A Game for Heroes

Using the names 比较好的付费ssr节点, Martin Fallon, and Hugh Marlowe, Henry Patterson had a successful, early literary career throughout the 1960s and early 1970s with a high-adventure template utilized by Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley and Hammond Innes. Five-years prior to Patterson becoming a household name with The Eagle Has Landed (as Jack Higgins, 1975), he used the name James Graham to write a traditional WW2 adventure novel called A Game for Heroes (1970). It was published as a hardcover in 1970 by Macmillan and reprinted countless times over by the likes of Dell, Harper Collins and Penguin. It remains in print today in both physical and digital versions.

The novel stars Owen Morgan, a British special forces expert who served valiantly in the heart of WWII. After losing an eye, Morgan was shipped back home at the tail end of the war. After finding love and harmony, Morgan is asked to rejoin British forces for a daring mission on St. Pierre, a fictional island in the German-occupied British Channel. After fighting as a spy in harrowing, bloody campaigns, Morgan is skeptical of leading a mission that takes him back into battle. First, it's 1945 and the Russians are knocking on Hitler's door in Berlin signaling that the war is nearly over. Second, Morgan feels as if his reflexes and physical limitations will impact his success. However, the wild card is a former lover named Simone.

Morgan grew up on St. Pierre and his father was an excellent sailor who died attempting to rescue boaters during a stormy, high-seas operation. His love was Simone, daughter of the island's leader. After learning that Simone is one of 60 islanders remaining, Morgan hopes to visit Simone one final time. If successful, this military operation will allow Morgan to penetrate the island's fortifications and learn more about the Germans' underwater positioning and a unique project called “Operation Nigger” (specifically named after the British black labrador). While Morgan will face the opposition alone, he will work with a specialized international team of demolition experts to create diversions by blowing up smaller sea-craft.

Like a lot of Higgins novels, the opening chapter is the middle of the story. In it, we learn that Morgan has been captured by the Germans and is awaiting execution along with a portion of the demolition squad. As Morgan contemplates his future, he tells the story of how he came into the operation and the events that eventually led to his capture. While this is traditional Higgins' storytelling (in first person perspective), the story condenses into a rather surprising narrative. Despite the book's cover, A Game for Heroes is more of a nautical tale that has Morgan reflecting on his father's naval exploits as well as his own. There's a savage, climactic sea rescue but I would be a fool to spoil it for you here. The book's narrative ultimately leads to a wind-swept, stormy finale, but the lead-up is worth the wait.

A Game for Heroes is set in an interesting era of World War II history. It's the end, the final theater, the 1945 closing of one of Earth's most important events. Higgins presents readers with a really interesting scenario – what happens to old soldiers at the end of the journey? With guns pointing at each other, what does the end look like for combatants? There's an amazing scene where the BBC radio announces Hitler has been killed to dozens of German soldiers and their British prisoners. But without any real guidance, how do the two warring factions interact? This is Higgins masterful prose, a reading experience that delivers adventure, calculated risk and lost love but isn't afraid to ask some important questions. For this reason alone, A Game for Heroes is a game worth playing. Under any name, Higgins is extraordinary.

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比较好的付费ssr节点, a pseudonym of Evan Hunter, found the pinnacle of his literary success in his 购买ssr节点服务 series of police procedural mysteries. The fictionalized version of NYC, the chatty omniscient narrator, and the ensemble cast of worldly-wise police detectives are all ingredients that make the series a lot of fun to read. I’ve been enjoying the thinner early novels in random order, so today we join the series with the eigth installment, 1958’s Lady Killer.

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Detective Cotton Hawes takes the wheel as lead investigator of the death threat. Hawes is a hard-nosed interrogator who really leans into every interview like he’s shooting for a one-punch knockout. Series mainstay Steve Carella plays second fiddle in the case. Steve is the best detective in the 87th, and a recurring hero in the series. He’s also the smartest mind in the 87th, and his scenes tend to be the best. Watching Cotton and Steve evolve as new friends and partners was a joy to read.

The mystery itself is really two-pronged as the detectives need to identify both the would-be murderer and his intended victim. There are some great action sequences as the cat and mouse game intensifies and bullets start to fly.

To date, Lady Killer is my favorite of the 87th Precinct novels. McBain tightened up his storytelling and let the cast of detectives focus on one important case. There are no significant subplots or a b-story crime to solve, and the final solution was logical, plausible, and satisfying. This one’s a total winner.


Newer editions of Lady Killer contain an insightful introduction by the author explaining how the novel came to be. The paperback was written over nine days during the summer of 1957 at a rate of 20 pages per day. 

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Motor City Blue

Loren D. Estleman (b. 1952) is a Detroit native and award-winning author. Cutting his teeth on westerns, Estleman has written over 25-westerns including a series starring U.S. Deputy Marshal Page Murdock. In the mid-80s, the author launched a series of high-octane action novels about a mob hit-man named Peter Macklin. However, Estleman's most praised literary work is his Amos Walker mystery series. The character was first introduced in 1980's Motor City Blue and has remained a highly-regarded character through 28-books. Unfamiliar with Walker, I started at the beginning.

