Friday, July 29, 2016
COLLECTOR’S GUIDE TO TRADING CARDS by Robert Reed, and published by CB (Collector’s Books) in 1993. This 8.5 x 11 paperback has a brief history of Trading Cards up to its publication date. It concentrates on non-sports trading cards. There is also a listing of Trading Card companies, and their cards, along with a value guide at that time. Fully illustrated with at least one card from each series (where possible), dates and number of cards in sets. Although a wonderful guide for the collector, it is out of date now. Like comic books, prices quickly jump up after the release of each new set. TV card sets, movie card sets, comic book card sets, famous people card sets, wild life card sets, etc., etc. All are fun to collect and own. I have about 4,000 cards. Some individual cards, especially from WWII, like the Hitler card, are worth many thousands of dollars. So start up collectors should aim for sets that fit their budget. You might want to purchase a book that is more current, but this one is definitely worth a read
Thursday, July 28, 2016
The Penetrator #41: “Hell’s Hostages” by Lionel Derrick (Mark K. Roberts). Trying to capitalize on The Executioner series, The Penetrator is Mark Hardin, an ex Vietnam soldier whose girlfriend was killed by the Mafia. Now he wants revenge, and brings all his training against them. I read the first three novels in the series, and felt by #3 the series was burning itself out. Plus, the character is highly unbelievable (weren’t they all?). Six years in the Army he was medically discharged as an E-7 Master Sergeant. During those six years he obtained a 2nd degree black belt in karate, learned to speak several languages, becomes a weapons expert, etc., etc. In Vietnam, he was a sniper, a penetrator, and an undercover intelligence operative (whew!). I was surprised to learn the series actually lasted for 53 issues. By this entry, #41, it still feels the authors are struggling for plots and characters. There is now sex in the stories, which wasn’t in the first three stories, and the Penetrator becomes a clone of all the other men’s action novels.
The Middle East is the setting for this novel. The Revolution Council (People’s Liberation Army) has taken another American Embassy and its people hostage. One of the hostages is reading The Death Merchant, a men’s action paperback series, and tells another hostage, “We could use a man like Camellian right now.” Unfortunately, the plot was bad, and the characters weak – they never change throughout the story. Colonel Toro Baldwin recruits the mercenaries, with Mark Hardin in charge (codenamed Houdini), to infiltrate and get the hostages out of captivity, and kill as many bad gays as possible. We have a lot of weak fight scenes (just massive killings), some I can only imagine young boys getting a kick out of, not grown men. And of course the superman sex between Mark Hardin and one of the female associates was a plus for pre-teen boys. I thought the series should have ended after story #3, and I still feel it should have. It was really a drag getting through this one. Although I know some readers like this kind of stuff, it just wasn’t something I cared for. Heck, even The Death Merchant is better than this.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Johnny Fedora #4: “Trieste” by Desmond Cory. British Intelligence has arrested a man they believe is Gregor Panagos, a communist agitator planning something to cause a war in Jugoslavia, but all that is known is “the balloon goes up August 30.” They send Trout to investigate, and he requests the help of Johnny Fedora, who is no longer attached to the service, but works for them occasionally. Together, they go into Trieste, where they have trouble with the local police, and a highly trained assassin named Palli. I’ve read some Johnny Fedora novels where Fedora just stands around looking deadly, and does nothing till the end of the novel. This is pretty much that plot, although he doesn’t actually stand around looking deadly. In fact through the first hundred pages, he does very little of anything. It’s Trout doing all the work. Thankfully the second half of the book picks up, and Johnny is in a fight to the death in one scene, then another where he must assassinate the assassin. The story was a fun read, but Johnny isn’t really in good form in this one. The author even tries for a bit of humor between Trout and Johnny.