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. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Peter Keyes's sleaze / hardboiled novel The Love Odds

Okay, here's still another crime-cum-sleaze paperback from the sixties. I already finished my book on the subject, and I'll write about it more in the near future, but wanted to share this one. 

As I wrote earlier, I think sleaze writer Peter Keyes was really Andrew J. Collins, who'd started out in the crime pulps in the fourties. I read the three books as by Keyes that have been translated in Finnish. They are: By Sex Possessed (Brandon House 1966), The Love Odds (Brandon 1967) and Hardrock Romeo (Brandon 1967). By Sex Possessed was the weakest of the three, but Hardrock Romeo had some interest in it because of its sociopathic country & western singer lead. 

The Love Odds was the most interesting one of the trio, mainly because it seems like it was a write-up of an earlier pulp novellette or a novel. The hero is one Steve Wayne, who is almost like a private eye, clearing up the financial problems of firms and such. He's asked to find out who's taking a casino's money in Las Vegas. He meets two tough mobsters, Al Terry and Manny Zugg, who run the casino, and suspects them from the beginning. The mobsters buy Wayne a girl to make love with, but also to spy on him. Wayne also meets the owner of the casino, who's of course a good-looking dame, and has sex with her as well. The shattering climax takes place in the desert outside Vegas, where Wayne and his partner are told to dig their own graves, while the criminals have their way with the women of the story. The scene is actually quite gruesome and even disturbing.

There's some implausibility to the plot and of course it's all too short and not very memorable, but I thought I was entertained while reading this. If anyone's read Collins's pulp crime stories, I'd be interested to hear if he has one with Steve Wayne and the casino's money. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Lester Morris: Savage Lust (1962)

Here's another noir novel masquerading as a sleaze paperback! No one has ever heard of Lester Morris, let alone his sole novel Savage Lust that came out from a small paperback house called Private Editions. I thought this was pretty good and solid and could've been written by some better known paperbacker. The ending is devilishly cruel and ironic. 

Savage Lust's anti-hero is Si, a heel and a gigolo who uses and cheats women all the time. He's living in Florida and skimming money from every broad he can get his hands on. One of his lady friends, the wife of a hotel owner, wants to get Si all to herself and kills her husband and tells Si they can get the husband's money. Si doesn't want to get involved in a murder, but manages, almost accidentally, to kill the lady friend. Si buries the bodies and tries to act as the caretaker of the hotel while the owners are on a vacation. You can see this is not going to end well, right? And it sure doesn't! The ending is a punishment you just don't see coming. 

Not altogether plausible, but entertaining nevertheless, and the more noir aspects of the story are worth your while. I seem to enjoy the American sleaze paperbacks where the main guy is a no-good heel, who's getting beaten. No idea who really wrote this, but there were other Lesters writing sleaze at the same time, for example Lester Lake and Lester Arthur. They might be the same guy or,
then again, might not. 

Thursday, April 01, 2021

The sleaze paperbacks of Max Nortic

I'm sure you've never heard of Max Nortic. I wouldn't have, if I hadn't set out to do a book on American sleaze paperback writers (it will be out only in Finnish, sorry). There are four translated novels by him, and they rise above the usual hardcore fare of the late sixties and early seventies, which is the time when the porn business and the sleaze paperback industry were being taken over by Mafia. Some critics say this was the turning point of the American sex paperback, and after that the books became worse. 

No one has ever written anything about Max Nortic, though several other sleaze authors, such as Orrie Hitt, and the writers who became later known for another genre, such as Robert Silverberg and Lawrence Block, have received praise and seen reprints of their sleaze work. Max Nortic has seen some of his books being republished as e-books, but none are available in print. 

Should they be? As I said, they are better than many other sex paperbacks of the era, as they have discernable plots and characters in them, and not such some ploy to hang some sex scenes on (I've now read several of those, and they can be pretty dull, though sometimes they have their own goofy charm). Nortic's sleaze books have crime and spy elements, and some of them take place in magazine industry, which sounds like Nortic was a journalist himself. There's also some satire in Nortic's work. 

Nortic published mainly through Midwood, and some of his books are Black Satin (1969), Virgin Wanted (1968), Night Nurse (1968), School for Sin (1969), Possessed (1969) ja Island of Desire (1970). For Brandon House he did The Strange Love of Lady S. (1968), which takes place in the early 19th century, so it's a historical novel. 

I've read these four books by him: The Real Thing (1970), Code Name: The Gypsy Virgin (1971), Total Awareness (1969) and Dirty Secrets (1969). All were published by Midwood. Of these, The Gypsy Virgin and The Real Thing are to my mind the best, though the others also hold some interest. Code Name: The Gypsy Virgin is a book about two female spies, working on the other sides during the Cold War, the one is of course American, and the other one is also a Caucasian, but she works for China. You might think this is a spy parody, which were indeed prevalent in the sixties' paperback sleaze, but this is actually a very grim and disturbing book. The American spy is made lesbian through manipulation in order to catch the Chinese spy, who's been modified into a sadistic killer through beatings and rapes in Chinese camps, starting already from a young age. The actual plot is about an American scientist, who the Chinese spy tries to manipulate to defect to China and start working for the Chinese government. In order to do this, she picks up the scientist's teenage daughter and forces her to make love to her. The ending is very bleak, and the evil China is victorious. (There's a one-word review for this in Amazon: "Rubbish.") 

The Real Thing is a heist novel, of all genres. It's about the robbing of a casino in which several of the characters are working. One of the ex-workers tries to get back to the casino and uses counterfeit cards. Nortic moves the story along with a nice speed, never stopping for too long on sex scenes, which are mostly worked well into the plot. The women in the book are the winners in the game, and the sadism of The Gypsy Virgin is largely missing, so this isn't as disturbing. This could've been written by a more famous paperbacker, like Harry Whittington. 

Dirty Secrets (Salaisuus in Finnish) then again is a funny expose romp in which two rivaling women's magazines are making features of a well-to-do family that's been chosen as "The Family of the Year". Under their facade, there's under-age sex, lesbianism, fetishism and other steamy stuff. Some of the sex scenes are actually quite titillating, but what's more important is that the book moves on quite fast. There's always something happening. Total Awareness is the least of the bunch, but holds some interest as a picture of its age: the middle-class couple gets acquainted with a sex cult and its charismatic leader, so it's about the aftermath of hippie culture. This one is played mainly for the sex scenes, though there are some interesting set pieces here and there, especially the one with the Chaplin comedy that's intertwined with a real couple having sex in front of the screen. 

I've been reading so much smut lately that I'm not really sure whether my judgment is reliable. But Max Nortic's books really stand out among some of the crap I've come across. Some of that crap makes me laugh, some of it makes me only bored. It would be interesting to read other people's comments on Nortic's work. Here's Dirty Secrets for Kindle, and here's The Code Name: Gypsy Virgin

But who was Max Nortic? There's a copyright notice from 1968 saying that the pseudonym belongs to one Max Citron (see?), but I can't find any info on him. Is Max Citron a pseudonym? A house name, perhaps? So, if anyone knows anything about Max Citron-Nortic, please, speak up!