Motor City Blue introduces readers to Amos Walker, a three-year veteran of the Vietnam War who experienced intense action in and around Cambodia. After Vietnam, Estleman became an MP and then later joined a Detroit police academy as a civilian. After being fondled in the shower by another trainee, Walker defensively beat-up the man and was booted from the academy. His next career choice was simply a private-eye gig which he does well. In the series debut, Walker is 32-years old and will age as the series progresses.

The novel's opening pages finds Walker working an assignment for an insurance company. Armed with a camera and a Smith & Wesson, Walker is photographing a man who may be faking an injury for claim money. But while working the assignment, Walker witnesses his old Army Captain being thrust into the backseat of a sedan by two burly men. Walker calls his best friend, Police Lieutenant John Alderdyce, to report the incident. It's an early, key event that plays a large role in the story's finale.

Later, Walker is summoned to meet a former mob boss named Ben Morningstar. The elderly retired gangster hires Walker to track down and locate a young woman named Marla. Morningstar raised Marla and had been financing her college expenses only to learn that she abruptly dropped out. Since then, she's seemingly disappeared and Morningstar doesn't trust the police to search for her. Morningstar shows Walker a photo of Marla that indicates that she has entered the sleazy world of pornography – either voluntarily or against her will. It's up to Walker to find Marla and determine just how she finds herself working in the smut industry.

购买ssr节点服务 is an enthralling mystery that features many of the private-eye tropes that have been utilized since the 1940s. Estleman isn't reinventing the genre and never proclaimed to be. He's just presenting readers the traditional PI formula, a procedural investigation done by a valid, sarcastic hero who uses a police friend and ally for tips and tricks. Estleman's placement of the entire series in Detroit is fitting considering the author's scholarly knowledge of the city and its history. Using the cold, blue-collar city streets, Estleman has a wide canvas on which to draw. In ssr节点购买, the author submerges readers into the porn industry, complete with smut shops, adult theaters, sleazy trailers and the criminal elements often found on that side of the tracks.

Amos Walker may be the best of the 1980s private-eye characters. As an early introduction to the character (and author), readers unfamiliar with the series should start here. With a spiraling mystery, action fans should still appreciate the gun-play and fisticuffs employed by the hero. It's an absorbing read that has gained acclaim for good reason.

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Paperback Warrior Unmasking - Philip Race

In the Cutting Edge Books reprint of the 1959 paperback Killer Take All, readers learn that author Elmer Merle Parsons (1926-1970) was as untamed as the criminals he fictionally fabricated. Born in Pittsburgh, Parsons was first convicted of burglary and grand theft auto at the age of 23. After serving three years in prison, Parsons began passing stolen checks. His freedom was short-lived, and Parsons was sentenced to San Quentin Prison for five years. While inside, Parsons discovered a dexterous ability to write, becoming the editor of the prison newspaper and crafting his first novel, ssr节点吧 (1958), which he sold to Fawcett Gold Medal for $3,500 under the pseudonym Philip Race.

While in prison, Parsons authored two novels starring a craps dealer named Johnny Berlin – 1959's Killer Take All and 1960's Johnny Come Deadly (published by Hillman Books). Both were published under the pseudonym Philip Race. Using the name E.M. Parsons, the author wrote a suspenseful romance novel called Dark of Summer (1961) as well as three western originals – ssr节点更新 (1970), Fargo (1968) and ssr节点购买网址 (1959). Later, the talented writer went to work for Hollywood, writing scripts for a number of television shows like Bonanza, The Dakotas, The Virginian and ssr节点更新. I've always enjoyed the proverbial “small town drifter” story, so the synopsis of Killer Take All peaked my interest.

Review: Killer Take All

Johnny Berlin flees the bright lights of Las Vegas due to a love gone bad. When readers first meet Berlin, he's driving a fog-shrouded highway in rural Oregon in an effort to start a new life in Portland. After becoming lost on the midnight highway, Berlin is aided by a man named Donetti who directs him to spend the night in a small town called McKaneville. Surprisingly, when Berlin rolls into the tiny hamlet, he discovers it's a booming lakeside village ripe with gambling clubs.

Parsons' novel puts Berlin back behind the craps table for a struggling club owner named Dan Gurion. After meeting an old flame, Berlin agrees to assist Gurion in an effort to rekindle the business and keep his new boss from being forced to join a pushy racket called the Gambler's Protective Association. With the mob running a number of gambling halls throughout the area, Gurion is one of the last few holdouts to join the association. Partnering with Berlin, Gurion goes against the grain to defy the odds and beat the rackets. But, when Berlin is nearly murdered and the premier head of the Protective Association is killed, things aren't quite as black and white as readers might think.