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Jane Nichols #1: “A.K.A. Jane” by Maureen Tan. Janie Nichols works for MI-5 in Her Majesty’s Secret Service (hoping to capitalize on the James Bond books). During one assignment a red haired man, later identified as Jim O’Neil, kills her partner/lover. The first 100 pages cover her early missions and backstory. At which point she resigns to concentrate on writing a series of P.I. stories featuring her character, Andrew Jax and his secretary Millicent Jones. Her publisher pays her travel and expenses to America to promote her new book (I mean they go all out, paying hotel, Bread & Breakfast, and finally setting her up in a private home. Plus giving her a car rental, fully funded – wow!), and accompanied by her agent, no less. While there she sees the red haired killer and decides to take him out. The following two hundred pages now cover this segment of the story. Curiously, a few years ago I reviewed a Cozy Mystery novel with a similar plot to the final two hundred pages. Though this isn’t a copy of that story I think we can classify it as a Cozy Spy yarn rather than a men’s action novel. The writing is good, and the characters are interesting. However, readers looking for a fast action novel, they won’t find this a page-turner. But it is an interesting novel, and readers of Cozy mysteries will certainly like it.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Modesty Blaise #12: “Dead Man’s Handle” by Peter O’Donnell. A group called the Hostel of Righteousness, headquartered on the island of Kalivari in the Cyclades, is run by an ex missionary, now Satanist, Thaddeus Pilgrim. His team of assassins takes assignments in the form of prayers. When the situation is taken care of they wait for big donations. In the meantime, they have a few scams also working for them to bring in millions of dollars. For instance, sinking a heavily insured ship supposedly loaded with cargo. Killing all sailors on board. They fear that one sailor may have talked about the scam to his wife, so send a team to assassinate her. However, she’s with Willy Garvin, who takes out the assassin. Now they want Willie, but not dead. The next team sets up a kill, breaking the girl’s neck, and when Will comes in he only sees one assassin. The second knocks him out from behind. Drugs him and takes him to Kalivari where he is brainwashed to kill Modesty when she comes after him. This was another typical Modesty Blaise adventure, with plenty of fast action. All the stories have similar plots, and similar characters. They are just presented differently, and with different names. Some nut case that decides they want Modesty and Willy, but in the end they are taken out by their targets. The reader knows what’s coming next, but this does not dampen the story. It’s the action and coordination between Modesty and Garvin that drives the plot. The villains are merely there to provide entertainment for them. This was the final novel in the series, and a good one. A final book of short stories is next, but I all ready know what will happen, and hesitate to read it. The author kills his characters off in “Cobra Trap” to prevent anyone else from ever writing new stories with his characters. I can understand his reasoning. I’ve seen what some writers have done with other characters in public domain, and I would hate to see Modesty and Garvin turned into something Peter O’Donnell hadn’t intended. Still, I hate to read that last story.
Friday, July 8, 2016
“Hangman’s Hat” by Paul Ernst: Pocket Books, 1953. As good as his “The Bronze Mermaid” in 1952 was, this novel is even better. Paul Ernst, the pulp author famous for such series as THE AVENGER, writing as Kenneth Robeson, is writing paperback mysteries now, and is good at them. In “Hangman’s Hat” we have two Army buddies from WWII, one from the East Side, the other from the Gravy Train – in particular, the Leighton Soup Empire. William Harper (yes, I caught the name of Doc Savage’s aide) is from the East Side, while Brooke Leighton is the son of soup king, Junius Leighton. After the war, old man Leighton wants Bill Harper to continue looking after his wayward son, keeping him out of trouble. Harper is the only man big and tough enough to keep the big boy under control. Then one night it all comes tumbling down. One of his girlfriends is found murdered, and witnesses claim to have seen Brooke at her apartment. And he isn’t anywhere to be found. Then rumor mentions a second person may have been with Brooke, throwing suspicion on Harper. With Lt. Ryan keeping a close watch on Harper, he and Brooke’s little sister, Shirley do some snooping, trying to find her brother and force him to turn himself in. They don’t believe he’s guilty, even if everything points to him. A $60.00 hat may bring the case to a close, but not before a second murder, and several bumps on the head. This was a fun story, and one of the best up to this point. I only had part of the mystery figured out, and at times doubted my own suspicions.