I know, I know. I'm the last person in the world to see the final (supposedly) Star Wars movie. I thought it had a few nice moments and was better than the second one in this trilogy. I've never managed to stay awake all the way through that one. Overall, though, I wasn't impressed. In fact, I think this entire second trilogy has a fatal flaw: Lucas is asking us to watch three long, glacially paced, confusingly plotted movies so he can tell us a story to which we already know the ending before he ever starts. I think I would have been a lot more enthusiastic about the movies if he had gone forward instead of backward. But that's just me.
Yesterday I finished the book I've been working on, so today I gathered up all the research books and took them back to the various libraries. I own a lot of books I use for research on different subjects, but when I'm writing something like a historical novel I always have a big stack of books from the libraries, too. But the point is that while I was out, I stopped by Half Price Books and found a few decent items in their vintage paperback section, where the pickings have been pretty slim lately. I bought: THE NAKED NIGHT, a World War II novel by Dan Brennan, published by Lion Books in 1954. I'm not familiar with this author, but I like WWII novels and I also tend to pick up Lion Books when I find them. WIDOWS WON'T WAIT, by Dolores Hitchens, published by Dell, no date but I'd say late Fifties, a reprint of a mystery novel originally published in hardback under the title NETS TO CATCH THE WIND. Appears to be about the widow of a murdered cop trying to catch the killer. I've never read anything by Hitchens, but I've heard good things about her work. THE BIG HEAT, by William P. McGivern, a Pocket Books reprint probably from the early Sixties. The bag is so taped up I haven't tried to get the book out yet. I have several of McGivern's mystery novels, but not this one until now. THE SPAWN OF THE DEATH MACHINE, by Ted White, a science-fiction novel published by Paperback Library in 1968, with a Jeff Jones cover. ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, digest magazine from September 1959, with stories by Murray Leinster, Algis Budrys, and Christopher Anvil, among others. Cover by Kelly Freas. WHY SO DEAD?, by "Ellery Queen", Popular Library, 1966, and WHAT'S IN THE DARK, by "Ellery Queen", Popular Library, 1968 -- two of the books in the paperback series featuring eyepatch-wearing cop Tim Corrigan. I've never read any of these and don't remember right off-hand who actually wrote them. Paul Fairman? Talmage Powell? All I remember is that they weren't written by Fred Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, the originators of the Queen name. Not a great haul, by any means, but not bad, especially considering that most of these were a dollar and none of them were over two bucks.
Warning: Nostalgia is about to be wallowed in. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Cisco Kid TV series, for one specific reason. An episode of it was the first thing I ever watched on a color TV that belonged to my family when I was a kid. When I was growing up, we probably had more TV sets than most households in the early Sixties, because my father was a TV repairman and we always had several portables around in addition to the big console in the living room. But they were all black-and-white sets. There weren't enough shows being broadcast in color to make buying a color set worthwhile, according to my dad. But some relatives of ours had one, and I always wanted to go visit them so that I could sit in front of the set and stare in rapt fascination at BONANZA or THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY in color. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. Eventually I made a big enough pest of myself that my dad agreed to get a color TV. The day he was supposed to pick it up, I raced up the street from where the school bus dropped us off, but he wasn't there, and neither was the new TV. I had to wait another couple of hours before he finally got home with it, lugged it in (those old TVs were big and heavy), and set it up. But then it was ready, and when we turned it on, there were Cisco and Pancho, riding the range and chasing bad guys. It was a truly thrilling moment. Later in the evening we watched an episode of DANIEL BOONE, which was new at the time (the Cisco Kid was an old rerun even then), but Cisco was first. All of which is my long-winded way of saying that I picked up a dollar DVD in Wal-Mart recently that has six episodes of THE CISCO KID on it, and tonight I watched one of them, the first time I've seen an episode of this series in years, if not decades. Judging by this one, it was a dollar well-spent. The plot was fairly complex, Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo Jr. were very good as Cisco and Pancho, and the color photography, much of it shot on the familiar locations where so many TV and movie westerns were filmed, was quite good for the time period. The accents and some of the jokes were a little heavy-handed and might almost be considered racist today, but I didn't find them mean-spirited at all. Leo Carrillo Jr. was just plain funny as Pancho, but he was also a competent sidekick for Cisco, not buffoonish in his actions. I've always liked sidekicks who can handle themselves in a fistfight or shootout, and you get the sense that Pancho is really a pretty tough guy. I'm looking forward to watching the other episodes on this DVD, to see if they hold up as well as the first one.
If I was a little ambivalent toward the last Hardcase Crime book I read, Stephen King’s THE COLORADO KID, that’s not the case at all with GRIFTER’S GAME by Lawrence Block. I own a copy of the original Gold Medal edition of this novel, which was published in 1961 under the title MONA, after the beautiful young woman that the narrator, con man Joe Marlin, meets and falls for in Atlantic City while his life is already being complicated by a stolen suitcase with a fortune in uncut heroin in it. And from there, as they say, things get worse.
