, cold and intense book about the dark places in our souls and addictions in our heads.

4.5/5

Facts:

Hero:
Jack Ruxton, TV repair man and owner of a small electronics shop.

Location:
Miami. But it doesn't really play any significant role except for one occasion when our hero is in the water and gets concerned about the alligators.

Body count: 3

Dames:
Shirley Angela, confused and horny combination of femme fatale and damsel in distress. Her neighbor Mayda Lamphier (nervous type, and loud). Jack's neurotic ex-girlfriend Grace.

Blackouts
None, but there's a funny description of the nightmare where Jack is chasing Mayda through an endless living room full of TV sets. 

Title:
Obviously - and without some major spoilers - it refers to Angela. And the second part is a kind of a twist.

Cover
Cool and very hot! By Gregory Manchess. But not 100% accurate - although there is a scene involving piles of money and fire and naked (not just in underwear!) chick with a gun. And for some reason two empty whiskey bottles are missing.

Cool lines:
Not many of witty one-liners or cool descriptions here. It goes as far as "The language she used would have shamed a drunken Marine"

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Rip-Off (Jim Thompson, 1985)

Legendary Jim Thompson finally gets his debutant and long overdue entry on this blog. The Rip-Off was his last book, published posthumously eight years after his death. I did some googling but I'm still not sure whether it's supposed to be one of those luckily lost & found "masterpieces" or was it simply the case when author hasn't been satisfied enough with the finished product and had decided not to publish it at all. Unfortunately I'm inclined to think that latter was the case especially since he was "re-discovered" in the 80s and probably publishers just wanted to cash-in some of that new and fresh fame.

Story is a bit silly with more than just a single plot hole and some hard-to-swallow coincidences but still kind of okay. It's centered around this quasi intellectual guy Britt Rainstar whose life gets turned upside down when he accepts some pretty odd writing job from a mysterious and beautiful executive Manuela Aloe. A series of bizarre (and life threatening) events starts to unfold and Thompson skilfully mixes them with Britt's background story about his bitchy blackmailing wife and her greedy red neck father. There are some cool twists towards the end and final revelation is kind of surprising.

Writing is as good as one would expect from an old-school master with 20+ masterpieces under his belt. Characters are decent, believable just enough for the most of the times. Especially of our leading hero and maybe not so much about his two female companions. I liked the stuff about his condemned house which at the end becomes a character itself.

Big miss and major let down is style. Not at all gritty, dirty, dark and hard-boiled stuff I expected (see body count section of the facts). At times it's almost comical and these repetitive mood shifts really damage the pace and whole structure of the book. To be honest, towards the end I started to feel a bit ripped off and just wanted to finish it off.

Not sure about this one, it's not bad but certainly not very good. I guess it's okay for Thompson's die-hard fans and completists or academic researchers of his work. I'm neither of these so all I can say is that it reminded me that it's been too long since I've read his stuff. But the next one will be one of his oldies.

3/5

Facts:

Hero
Britt Rainstar, age 40. A bit unusual intellectual: he writes in-depth monographs on various unreadable subjects like ecology, ethnology, ethology etc. Native American descendant, living in a condemned house near the garbage dump.

Location
I don't think it's mentioned. But I'm pretty sure that growing pile of garbage in the backyard of his house symbolizes typical modern American town.

Body count
Surprisingly (and disappointingly!) - none. Although justice will be served as two bad guys will get 20 years of prison sentences and one even two life times.

Dames:
Manuela Aloe: I looked at her - the silver blond hair, the startlingly black eyes and lashes, the flawlessly creamy complexion. I looked around and found it impossible to believe that such a delicious bon bon of a girl would do harm to anyone.

Plus cop/nurse Miss Kate "Kay" Nolson. Plus Connie, his greedy wife who refuses to become an ex-wife. Plus let us not forget his bitchy alcoholic housekeeper Mrs Olmstead.

Blackouts
He gets knocked out all the time. There are no less than four unconsciousness - he gets beat up twice, shot at and pushed down the stairs in a wheelchair.
 
Title:  
Not sure. I see several possibilities:
  • Britt is being ripped off by his wife and her greedy father
  • Thompson titled is as a joke reference to his The Kill-Off
  • Titled by the publishers to indicate they ripped us off by selling the book whose author had passed away almost ten years ago.
Cover
Pretty standard stuff

Cool lines:  
"Just what happened here, miss? Why was that door locked?"
Manny grinned at her impudently. "A broken-down bed and a locked door, and you ask me what happened? How long have you been a woman, dear?"