The first thing to know about Parsons' writing style is that he introduces over a dozen characters in the narrative's opening half. It's a large cast to contend with, a habit that threw me off of the author's similar novel, Dark of Summer. Both paperbacks feature lakeside communities that are mired in business transactions, lover quarrels and a penchant for violence. Dark of Summer was a dense romantic fling whereas Killer Take All is more of a violent crime-noir complete with painted ladies and jaded faces.

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Parsons wasn’t a remarkable writer as his saturation of characters can, at times, make for a burdensome read. However, he's a solid writer with a knack for great stories. With just a handful of published novels in his career, ssr节点购买网址's affordability as a used paperback and digital reprint is well worth the price of admission. You won't be disappointed.

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Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 54

On Episode 54 of the Paperback Warrior Podcast, we unmask author Philip Race and tell you about the mystery man behind the pseudonym. We also review novels by E.M. Parsons and Tedd Thomey plus a used bookstore excursion to Appalachia. Listen on your favorite podcast app or at paperbackwarrior.com. Download directly HERE. Listen to "Episode 54: Philip Race" on Spreaker.



Jim Thompson (1906-1977) authored over thirty novels from the 1940s through the 1950s. Considered a legendary hardboiled crime writer, his most notable works often employ an abstract style of storytelling. His violent, often disturbing novels are typically devoid of any admirable, noble protagonists for readers to support or cheer. Instead, crime-fiction traditionalism is replaced with characters that typically range from the vile deviant to the casual wrongdoer. Nothing underscores these tropes more than The Kill-Off, Thompson's 1957 Lion Books release. The novel was adapted into film in 1990 and reprinted by Black Lizard in 1999.

The book takes place in the fictitious town of Manduwoc, a small coastal village in Northeastern New York. Due to economic hardship, this community has been downgraded from lavish resort community to a washed-up skeleton of despair and neglect. Thompson uses individual characters to tell their stories in alternating first-person narrations. The overall concept is a murder mystery slowly disclosing to the reader who killed an older woman named Luane Devore.

The robust cast of characters includes Luane's younger husband, the local doctor, the doctor's son and a real-estate contractor among others. Each chapter's account is a testimony to the shifting narrator's weakness, complete with shady histories, corruptible events, financial disruptions and, of course, sex. Hot, wild, untamed, interracial sex. But considering the number of historical accounts of these characters and their arms-length relationship with Luane, none of it is particularly interesting.

购买ssr节点服务 is a slowly-developing story, and not particularly engaging. The presentation is unique, but the overall plot development was unexciting - robbing the reader of anything resembling a pleasurable experience. If you are a regular blog reader or podcast listener, you know that Jim Thompson isn't a Paperback Warrior favorite. The consensus here is that he’s overrated and saddles his novels with plodding and often senseless narratives. There’s nothing about The Kill-Off to change our minds.

Admittedly, Thompson is a good writer with a penchant for unusual characters. However, The Kill-Off showcases inept storytelling populated by uninteresting and unlikable characters. Even in death, Thompson has a rabid bunch of fans who come to his aid every time Paperback Warrior pans another one of his overrated, overwritten novels. I can’t help but wonder how they will defend trash like The Kill Off. The hate mail we’ll receive will certainly be more compelling than the solution to the book’s central murder. For the uninitiated, don’t bother.

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Paperback Warrior recently covered Louis L'Amour's quartet of books focusing on the early days of the fictional Sackett family. The first two of these books, Sackett's Land and 比较好的付费ssr节点, focused on Barnabas Sackett and his journey from Europe to America circa 1599-1620.  ssr节点更新 featured Barnabas' sons Kin-Ring and Yance in the 1630s. The last of the four books took readers to America's far west with Barnabas' wayward son 酸酸乳ssr节点 during the 1630s. Prior to L'Amour's passing in 1988, the author had hoped to tell more of these early origin stories, possibly bridging the gap between the 1600s and more dominant 1800s, where most of the Sackett series takes place.

Chronologically, the next installment in the Sackett series is Ride the River, originally published in 1983. While L'Amour's hopes of telling more of the Sacketts' origins never came to fruition, this novel is one of the only bridges in the series. The main character is Echo Sackett, a 16-year old young woman who becomes the aunt to three of L'Amour's most popular Sackett characters – Tell, Orrin and Tyrel. Echo is a fourth-generation Sackett living on the family's Tennessee home in 1840. After receiving a written notice of an inheritance, the book follows Echo's journey into Philadelphia and a subsequent frenzied trip back home.

