The Destroyer #49: “Skin Deep” by Warren Murphy (Molly Cochran). “Someone has made off with a nuclear-armed jet bomber just as world leaders are meeting in New York to discuss peace, requiring Chiun and Remo to come to the rescue.” Zoran, a Nazi doctor in the concentration camps during WWII has evading Doctor Smith for 36 years. Now, he has stolen a Stealth plane with atomic warheads, and plans on striking New York. He has a camp next a leper colony on an island near Miami, and continued his experiments on the lepers. Chiun and Remo reach the village of the damned where they learn of Doctor Zoran. Remo is captured while Chiun swims to Miami to contact Doctor Harold Smith, then Smith returns to finally capture the doctor he’s been hunting all these years. This was actually one of the better novels during this time period. A nice read.
Friday, February 9, 2018
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
“Concubine” by Elsie Dean: Part of a double novel from Universal Publishing in 1953. The second novel, “Savage Mistress” by Jon Hartt, I haven’t read yet. The title is a bit misleading, as this is not the story of a concubine but a play on Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”. Little Flower, of the House of Chiang is left without a family and taken to live in the House of Wong. The old Wong has a mistress named Morning Glow, but she’s becoming too old, and tells Little Flower she must escape before Wong calls her to his bedchamber. She tells her about an American missionary in town that will help you people, and then devises a plan for her to escape.
Little Flower escaped and the missionaries take her in. Tom and Celcilia give her a room, but Celilia does not approve of her, while Tom helps does. Staying with them is their young nephew, Almose, who they want to study and become a missionary also. But young Almose has other plans; he wants to be an artist. When Almose and Little Flower meet they are instantly attracted to each other, and eventually become lovers. Almose has married her before God through a painting, but telling her he must leave shortly for school, but will come for her once he becomes a master artist and created his masterpiece.
After he leaves, Little Flower discovers she is pregnant. The story now takes on the harsh reality of betrayal and heartbreak. Tom & Cecilia take Little Flower and her daughter to America where the young daughter, Mara (named after the Virgin Mary), has artistic talent like her father. Little Flower learns that Almose has married another artist and will never return to her. Lee Yuen, who had met her on the boat to America, knows the ways of Americans, and their hatred of non-whites, and tells her that she will eventually need his help. The time comes when her only ally, Tom, dies of cancer, and Cecilia moves in with her sister, and there is no place for Little Flower and her daughter.
She goes to Lee Yuen, and he treats her good. She does not have to share his bed, but keeps house for him, and he promises to wait till she loves him. However, Mara grows cold against Little Flower for the trouble her mother has caused her. It has not been easy for Mara being a half-caste. After graduating high school Mara leaves for New York and art school.
Now the story comes full circle, as Mara meets her father, and Little Flower discovers that Lee Yuen is running the largest drug cartel in San Francisco, and she is little more than a prisoner in the house as Lee Yuen’s madness is now apparent, and she learns the truth behind the disappearance of Almose, and who was behind it from the very beginning.
This was a sad story of two young people torn apart by the madness of someone else, and their love destroyed for evil purposes, but the ending is heart-warming, and touches the heart. It is really nothing like I thought it would be, and yet much better than advertised.
Thursday, December 28, 2017
My uncle once told me that one could not believe the stories that one hears in bars. Perhaps he never heard the right ones.
It was in Paris that I first met the man who told me this part of the story. I don’t remember the name of the bar. It was a small place on the Left Bank, and I had wandered in there late one morning feeling stale and bleary-eyed after only a couple of hours sleep. The night before had been spent trying to prove to myself that there was still a magic about this city, something that had been in the air when Hemingway and the others made it their city, sixty years before…something that would allow me to recapture the success of their efforts. I had been there six weeks, seen all the sights there were to see, made the acquaintance of several very friendly young women, and done not a damn thing that was worth anything.
That was why I was in the bar, sipping a beer and trying to decide whether to pack it in and go back to the States when the tall old man came in, pausing just a moment in the doorway to let his eyes adjust to the dim interior.