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bulldog Drummond (Herman Cyril McNeile aka Sapper, 1920)

"Demobilised officer, finding peace incredibly tedious, would welcome diversion. Legitimate, if possible; but crime, if of a comparatively humorous description, no objection. Excitement essential."

So starts the advertisement that returning WWI war hero Captain Hugo 'Bulldog' Drummond places in the newspapers. He's bored as fuck and seeks some new thrills. It doesn't take long to find one when beautiful young lady answers his ridiculous ad and hires him to investigate sudden radical shift of her father's behavior. Smells like a good old blackmail case and Holmes type of the investigation. 

Well, not really. I forgot to mention the prologue in which some very powerful and sinister people are plotting a conspiracy against the UK and the whole democratic and free (non-communist) world. So to make long story short -

The thing had ceased to be a mere sporting gamble with himself and a few other chosen spirits matched against a gang of criminals; it had become - if his surmise was correct - a national affair. England herself - her very existence - was threatened by one of the vilest plots ever dreamed of in the brain of man.

At this point things go haywire and mystery novel turns into some crazy mix of action romantic espionage thriller. Plot gets more and more bizarre and at times hard to follow especially because story line is so fast paced. There are few sub plots and one concerning kidnapping of a wealthy American business man is integral but another one involving some Duchess' stolen pearls just didn't make much sense to me. Didn't seem to make much sense to our hero either by the way, but he was too busy to clarify it.

It has to be said that characterizations is pretty lame. Everybody are neatly divided into black/white, good/bad guys world and author concentrates mostly on Hugo and his newly found love. This romantic crap is novel's biggest minus but I guess it was mandatory in those old pulps. But still it was a bit difficult to digest that our dear protagonists had fallen madly in love and had agreed to marry just a few days after they have met.

The winner here is definitely a language. The whole thing is written in this crazy arcane language which sometimes leaves you totally puzzled and other times you simply cannot help but to laugh your ass off. Tough dialogs full of wise cracking are delightful too but cherry on the cake for me were hilarious descriptions of chapters! They are all super cool, my favorite would have to be the tenth one "In Which the Hun Nation Decreases by One"

Cool and unusual stuff that has allegedly inspired lots of other crime writers (Fleming's Bond was supposed to be Mike Hammer from the waist down and Bulldog Drummond from the waist up). But I don't think it has aged very well. Still very entertaining to read and to get lost in a time machine for a few days but not so much that I would be tempted to continue with the rest of the series.

3/5

Facts:

Hero
Captain Hugo 'Bulldog' Drummond, D.S.O., M.C. - His best friend would not have called him good-looking, but he was the fortunate possessor of that cheerful type of ugliness which inspires immediate confidence in its owner.... A sportsman and a gentleman. And the combination of the two is an unbeatable production. ... The type of men who whom one should kill outright - or leave alone.

Location:
He runs the whole operation from his home on Half Moon Street in London but great part of the novel takes place in some kind of an ex observatory (built by a gentleman of doubtful sanity) called Elms in Godalming.

Body count: 5 + one gorilla

Dames
Hugo's fiancee Phyllis Benton and Irma who is the best character but at the same time also the most neglected one. True femme fatale!

Blackouts
Yes, two of them. First he and his pals get poisoned by "an ingenious invention of gas" and later he's simply kicked on the head.

Title: 
Not very imaginative but we can forgive Sapper for that since it is introductory novel to the whole series. But it does have funny reference to the Sappers - "Dreadful barbarians trying to blow up things" 

Cover:
Nice illustration. But it gives the book darker tone that it actually contains.

Cool lines:  
"On approaching the gate of The Elms, you will render the night hideous with your vocal efforts."

He manifested every symptom usually displayed by the male of the species when awaiting the arrival of the opposite sex. ... "When is this bally train likely to arrive?" He accosted a phlegmatic official, who regarded him coldly, and doubted the likelihood of its being more than a quarter of an hour early.

"I know not what this young man has done: I care less. In Russia such trifles matter not. He has the appearance of a bourgeois, therefore he must die."[The Coolest!]


A Gentleman of slightly inebriated aspect, whose trousers left much to the imagination.[The Coolest!]