L'Amour's novel is fairly basic in plotting and presentation. It’s a classic fish out of water story – the farm girl experiencing the hustle and bustle of city life. After a recent discovery of gold, a will proclaims that Barnabas has left the small fortune to his next of kin. This will is read and delivered to Echo by a shady attorney and his bully henchmen. On the precipice of being robbed of her inheritance, an aging attorney named Finian Chantry comes to Echo's aid. After assessing the situation and providing legal support, Echo gains the family funds and sets off for home. But, knowing that the wrongdoers and criminal cohorts will follow Echo, Finian sends his nephew Dorian to accompany Echo on the return trip.

Many readers may recognize the Chantry name. Like the Talons and Sacketts, Chantry was another family that L'Amour often covered with the first Chantry novel being Fair Blows the Wind taking place circa 1590. Combining an aging Chantry with a young Sackett was clever, including the small piece of action dedicated to Chantry's impressive fencing skills in a dockside skirmish. There are also a few other Sackett characters that make brief cameos throughout the narrative.

The end result makes Ride the River an adventurous road trip that combines country roads and urban streets with a coming of age story-line. While the quality falls well below L'Amour's stellar western storytelling, I found it to be a serviceable read that offered a unique female viewpoint.

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Sam Dakkers #02 - The Guilty Bystander

Michael Brett (1921-2000) was the author of the ten-book Pete McGrath detective series in the 1960s and a regular contributor to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. It’s a little confusing because there were other mystery writers from the same era who utilized the name Michael Brett as a pseudonym, but the guy who wrote the Pete McGrath books was actually Michael Brett, the genuine article.

Before the success of his flagship series, Brett authored two crime novels starring a bald bookmaker named Sam Dakkers. Both were published in 1959 as Ace Doubles (inconveniently not paired together) under the name Mike Brett. Same guy, I promise. The first was titled Scream Street and the second was The Guilty Bystander, reviewed below.


Sam Dakkers is an sports bookmaker, a convicted felon, and a rather funny first-person narrator. One night he meets a loopy chick in a bar and winds up at her place. Right as he’s closing the deal, her apartment buzzer goes starts frantically buzzing. She says it’s probably her violent mobster boyfriend, and Sam makes for the fire escape. As he’s working his way down to the alley, he hears the gunshots from the girl’s apartment.

So, we’re dealing with a pretty basic and commonplace murder mystery setup here. The cops initially suspect Sam. The real killer is trying to kill Sam. Sam needs to save his hide by solving the case. This dire setup doesn’t prevent the author from thrusting Sam into several comedic set pieces with mistaken identities, sexy babes, and the like. Nothing hilarious, but often amusing. The central mystery is wrapped up tidily in a little more than a hundred pages with no heavy lifting involved for the reader.

Some books are fine dining. Others are cotton candy. 比较好的付费ssr节点 was the latter. The writing was simple and straightforward - never flashy but serviceable. The narrator was a lovable oaf surrounded by archetypes you’ve seen before in better novels. Despite its lack of distinction, I genuinely enjoyed the little book. It was an easy read to pass the time between more substantial novels. Sometimes cotton candy does the trick.


Both of the Sam Dakkers novels have been reprinted as trade paperbacks by Armchair Fiction (again, as doubles) for modern audiences. I enjoyed The Guilty Bystander just enough that I ordered Scream Street. Watch this space for a review sometime this decade. 

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The Brass Cupcake

According to Urban Dictionary, the term “Brass Cupcake” refers to a person predisposed to living in a fantasy-like state which leads to inappropriate behavior in public. It’s also the title of the first published novel by John D. MacDonald from 1950 after he left the world of pulp magazine short fiction to find his fortune in the brave new world of paperback originals.

The novel takes place in the sunny beach town of Florence City, Florida hosted by our narrator, Cliff Bartells. He’s an insurance adjuster - the guy who determine the legitimacy of a claim’s economic damages - for a big company based in Connecticut. A girl named Liz was found murdered with all of her jewelry stolen - pieces insured by Cliff’s employer for $750,000 when that was a lot of money. Cliff is assigned to recover the stones, which really means investigating the murder, since the killer and the thief are probably the same person.

We quickly learn that Cliff isn’t a normal insurance man. He’s a World War 2 veteran who returned to his job as a police officer in corrupt Florence City. He was drummed out of the force for refusing to participate in the more heightened version of corruption adopted after the war. In jailhouse parlance, a “cupcake” is anything earned through breaking the rules. For Cliff, his police lieutenant badge was nothing but a brass cupcake - a piece of cheap metal earned through mild corruption and then taken away through greater dishonesty.

In his capacity as an insurance adjuster, Cliff functions as a salvage consultant in the same manner MacDonald’s Travis McGee character would 14 years later. Cliff gets paid for recovering the stones from the thief in a more formalized arrangement than McGee utilized in his series. Along the way, Cliff needs to leverage his relationships with police officers without ticking off the department’s management who still holds a grudge against our hero. Of course, there’s a local mobster who may or may not know something about the jewels.

