seen Robert Barnard's books around for many years but never read any of them.
So with this being Robert Barnard Week on Forgotten Books, I gave one a
try...then another, and another. I didn't like or finish any of them, so sadly
I have to say that Barnard just isn't an author for me. However, I thought that
I still ought to read a mystery novel by a British author, and Alan G. Yates
was born in England, right?
So that brings us to THE DEEP COLD GREEN, another entry in the long-running
series written by Yates (and possibly a few ghosts) under the name Carter
Brown. The Carter Brown books feature several different characters, and this
one stars the one who's probably my favorite, police lieutenant Al Wheeler. As
a bonus, it has a nice McGinnis cover, as most of the Carter Brown books from
that era do.
As the book opens, Al is in Reno, Nevada, on his way back to his hometown of
Pine City from a vacation. A beautiful redhead named Tracy barges into his room
looking for a ride back to Pine City, but hot on her heels are a couple of
bruisers who have come to take her back to her husband, professional gambler
and casino owner Dane Tenison. They back off when they find out Al is a cop. Al
and Tracy leave Reno together, but Tracy promptly disappears after they spend
one night together. According to the motel clerk, she left on her own in a
rental car, so Al doesn't think there's anything suspicious about her
Back in Pine City, though, a body washes up on the beach a week later, and
wouldn't you know it? The dead woman is Tracy Tenison. Or is she? Al quickly
discovers that Tracy has a lookalike sister named Louise. It appears that
Louise was only pretending to be Tracy back in Reno, because in actuality she
was carrying on an affair with her sister's husband.
After that, things start to get a little complicated.
The Carter Brown books don't have much of a reputation anymore, but they
usually featured complex plots that provided a genuine challenge for whichever
detective was in that book to figure out. Most of the time, they even made
sense. This tale involving several beautiful women, a murder frame-up, and the
world of professional high-stakes gambling races right along in Yates'
smart-alecky prose to an action-packed finale at sea. He even tries to put in a
few poetic touches here and there and for the most part succeeds. Al Wheeler is
a likable narrator/hero, and I always enjoy his adventures.
THE DEEP COLD GREEN was published in 1968, and it's a little more graphic
sexually than the earlier Carter Brown books but not as pornographic as the
ones from the Seventies. The whole Swinging Sixties atmosphere makes it read a
little like a historical novel now. It's hard to believe more than forty years
have passed since then. One thing hasn't changed, though: I read and enjoyed
Carter Brown books back in those days, and from time to time I still do. This
one's worth checking out if you're a fan and haven't read it yet.
Peter Madsen became a priest to atone for a life of violence and a wartime tragedy and thought he had put away his gun for good. But then a grief-stricken young woman who's like a daughter to him sets out on a quest of vengeance, and Madsen is forced to take up the gun again as he sets out to save her from herself.
What Madsen doesn't know is that he's about to walk into a dangerous web of tangled emotions—lust, greed, hatred, and more—that will culminate in a shocking crime and a deadly showdown on the dusty street of a frontier town.
This classic novel now available again from Rough Edges Press demonstrates once more why Ed Gorman is one of the most acclaimed Western authors of all time. His tough, spare narrative voice, his painfully human characters, and his sure grasp of storytelling make VENDETTA a compelling reading experience.
(This post originally appeared in slightly different form on June 19, 2006.)
My daughter Joanna is a fan of Cary Grant movies, so we picked up a DVD that has both TOPPER and TOPPER RETURNS on it. I always liked the Topper TV series from the Fifties, which I watched in syndicated reruns during the Sixties. I've read some of the novels by Thorne Smith, too. I'd seen TOPPER, but the last time was many years ago. Sad to say, watching it now, it hasn't aged that well. Cary Grant is always good, of course, and Roland Young was a good character actor. But the film, while whimsical at times, just isn't very funny and meanders along at a slow pace.
I'd never seen TOPPER RETURNS and didn't really know anything about it, so I was surprised when I saw that Cary Grant wasn't in it. In fact, the only actors who return are Roland Young as Cosmo Topper and Billie Burke as his wife Clara. The credits open with a mysterious shadowy figure and dramatic music, as if this is a mystery movie rather than a comedy. Then I see that the screenplay is by Jonathan Latimer, the hardboiled mystery novelist, and Gordon Douglas, better known as the director of numerous action-packed Western, mystery, and adventure movies. Needless to say, my interest perked up. TOPPER RETURNS is indeed a mystery movie (with humor) rather than a comedy. Topper himself is an incidental character for much of the film, which centers around two young women visiting the creepy old house that one of them is about to inherit -- if she can live long enough to do so. Early on it becomes obvious that somebody is trying to kill one of them.
If TOPPER was too slow, the same can't be said of TOPPER RETURNS. There's a heck of a lot packed into the movie's fairly short running time. We get Joan Blondell as a cute, brassy ghost; Carole Landis as the blond bombshell who's the intended victim of the murder plot; snappy, hardboiled patter from rugged Dennis O'Keefe; a masked killer who sports a slouch hat and cloak that make him look a little like The Shadow; George Zucco (the poor man's Bela Lugosi) as a sinister doctor; secret passages, trapdoors, and revolving walls; a cavern with a hidden boat landing (one of the sure signs, along with quicksand, of a really good movie); and to top it all off, a fine performance by Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, one of the greatest second bananas of all time. I had a wonderful time watching this movie.
Allen Anderson is best known for the pulp covers he painted for Fiction House, but here's one he did for a detective pulp from Periodical House, which appears to be one of A.A. Wyn's imprints, judging by the Ace logo on the cover. The heavy hitters among the writers in this issue are G.T. Fleming-Roberts, who wrote many of the best Secret Agent X novels, the extremely prolific Norman Daniels who went on to be a prolific paperback author as well, and Robert Turner. The best title in the issue, though, as far as I'm concerned, goes to Ted Stratton's "Slugs Along the Mohawk". I want to read that one!
Rafael de Soto was still doing pulp covers as late as 1960, and RANCH ROMANCES was one of the few pulps still around by then. This looks like a fairly gritty issue, with stories by Joseph Chadwick, W.J. Reynolds, Leslie Ernenwein, and Joe Archibald. The Chadwick and Ernenwein stories are reprints from THRILLING RANCH STORIES and TEXAS RANGERS, respectively. I saw issues of RANCH ROMANCES on the stands now and then when I was a kid, although I never bought one, of course. My mistake.
(This post originally appeared in slightly different form on November 17, 2007.)
A while back I read and enjoyed Richard Matheson’s first suspense novel, SOMEONE IS BLEEDING, originally published by Lion Books in 1953. Now I’ve read his second novel, FURY ON SUNDAY, also published by Lion in 1953, and I liked it even better.
I have a fondness for books that take place in a short period of time. Everything in FURY ON SUNDAY happens during a four-hour span, in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. The plot is pretty simple: crazed pianist Vincent Radin escapes from the insane asylum where he’s locked up and sets out to kill the two people who have most wronged him, his former manager and the man who wound up marrying the woman Vincent was in love with when he went mad. Matheson cuts back and forth relentlessly between this handful of characters, creating a very effective atmosphere of suspense. His prose is pared right down to the bone, as it needs to be in a book of this type where the pacing is so important. It works here, whereas I thought the writing was rushed and sketchy at times in SOMEONE IS BLEEDING.
This novel is rare in its original edition but easily available in the Forge Books omnibus NOIR. It’s well worth reading.