Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The A Team


The A Team #1: “The A Team” by Charles Heath (Ron Renald). This first novel spends all but about fifty pages of the book introducing the A Team members, and the people involved in the story, as well as the set up. Taking a page from “The Magnificent 7”, modern bandits are harassing villages demanding goods from them. When newspaper reporter, Al Massey hears about the problem he goes to San Rio Blanco to get the story for his paper, but the bandit chief, Malavida Valdez learns what he’s doing; he rides into town demanding the villagers turn Massey over to him. The reporter tries to escape, but is captured, and now another reporter – and friend of Massey’s - Amy Allen wants to find him. The newspaper refuses to do anything so she hires the A Team. There is a lot going on in the first part of the book, but the A Team doesn’t arrive in San Rio Blanco until the last fifty pages and the battle between the A Team and the bandits begins in earnest. This was a fun story, with plenty of action, and captured the old TV series very well. I remembered some scenes in the book from the actual episode, though it has been many years since I watched them. The writing is good, and the pace is excellent, making for a fast read.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Secret Mission Cairo


Secret Mission #7: “Cairo” by Don Smith. Phil Sherman is having a drop in business, and ready to sign up with the CIA when Ross McCullough calls. But Phil doesn’t want to be tied down to the CIA, just continue to work assignments for them – at higher pay. Well, Ross has a job ready for him. Someone has stolen an atomic bomb from the French. It was so easy I’m surprised no one has thought of this before. An ex French AF pilot knows all the routine at the nearby French AF Base. He and two other men set up at night along the runway waiting for a plane to land, and when it does they use flashlights to stop it halfway down the runway, warning the pilot of an accident ahead. Naturally, the pilot doesn’t contact the control tower to find out what’s going on (or ask why he was allowed to land on a runway where an accident was, and before he knows it he’s dead and the men drop the bomb off the plane on a dolly of sorts and rush it off base before security can catch them. A helicopter is waiting in the forest, and two of the men are murdered by the third after the bomb is loaded on the chopper, and the last man flies the bomb away under the radar. Now it’s headed by ship to Egypt, where it will be used against Israel. Somehow Sherman must either retrieve the bomb, or bring back the trigger, leaving Egypt with a dud bomb. Even with the ease in which they steal the atomic bomb, this was a good story. But please, don’t anyone get the idea that atomic bombs are this easy to steal.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dead Letter


Digger #3: “Dead Letter” by Warren Murphy. Digger (Julian Burroughs) is going to Boston for his annual physical. His boss, and drinking partner, the night before asks him to look in on his daughter Allison at Waldo University while he’s there. It seems on her last visit she appeared depressed, and her father Frank Stevens found a newspaper clipping about the death of a bar owner in her possession. Why would his daughter be upset about a bar owner’s death? When Digger arrives he discovers everything is mixed up at the university, and there appears to be a chain letter circulating – a letter with a list of people to be murdered. Although Tamiko Funucci isn’t with him, he can still reach her in Vegas for help with the mystery. And he must solve it before Allison’s name is listed on the dead letter. This was the usual fun story not cluttered with a lot of people or too much mystery. The best of Warren Murphy is his dialogue, which is some of the best of any writer. A quick and fun read

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Shadow In Review

The Shadow In Review (Non-Fiction)
by John Olsen.
Pulplandia Press
Lulu.com
Price $10.00
515 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

In this nicely produced tome, John Olsen has investigated and reviewed all 325 original pulp novels of The Shadow, plus the two short stories, a paperback original novel, a lost Shadow story, and a Shadow turned Batman comic book story, the serial, and the 1994 movie.

This huge work would have fit nicely among ALTUS PRESS Companion books to other series, as basically it provides similar data, though more aimed at reviews. It’s only lacking in not providing scans of the covers, but those can be found on the Internet.

I’ve also read every Shadow novel, and I may not agree with some of the author’s ratings, but we each have our own likes or dislikes, and for the most part he does give valid reasons for the ratings of each novel, and that’s his right. For instance, in one example he gives THE GOLDEN VULTURE, a mishmash by Lester Dent & Gibson a 5-star rating, while dropping TEETH OF THE DRAGON to 4-Stars; I’m sure Gibson had to do a lot of rewrite to Dent’s adventure-style yarn in order to make the novel half way read like The Shadow. While TEETH OF THE DRAGON, on the other hand is a topnotch Shadow set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and introduces the marvelous Myra Reldon/Ming Dwan, one of best stories in my opinion. I only suggest the reader may consider other ratings. Read the novels, and by all means add this fantastic book to your shelf. Highly recommended.

Tom Johnson

Author of THE BLACK BAT COMPANION

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Baroness #1

The Baroness #1: “The Ecstasy Connection” by Paul Kenyon (Donald Moffitt). I normally enjoy a "good" spy novel, but this one was more sleaze than spy fiction.  There is an ecstasy drug showing up in America, and the CIA, FBI, and all the other government intelligence agencies want to know where it’s coming from. They contact the mysterious “Key”, the only known contact to the top-secret agent code-named “Coin”, requesting the end of the supply and supplier, as well as the formula. “Key” (John Farnsworth), contacts the beautiful Baroness Penelope St. John-Orisini, model, millionaire, and international playgirl. She brings her well-trained team in: Dan Wharton, ex Green Beret, Tom Sumo, the Japanese electronics whiz, Joe Skytop, the Cherokee unarmed combat expert and ex Greet Beret. Also on the team are Paul & Yvette, black models: Paul is into explosives while Yvette is a costume and disguise expert. Other team members from Penny’s modeling agency, International Models, Inc., are Eric, Fionee, and Inga. When they aren’t modeling, they are fighting terrorists and bad guys around the world.

            Although this is listed as issue #1, it was actually written after the second published story, as reference is constantly made to that case. Mr. Sim, a grossly fat man in Hong Kong runs drugs from China to the rest of the world. He is also experimenting with drugs and the brain. Discovering what drugs do to certain areas of the brain, to bring pain or pleasure. He’s found the ecstasy drug that can make a person do one thing, and never want anything else, whether it is food, drink, starvation, or sex. The first hundred pages is little more than drugs and sex, and can be left out of the book for my part, except The Baroness does have her agents do some investigative work, which many authors fail to do. The real story kicks in with the second half of the book when they travel to Hong Kong, where the real action is. Unfortunately, this series appears to be little more than soft porn, as the pace is slowed every few pages by descriptive sex scenes only of interest to boys in their puberty. The author was supposedly a science fiction writer, and you can see this in the many gadgets and science in the story. If the porn had been left out, it could have been a good spy novel. In fact, it appears to be patterned after Modesty Blaise and other female spies. I give the book a 3-Star rating for the action, but really debated a lesser rating due to the extreme use of sex and drugs that were not needed to tell a good story – at least to adults.