It wouldn’t be a JDM novel if there wasn’t a sexy babe in the mix. In this paperback, that role and related bikini are filled by Melody Chance, the niece of the murder victim and early suspect for the murder and theft. Meanwhile, the police are scared that Cliff is going to find the jewels, buy them back to avoid paying the claim, and let a murderer skate. As the novel progresses, the official pressure to make Cliff buzz off increases exponentially with each passing chapter.

The Brass Cupcake is a remarkably polished first novel, but it’s not a remarkably good John D. MacDonald book. It’s a basic, run-of-the-mill mystery without the human elements that makes the author’s body of work so special. The paperback is certainly worth reading, but it’s nowhere close to the best of his output. JDM was one of the greats, so the bar is set higher for him than his contemporaries. If you’re being a completist, definitely read and enjoy the novel. However, if devouring all the author’s books before you die isn’t going to happen, you can safely skip ssr节点更新 without missing much.

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Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 53

Kendell Foster Crossen was the creator of MILO MARCH and THE GREEN LAMA, and on Paperback Warrior Podcast Episode 53, we discuss his work and life. Also discussed: Elmore Leonard, Donald Westlake, Loren D. Estleman, Mickey Spillane, Robert Martin, Manhunt Magazine and much more! Listen on your favorite podcast app, paperbackwarrior.com, or download directly HERE Listen to "Episode 53: Kendell Foster Crossen" on Spreaker.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Matt Helm #02 - The Wrecking Crew


Perhaps if U.S. President John F. Kennedy had been spotted reading Matt Helm instead of James Bond, the mainstream public would have elevated Donald Hamilton to a household name. Instead, Bond's creator Ian Fleming enjoyed the fame and fortune, and Hamilton settled for mid-tier literary status – royalties earned from a 27-book series that inspired five feature films and a failed television series. Not bad in a lifetime of work. The Matt Helm series kicked off in 1960 with Death of a Citizen. I found it lukewarm at best, but was anxious for the espionage eruption promised in the series' second installment, 酸酸乳ssr节点, published by Fawcett Gold Medal the same year.

After the events of the series debut, Matt Helm has now returned to full-time work in the U.S. Intelligence community. His 15-year span as western author, photographer and family man was washed away in a bloody bathtub. Now, his wife and family have moved to Reno, Nevada, and Helm finds himself once again as a kill-on-command agent for the government. This is where we find Helm in the opening pages of The Wrecking Crew, hunting a Soviet leader/hit-man who's terminated a lot of U.S. agents and allies in and around Sweden (the author's birthplace).

The story has Helm teaming with two women, an American operative and a widow named Lou. The cover story is that Helm will be a very American tourist – cowboy hat, southern drawl, long-lens camera – touring the northern portion of Sweden with Lou. Her husband was killed by communist forces in East Germany and she is working with Helm to find the villain. There's some reflective interludes with Helm discussing his training at the farm, re-entry interviews with longtime boss Mac, and his thoughts on dropping the family act (although that will be a main theme in the series' next book).

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Overall, I love Hamilton's writing style. It is an easy narrative to devour and the opening act is strong enough to warrant further reading. After finding Death of a Citizen average, I can't help but think The Wrecking Crew was more of the same. The series has a devout following and heaps of praise. At the end of the day, maybe my problems with Helm reflect my selfish desire for a speedy and explosive narrative. Hamilton knows his audience and his hero far better than I do. Who am I to judge? Read it and decide for yourself. 

Tom’s Rebuttal:

Eric, I’m seeking a court injunction to keep you at least 300 yards from further installments in the Matt Helm series. You’re certainly permitted to like what you like, but 购买ssr节点服务 is one of the best Matt Helm installments. If you didn’t enjoy it, there’s not much forthcoming that’s going to change your mind about the series.

Readers, for the love of all things holy, please read and enjoy this paperback. I promise that you’ll destroy your bedtime flipping the pages to learn what happens next in this literary masterpiece. I also promise that Eric is a fundamentally good man who has just lost his way. With love and support from the community, I know we can bring him around on this pivotal series.

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Snatchers

Lionel White (1905-1985) was an unsung hero in the world of crime caper fiction. His first novel was The Snatchers from 1953, a thin paperback later adapted into the film The Night of the Following Day in 1968 starring Marlon Brando and Rita Moreno. The book has also been re-released as a double (along with his Clean Break) by Stark House Books.

Cal Dent is a planner. Like Richard Stark’s ssr节点购买网址, Dent is the guy who conceives a caper and brings a crew together to get it done. This particular job involves the kidnapping of a seven year-old rich girl on New York’s Long Island. The abduction itself happens off-page in chapter one and seems to go well. The assigned crew members bring the little girl and her sexy nanny to the hideout to begin the ransom negotiations.

Of course, the FBI and the media get involved, and the kidnapping becomes one of the biggest stories since the Lindbergh baby case. Meanwhile, there’s sexual tension at the hideout with the crew’s only female member and a couple of the hoods on the job. Add an affable local cop sniffing around, and you’ve got a tension-filled, high-stakes thriller.