I didn’t know he was an old man then. He was a tall man, dressed like an American, who moved with sure, easy steps to the bar and ordered a cognac in what sounded like flawless French. At least it sounded that way to my untrained ears. It was only when he turned around and put his back to the bar that I got some idea of his true age. His hair was silvery, and his face had the weathered, seemed look of a man who had spent almost his whole life outdoors. There was no trace of his years in the way he walked quickly across the room toward the little table where I sat. I looked up at him in surprise as he approached me, wondering what had drawn him to come over to my table. Perhaps he just wanted to talk; there were few patrons in the bar at that hour, and I might look like the most promising to him.
“Hello,” he said in a quiet, controlled voice. “You look like an American. Mind if I sit down for a few minutes?”
Up close, I was struck even harder by the contrast between his aged face and the athletic body of a much younger man. I said, “Sure, have a seat. You’re right. I am an American.” I extended my hand across the table with its checkered cloth and introduced myself.
He returned the handshake, clasping my hand in a strong grip. Something about it told me that the force he exerted was only a fraction of what he was capable of. He said, “Glad to meet you,” but I noticed that he didn’t return the favor of giving me his name. Well, another thing my uncle told me about bars was to never ask a man a question that he obviously wouldn’t want to answer.
“I suppose there are a lot of Americans over here, but for some reason I don’t run into very many of them,” he went on.
“There are quite a few American businessmen in Paris,” I said.
“But you’re not one of them, are you?”
I had to smile. “I don’t know how you knew that, but you’re right. I’m a writer...or at least I’m supposed to be.”
He sipped his drink. “Having trouble with it?”
I shrugged. “Some. I suppose all writers do. Still, I’ll stumble across the right idea sooner or later.”
“Ah, eternal optimism. I like that. Why are you sitting in this bar, though, instead of being somewhere writing?”
Coming from someone else, I might have resented the question. Something about this strange young/old man, though, kept me from even coming close to losing my temper. I sensed a real interest on his part, so I said, “I’ve been writing. All night, in fact. And it was a bunch of damned hopeless garbage. I don’t know what causes it, but just once I’d like to write something that wasn’t so bleak and depressing.”
“Maybe you think life is bleak and depressing. They say writers write what they know best.”
I shrugged and swallowed some more warm beer.
He was looking intently across the table at me, a frown on his lined face. After a moment of silence, he said, “Maybe you just haven’t lived long enough, my friend. You haven’t discovered yet just how many wild, wonderful things are possible.”
I thought back on my life so far and couldn’t remember anything wild and wonderful. There had been some good times, but none of them had lasted.
The man said, “Listen, I’ll give you an example of what I mean. I’ll tell you a story, just off the top of my head. I’m no writer like you, but I’ve lived a long life, and I’ve got an imagination. If I can tell a good story, just think what you can do once you’ve lived a while longer and opened your mind up to all the possibilities.”
“We haven’t heard the story yet,” I said, a trifle rudely.
“That’s true,” he smiled. “Well, let’s see. We have to go back a bit, to an earlier day when adventure and romance weren’t as rare as they are today...that’s a good way to start, don’t you think?”
Friday, December 22, 2017
“Hong Kong After Dark” by William Fitzpatrick. I bought this thinking it was a fiction novel set in Hong Kong, as I tend to like Hong Kong stories, but it turns out this is a history and guide not only to Hong Kong, but Canton, Taiwan, Macao, and Mainland China. In fact, authors who wish to write stories set on the Pearl River, and these areas, should read this book first to get the feel of them, and especially the night spots and ladies of the evening. It’s an interesting book. The author lived in Hong Kong for several years while working with a company dealing with the Orient and the Chinese. During this period he sampled plenty of the merchandise, and explains the business first hand. Not a bad history, and the novel is fairly mild, and a bit humorous at times.
Friday, November 3, 2017
Johnny Fedora #13: “Shockwave” by Desmond Cory. Johnny is in Spain in response to a call from a girl he knows. An actress friend is reported to have committed suicide, but she believes the girl was murdered. Johnny doesn’t like being a detective, but he promises to look into the case. Before he gets far into the investigation another odd death occurs with a witness he just talked to, and now he suspects murder also. Contacting the dead actress’s sister, he’s led to a rich man with many contacts who is suspected of the murder of the actress. But the case goes deeper than what is on the surface. There’s another plot much bigger than a few murders, and it involves the destruction of Madrid by an H-Bomb. This was really a good story after it gets started, and Johnny is more the professional spy than I’ve seen him in previous stories where he just stands around looking mean. This time he proves how mean he can be. Very good, and highly entertaining.