Thursday, December 02, 2021

Robert Crane: Born of Battle

Robert Crane was really Con Sellers, a steady writer of low-grade paperbacks working through the sixties and seventies for the small publishers, and finally finding some mainstream success in the eighties and early nineties. It seems his breakthrough novel was the novelization of the Dallas TV series he did in 1980. He died in 1992. Here's a link to the Finnish translation of the Dallas book - it came out here in hardcover, with a very non-pulp cover! 

I read now one of Sellers's war paperbacks as by Robert Crane. Most of the Robert Crane books are about one Sgt. Ben Corbin fighting in Korea, but this one, called Born of Battle, tells about an Army old hand Ernie Kovacs and a war reporter called Saxon, who must be Sellers's self-portrait, since he started writing for the war papers (I don't know the actual term here) in Korea. The book came out in Finland under the title Sankarit ovat kuolleet ("The Heroes Are Dead"), which doesn't make any sense. The cover is also misleading.  

Born of Battle doesn't contain many action or battle scenes, it's more like a love novel, since Saxon's romance with a South Korean woman takes so much place in the narration, and the book is pretty episodic. But I didn't mind, since Crane/Sellers writes convincingly and effortlessly about his characters and their endeavors. The book came out from Pyramid in 1962, but there's not much pulpiness that was so prevalent in the books Pyramid usually published. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Axel Kilgore (Jerry Ahern): Death Lust

Jerry Ahern was known mainly for his post-apocalyptic series like The Survivalist and The Takers. I haven't read any of those, but I read one of the books in his other series, about the one-eyed mercenary Hank Frost, written as by Axel Kilgore. I'd read one before, called The Terror Contract (1982). It wasn't bad, straight-up action that has no pretenses of literary merit. Even the gun porn that you hear Ahern having been guilty of is minimal. 

The other Hank Frost I recently read, called Death Lust (also 1982; Cosa Nostra! in Finnish), wasn't as good, though it had its moments. There's even a hint of great adventure in the air, when Hank Frost is posing as a gun dealer somewhere in the Mediterranean, and when the ship he's travelling in gets attacked, he saves a young woman and when it's revealed she's the daughter of a Mafia don, he wins the father's ever-lasting gratitude. The Mafia helps Hank Frost attacking the gun dealers led by Frost's long-time enemy, Eva Chapmann, whose father he's killed in the past. There are lots of attacks and battles in the book, and I got actually kind of lost amongst them, but all in all this was a pretty entertaining men's adventure paperback. The end in which Eva Chapmann is dressed as a nun, was a bit weird, though. 

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Elliott Lewis: Two Heads Are Better

This is no men's adventure paperback, instead it's a private eye novel that came out in paperback in 1980. The publisher was Pinnacle that was famous for its men's adventure books in the seventies and early eighties, but seems like they were ready to publish books from different genres. 

Elliott Lewis was a radio actor who sometimes appeared on TV and film. When he retired from acting, he wrote seven private eye books for Pinnacle from 1980 to 1983. The first one is weirdly named Two Heads Are Better. The antihero of the book is one Fred Bennett, an ex-cop leading a lousy life and working as a private eye. The book starts off with a headless corpse being found on the trunk of his car, and Bennett has to flee and solve the case at the same time. 

I really didn't like this book. It seems hasty and the plot is too convoluted. Bennett is not very likable character, though I usually like unsympathetic private eyes. This is not the case here. Bill Crider said it better here

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

David Hagberg: Nick Carter: The Istanbul Decision

I've never read any books by David Hagberg, though he seems to have been prolific and at least somewhat appreciated writer of spy thrillers, mainly in the 21st century. He started out in the mid-seventies, penning Nick Carters and Flash Gordon paperbacks without a byline and several one-off horror/SF paperbacks, such as the cult favourite Croc. He died in 2019. 

I've now read one of his Nick Carters, called The Istanbul Decision. It came out originally in 1983, and Hagberg's titles for his AXE novels are all pretty similar: you have your The Ouster Conspiracy, The Vengeance Game, The Strontium Code... This one is about Nick Carter trying to lure a Soviet spy into a trap by using a double for the spy's daughter who the Americans have kidnapped. It's very complicated, but not very intriguing. The book races on, but I didn't feel much for the characters. The climax takes place in the Orient Express. I don't remember much about the book anymore. 

Someone said that Hagberg was one of the writers who made the Nick Carter series too realistic and humorless in the early eighties. There's lots of action, but none of it is zany or far out. 

I'm still intrigued by his other Nick Carter, Death Island (1984), that was published in Finland as "Blood-Hungry Man-Eaters" (Verta janoavat ihmissyöjät, that is). 

Friday, September 24, 2021

James Fritzhand: Nick Carter: Sign of the Cobra

As I said, I was going to post short reviews of some paperbacks I'll be reading in the coming months as I'm making a sequel to my original Pulpografia (2000, in Finnish only), a reference book on American crime and mystery writers published mainly in the pulp and paperback format. Many of the books I'll be reading are men's adventure, a genre I'm not very much interested in, but which seems quite popular nowadays. When I was writing my first book 20 years ago, it was mainly about noir and hardboiled stuff, but the wind has changed, at least according to the sites like Paperback Warrior and Facebook groups like Men's Adventure Paperbacks of the 20th Century

Okay, off to the book I was going to write about. It's a Nick Carter/Killmaster book, written by James Fritzhand. The title is Sign of the Cobra, and it's one of the three Nick Carters Fritzhand wrote in the mid-seventies. All the books take place in Asia, and in them Nick Carter is fluent in taekwondo, which, if I'm not mistaken, he's not in the earlier books. I read on the Glorious Trash blog that the continuity of the Nick Carter series was gone when the series was taken out of Lyle Kenyon Engel's hands, and the writers came up with their own versions of Nick Carter. 