White takes the time to draw a vivid picture of the individual members of the five-person kidnap and ransom crew. Some are sympathetic while others are twisted and dangerous. There’s a lot of waiting around in the hideout dealing with obstacles that arise. I found it suspenseful and fascinating, but it wasn’t exactly a breakneck bloodbath of an adventure until the final act. Rest assured, the climactic ending was absolutely worth the wait.

It’s hard to believe that The Snatchers was a first novel for Lionel White as he really was something special right out of the gate. Moreover, his body of work that followed was consistently excellent. Don’t sleep on this debut paperback. Place it in the “must read” pile. 

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Ian Kennedy Martin, born in 1936, was a prolific British screenwriter with a career spanning four decades. His most notable work is police drama The Sweeney (1975-1978), a television show that was critically acclaimed for its realism. Along with shows like ssr节点购买, The Capone Investment and Parkin's Patch, Martin also authored a dozen or more novels including the 1977 action-adventure paperback novel Rekill, published in the U.S. by Ballantine. It was issued as a $3 ebook in 2012. 

The first six-pages of Rekill set the tone for much of the novel's first half. Readers are spectators as an unknown man, possibly foreign, arrives on a rural Kansas farm to await a family's arrival. When a woman and two small children arrive, the stranger executes them in brutal fashion. Many hours later, the woman's husband comes home to find his family slaughtered and the intruder waiting. In later pages we learn he was tortured and executed and the farm house burned. This same style of execution repeats for three more families before readers are thrown into the thick of the narrative.

When a former North Vietnamese solder is identified as the killer, American brass orchestrate a plan to find and terminate the assassin. The man they choose for the mission is Leeming, a former U.S. Colonel who ran a special forces camp combating the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Leeming faced a court-martial and was later removed from service prior due to a particular incident. Now, Leeming, a widower, lives with his brother on a North Dakota farm. The military asks Leeming to train a special forces soldier to seek and destroy the foreign assassin. If he agrees, the government will remove the court-martial from his records. Leeming agrees and soon the narrative thrusts readers into espionage and intrigue in Paris.

The author had a number of great ideas for the book's plot design. Leeming's protege is interesting and the character allowed the author to create a really unique chemistry – the old warhorse training the younger soldier for a deadly mission. But by the book's second half, most of that story-line is wiped clean. The plot’s emphasis shifts to scouting and researching a known criminal to learn the whereabouts of the assassin. This part was rather redundant and dull after the enticing first half. The book's closing chapters were exciting, but nothing I haven't read before in international spy novels.

If you like slower, more developed international mystery and intrigue, Rekill might be for you. It's distinctively British – slower story, emphasis on planning, dry romantic encounter, high-adventure (there's rock climbing) – that recalled the work of Hammond Innes or a deep-discount Desmond Bagley story. Otherwise, I found ssr节点购买网址 retreading much of the same ground that we’ve all read before. The end result is an average action-adventure novel that should please most readers depending on their reading experience and frequency.

If nothing else, the paperback has a great cover. 

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Johnny Maguire #02 - The Chinese Keyhole

In the 1950s, ssr节点吧 (1920-2000) wrote five books in the Johnny Maguire series about a lawyer who functions as a hardboiled detective and all-around troubleshooter. I loved the series debut, so I was excited to tackle the second installment, The Chinese Keyhole from 1951. The book was originally a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback and has been re-released by Cutting Edge Books.

The novel opens with Johnny telling the reader something he neglected to share in the first book. During World War 2, Johnny was recruited into the OSS, the wartime precursor to the CIA, and he’s periodically called upon to set aside his law practice to engage in espionage at the request of the U.S. State Department. Yes, our favorite hardboiled Chicago lawyer is evidently a spook as well. It’s almost as if the author had a cool idea for a spy novel and decided to slot Johnny Maguire into the lead role because he had an extra protagonist just lying around with no immediate plans. 

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Meanwhile, Johnny’s childhood friend Tom was recently plugged in the back six times with no leads as to the killer’s identity. Tom was a walking saint on earth, and who would want to kill a guy like that? If you’re familiar with the way 1950s plotting works, you’ve probably already guessed that Tom’s death is somehow tied into the nudie bar spy situation. A central mystery develops regarding the identity of the enemy spy ring boss, and the solution - a big reveal at the end - was pretty obvious to anyone paying attention. That said, the series of final confrontations with Johnny’s adversaries was pretty outstanding. 

Himmel was a great writer who knew how to keep a story moving, and The Chinese Keyhole is a sexy and exciting thin paperback. Readers should know that this 1951 work of disposable fiction has some retrograde things to say about Asians and gays. It didn’t bother me, but consider yourself warned that 1951 was, in fact, nearly 70 years ago. 

Richard Himmel deserves to be remembered, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that The Chinese Keyhole was the high-mark of his writing career. It’s a romantic and exciting bit of domestic spy fiction, and I’m thrilled that Cutting Edge Books has made the series available to a new generation. I’m also excited to read what Johnny Maguire is going to do next. 

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Monday, July 13, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 52

How does the revival of an obscure western book series lead to allegations of criminality and fraud? Find out on Episode 52 of the Paperback Warrior Podcast. Also: Vintage finds in the wild! We review Dead Wrong by Lorenz Heller and Jack Higgins' A Game for Heroes! And much more! Listen to the show wherever you get your podcasts, stream below or download directly HERE. Listen to "Episode 52: The Morgan Kane Fiasco" on Spreaker.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Last Stand at Saber River

Before he became a popular author of quirky crime fiction bestsellers, Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) was a working author of gritty, well-crafted westerns. He started with short works in the western pulp magazines and transitioned seamlessly to paperbacks in the 1950s. Last Stand at Saber River was released by Dell in 1959, and the subsequent British edition was re-titled Stand on the Saber. Somewhere along the way, the novel was also released in hardcover as Lawless River. Over 60 years later, the book is still in print as a paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Our hero is Paul Cable who fought for the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War for over two years and is returning home to his ranch on Arizona’s Saber River to be with his family. The war had been rough on Cable as he took bullets in his hip and thigh and was sent home to Arizona before the outcome of the war was determined.

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At times, the book felt like a home invasion horror novel with a lot of cat-and-mouse suspense. Other times, it was a straight-up combat adventure tale with lots of gun-pointing stand-off scenes. As the title of the paperback indicates, all the disrespect and mini-skirmishes along the way lead to a series of showdowns where Cable defends his property rights against Vern’s men.

Elmore Leonard was a master at plotting and dialogue, and this knack is on full-display in Last Stand at Saber River. The characters are vividly drawn and they always seem to say the right thing at the right time in the right way. The author wisely steers clear of the relative merits of the Confederacy vs. the Union and uses the divide to explain the mutual distrust and hostility between the novel’s combatants.

The short paperback’s resolution was intelligent and unexpected - if a bit abrupt, and it was a testament to Leonard’s superior storytelling abilities. If you like westerns filled with moral dilemmas and smart character development, Last Stand at Saber River is definitely for you. Recommended.

Movie Night:

In 1997, Last Stand at Saber River was adapted into a TV movie starring Tom Selleck on the TNT cable network. It remains a available as a $2.99 rental on all the major streaming services. You won't be surprised to learn that the universal consensus is that book is better than the movie. 

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Thursday, July 9, 2020


Author Jack Bennett (1934-2000) was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He became a cadet reporter in 1957 and later joined the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1974. One of his first novels, Mister Fisherman, was published in 1964 and examined racial tensions. In 1981, Bennett wrote ssr节点购买, a war novel based on the Australian film of the same name. Of the eight novels I can identify by Bennett, it appears the author's literary work was mostly outdoor/nature fiction that examined social or environmental issues. Those themes are the heart of Bennett's 1967 novel The Hawk Alone, published by Bantam.

The book examines the life of Gord Vance, an elderly man who lives in South Africa with his wife, Julia. Vance is a former soldier, serving in a number of military campaigns including the South African War (often called Boer). Over the years, Vance has worked a number of professions, but his life's work has been as a safari hunter. After years of struggle, Vance now finds himself impoverished due to the environmental changes that have impacted the hunting industry. Living hand to mouth has made Vance disgruntled with his “golden years” and regretful regarding the decisions he's made throughout his life.

Bennett's narrative is written in the past and present with Vance remembering key events in his life – crippled in a bar skirmish, his military experience, prior hunts and various interactions with his friend Roy. These events are sometimes mirrored by present failures like a horse dying, his derogatory credit at the town store, his truck's engine stoppage and the inability to hunt. Vance's skill-set is shooting, but he doesn't own a large parcel of land and his ability to hunt other lands has dwindled. Bennett conveys these emotional defeats perfectly.

As an adventure novel, 购买ssr节点服务 fails. But, this isn't a disappointment credited to the author or the story. Bennett's storytelling is steeped in Hemingway and exhibits primitive simplism. Bantam's marketing strategy was to present the book as an adventure novel, complete with a misleading cover and the exciting premise of “an aging white hunter takes four teenagers on his last and most dangerous safari.” This is only partially true. The book is an emotional, end of age tale about regret, failure and purposeless life – essentially Vance is “the hawk alone.” The promise of a dangerous safari and four teenagers arrives twenty pages before the book's end. While the finale is riveting, it's credited to Vance's disappointments and Bennett's strength as a story-teller, not a dangerous, savage safari.

The Hawk Alone is brilliant. After the last page was turned, I felt emotionally moved. What you may feel will be in the eye of the beholder, but the novel will certainly make you feel something. The ability to convey some sort of emotional experience on to the reader or listener is the cornerstone of good storytelling. The conversational style of Bennett's narrative had me entranced, but again readers should control their expectations. 