That said, Sign of the Cobra isn't a bad book. It's fluent and readable, and there's just enough old time pulp bravado to keep things interesting, though this isn't as crazy as some of the sixties' installments in the series, for example the books by Manning Lee Stokes. The villain has an artificial arm that looks like a cobra, and it's equipped with poisonous needles! The action scenes are quite good, except when Fritzhand makes someone say something aloud in the middle of a taekwondo strike which makes for a very weird reading. Just how slow is Nick Carter moving? 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Robert Ackworth: Young Doctor in Town

I've been lately writing a sequel to my first non-fiction book that was called Pulpografia. The working title has been "The Shadow of Pulpografia", but it won't probably be the final name. Well, you could call many of my books sequels to Pulpografia, but this one is made with the same premise: it's a reference book on American crime and suspense writers whose books and short stories were published in Finland in a paperback format or in a pulp magazine or similar periodical publication. 

I've been doing this work on an almost daily basis, with digging up some biographical and bibliographic information on the authors, but now I've been browsing the books and writing something about them. The first one happened to be Young Doctor in Town by Robert Ackworth. Who he? I don't know much about Ackworth, but he was born in 1923 and is most possibly dead by now. He wrote some short stories for the digests in the late fifties, and at the same time he published some erotic-cum-romantic paperbacks (i.e. The Moments Between, 1959). He published as late as 1978, when the novel The Takers came out. It seems to be about Hollywood. Ackworth wrote also some Dr. Kildare novelizations for Lancer. There's also a war novel by him in Finnish (called "One Moment from Hell"), but seems like it was never published in the US or UK. 

He penned also this one-off medical romance. As it was not a crime novel, I didn't feel the need to read the book and thought browsing should suffice. It's about a young doctor called Garner coming into a small town and getting mixed up with the possibly mentally ill wife of the town's big man. There's also romance, but also some critique of the state of medical care in the small town. 

The book was published in 1963 by something called Medical Fiction Books. Does anyone know anything about this outfit? 

I have other work to do and other books to read, but I think I'll try to squeeze some vintage paperbacks in and try to write about them here at Pulpetti. Next up a Nick Carter by James Fritzhand, and another one by David Hagberg! 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Sleaze novels that are also crime

Many people know that lots of sleaze paperbacks are also crime fiction. Just to name a few: Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, Robert Silverberg, Orrie Hitt, Barry Malzberg... And as many people reading my blog know, I just published a book on sleaze paperbacks. It concentrates on American books that were published also in Finnish, so the scope is pretty limited and haphazard. There were lots of crime-related books that have never before been called to attention of crime fiction aficionados, though. At least not to my knowledge. (The book, called Pulpografia Erotica, is available here. But mind you, it's in Finnish and there's no international sales possibility.) 

So, I think the following books should be included in the next edition (or at least the appendix) of Allen Hubin's crime fiction bibliography (if they already are, I didn't notice and apologize): 

Norman Bligh: The Sisters. Softcover Library 1966. (Includes a killing of a mob boss, though not exactly a crime novel.)

Beth Brown: Man and Wife. Claude Kendall 1933. (Includes a private eye who shakes down clients of a famous prostitute. Not exactly a crime novel.) 

Richard E. Geis: Girlsville. France Books 1963. (Private eye called Vic Kunzer is hired to find a film producer's daughter.) 

Alexander Keith: The Love Gun. Bee-Line Books, the late sixties. (Murder takes place in a hunting cabin where there are some half dozen people. Takes place in Canada, there's also a French-speaking lieutenant! Can't find the exact year for this.) 

Kimberly Kemp (Paul Russo): Operation Sex. Midwood 1962. (International intrigue and sex.)

Peter Keyes (most possibly Andrew J. Collins): The Love Odds. Brandon House 1967. (Hardboiled crime novel about a private eye like character Steve Wayne who tackles the mobsters running a casino.) 

Lester Lake: So Wild, So Wanton. All Star Books 1962. (Cab driver fights the shakedown ring working in an elite high school.) 

Lester Morris: Savage Lust. Private Editions 1962. (Narcissistic womanizer kills accidentally his ex-lover and tries to keep it hidden. Great noir novel with a very downbeat ending.) 

Max Nortic: Code Name: The Gypsy Virgin. Midwood 1971. (International intrigue and sadism as two female spies fight each other.) 

Max Nortic: The Real Thing. Midwood 1970. (A classic heist novel taking place in a casino.) 

Eric Sand: The Seduction. Beacon 1965. (Noirish novel about a young woman who comes back to her home town to revenge her father's death.) 

Floyd Smith: Action Girls. Midwood 1977 (there must be an earlier edition, since this was published in Finland in 1974). (An archaeologist tries to find his wife's ring in the desert so he can't be punished for killing her.) 

Gary Tubbs: The Case of the Missing Rubber. Published in 1969, can't find the publisher. (Private eye Charlie Romp gets mixed up in the smuggling of a sex drug.) 

David Warren: Tunnel of Love. Criterion Classics, no date. (Man is in prison for killing his wife's lover, then he finds out the man didn't die after all, and hunts him down. Lots of description of prison life. Maybe Warren was an inmate himself? This is the only book he wrote, at least under this moniker.) 

Then there are also these two books that are heavily crime-related, but I can't find any info on them: 
Jason Brown: Little Girl Lost and Bob Grand: Between All of Us. If anyone has anything on them, I'll be glad to hear it. I've written about these books (and the two published as by "Ralph Hayes") earlier here in Pulpetti.