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Congregation of Jackals

S. Craig Zahler is a novelist, filmmaker, and voracious consumer of old pulp fiction. While watching his movies Bone Tomahawk, ssr节点吧, and Dragged Across Concrete, his literary influences are crystal clear: Zahler is a Paperback Warrior kind of guy. As such, it’s only fitting that I divert from vintage fiction for a day to review his 2010 gritty western, A Congregation of Jackals.

The year is 1888, and Virginia brothers Oswell and Godfrey both receive telegrams inviting them to the wedding of James Lingham in Montana. The invitation causes the bothers much consternation because they haven’t heard from Lingham in decades. Moreover, the invitation ominously references that “all old acquaintances” will be there.

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One of the other invitees - also an alumnus of the long-disbanded outlaw gang - is a Manhattan playboy named Dicky. He’s smart, charming and funny - by far the most charismatic and relatable character in the paperback. Dicky joins the brothers on their journey westward via train and stagecoach to a wedding they’re all pretty certain will be a total bloodbath. Of course, the reader is counting on that being true, and the Montana scenes definitely don’t disappoint.

A Congregation of Jackals is a well-written and engaging paperback and the pages turn quickly thanks to the cinematic quality of the set-pieces the author creates. Mahler’s novel is also periodically violent and shocking with scenes of brutality rivaling the darkest moments of the Edge series by George Gilman with the sheen of a literature written with time and care. Admittedly, there’s a lot of build-up to the final confrontation, and some readers may find it slow at times. However, stick with it because the extended climax is really something special.

Nothing about this strong recommendation should come as no surprise to fans of Zahler’s films, and if you liked Bone Tomahawk - or the westerns of Quentin Tarantino - you’re going to enjoy the heck out of A Congregation of Jackals

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Death's Lovely Mask

Author John Gearon (1911-1993) began his career play-writing for theater in the 1930s. His first novel, 1935's ssr节点更新, was a hit. While not that much is known about Gearon, my research suggests that he authored eight total novels under the pseudonym John Flagg. Most, if not all, are espionage stories. Of the eight, five make up the 酸酸乳ssr节点 series. Being unfamiliar with the series, I jumped in with installment number four, 酸酸乳ssr节点, published in 1958 by Fawcett Gold Medal.

Hart Muldoon was a former operative in the O.S.S., the early version of what is now known as the C.I.A. After leaving the business, Muldoon is then hired as an international private-eye or spy by the U.S. government investigating murders, kidnapping, heists and the early blueprints for criminal activity that may plague America or it's allies. It's the last part that brings Muldoon to Venice in Death's Lovely Mask.

A senate committee member named Hirem, who Muldoon served with in the O.S.S., threatens Muldoon into an assignment he doesn't want to accept. The job is to tail a young Prince named Sir-el-Donrd from the small, fictional country of Donrd-Arabia. His father has become gravely ill and it looks like the young Prince will be taking the throne soon. The country exists as a feudal state and if Sir-el-Donrd takes over, the applecart is turned over and the Arab chieftains will begin grumbling over oil interests. The U.S. involvement is through the German-American Oil Company within the country, jointly controlled by American and German management. To make matters worse, Sir-el-Donrd is defying generations of feuding by dating the daughter of an Israeli leader. It's essentially Romeo and Juliet with global implications between the rival households.

The author fails to convey to readers what Muldoon's actual job entails. From what we gather, it's frolicking around Venice having an affair with an oil-executive's wife while also banging a 15-year old girl on the side. The bulk of the narrative plays rather operatic with the hero guesting with the super rich Winthrop family. It was like an episode of Downton Abbey with Queens and Countesses and upright pinkies. The murder mystery superimposes itself during an elaborate costume party. However, by this point I just didn't care anymore. The last 20-pages were agonizing.

Perhaps the fourth book isn't a fair representation of the 比较好的付费ssr节点espionage series. From what I can gather, Gearon's other novels written under the Flagg name are of the same pedigree – castles, watery canals, wining and dining in plush locales throughout Europe. In essence, Death's Lovely Mask revealed enough to show its true self: an extremely dull book.

Hart Muldoon Series:

1. Woman of Cairo (1953)
2. Dear Deadly Beloved (1954)
3. Murder in Monaco (1957)
4. Death's Lovely Mask (1958)
5. The Paradise Gun (1961)

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 51

Paperback Warrior Podcast Episode 51 delves into the shadowy world of CIA operative, Watergate burglar, and vintage genre fiction author Howard Hunt. Also on the show: Shopping excursions, Reviews of End of a Stripper by Robert Dietrich and .44 by H.A. DeRosso and much more! Stream the show on your favorite podcast app, below or download directly HERE. Listen to "Episode 51: Howard Hunt" on Spreaker.
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