Though this was one of the first novels published under Block’s name, he was already a seasoned pro by 1961, having written quite a few soft-core porn novels (many of which were actually crime novels), mostly under the pseudonym Andrew Shaw. This experience shows in the writing, which is just as smooth as can be and carries the reader along quickly. Maybe the plot wasn’t quite as twisty as I expected, but it’s still compelling. And the ending is about as noirish as you’ll ever find. Dark stuff, but great.
As mentioned above, I own a copy of MONA, but I’ve never read it because it’s rather brittle and I didn’t want to damage it. This is one of the advantages of having Hardcase Crime around. Thanks to their reprint, I don’t have to take a chance with the original to enjoy this fine novel.
I confess, I like The Punisher. Yeah, I know, he’s a hokey, comic book ripoff of Mack Bolan, the Executioner, but I was a regular reader of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN when the Punisher was introduced there, and I followed the character through his other appearances in the Marvel line and in his own series, which stopped and started a time or two and included a really nice run by Chuck Dixon and John Romita, Jr. After I stopped reading comics in the late Nineties, I lost touch with the character, though.
Now that I’ve started reading the trade paperback collections of more recent comics, one that I picked up was THE PUNISHER: BUSINESS AS USUAL, which collects six issues of a Punisher series from a couple of years ago. These stories were all written by Garth Ennis, author of the bizarre but great PREACHER series, and feature art by Steve Dillon, also from PREACHER, and Darick Robertson. The Punisher is something of a globe-trotter here, with his adventures taking him from South America to New York to Belfast, Ireland. Not surprisingly, considering that they’re written by Garth Ennis, the stories are full of over-the-top violence and groan-inducing goofiness. They also team him up with Wolverine from the X-Men, one of Marvel’s most popular characters. They’re pretty entertaining in their way, and if I run across more of these collections, I’ll probably read them.
By the way, I haven’t seen either of the Punisher movies and don’t have any real desire to do so. I’m not sure the character would work anywhere except in the comics.
Well, I like the cover, which was painted by Glen Orbik . . .
Actually, there are several other things to like about this odd little book. One is the dedication, which reads: “With admiration , for DAN J. MARLOWE, author of The Name of the Game is Death: Hardest of the hardboiled.” Now, I happen to think that THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH is possibly the best hardboiled novel ever written, so I’m glad to see King mention it in a book with a wide readership. Maybe some people who pick up this book because it was written by King will go on to become Dan J. Marlowe fans. Another thing I like about THE COLORADO KID is that it’s short and reads very fast, and in these days when I don’t have as much reading time as I once did, that’s an important consideration. The characters are affable and the setting is well-drawn. But that ending . . .
In his afterword, King says that the book is about the nature of mystery in life, and that he thinks readers will either love it or hate it. I can see the first point, but the second doesn’t really apply to me. The mystery to me is whether I even like this book. I think I do, but I’m not sure. I don’t consider the time I spent reading it wasted, which has to count for something.
For those of you planning to go out tomorrow and participate in the biggest shopping day of the year, just a reminder that the first TALES FROM DEADWOOD novel is now available in finer bookstores and Wal-Marts everywhere. Just the thing for those readers on your Christmas list who enjoy extremely gritty historical fiction. Nothing like a little blatant self-promotion on a holiday, now is there?
I hope all of you had a nice Thanksgiving today. I worked on the current book, as planned, and had a pretty productive day. But I also found the time to watch part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and some of the National Dog Show (a Thanksgiving tradition in the Reasoner household). Also ate a very good turkey dinner topped off by some excellent pumpkin cheesecake. Can't beat that. I'm reading Stephen King's Hardcase Crime novel, THE COLORADO KID. Should have a few comments tomorrow.
I've been a fan of the sword and sorcery genre ever since I picked up a copy of the Lancer edition of CONAN THE USURPER at Barber's Bookstore in downtown Fort Worth sometime in the mid-Sixties. Barber's, by the way, was a great bookstore that sprawled through several floors of an old building, with new books on the ground floor and used and rare books upstairs. The kind of bookstore you don't find anymore, in other words. Barber's has been closed for quite a while, and I believe all the inventory was sold to Larry McMurtry for his store in Archer City. But to get back to sword and sorcery, I've been reading the stuff for forty years now, and there's a fine e-zine devoted to it called Flashing Swords, edited by my friend Howard Jones. There are several issues on-line, each featuring sword and sorcery stories by both new and well-established writers in the genre. The website also has a section of very good articles about the genre and the authors who have written in it. Check it out and read some good stories. Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow to those of you who celebrate it. Other than turkey dinner and maybe some football watching, I expect it'll be a pretty normal work day for me. Sometimes I take holidays off from the writing and sometimes I don't. Since I'm trying to finish up the current book this weekend, this will be one of the years that I work on Thanksgiving.
I haven't posted a pulp cover in a while, so I thought I'd put this one up. It's also featured on the WesternPulps website this week. I like this one because instead of the clean-cut hero you usually find on Western pulps, this guy is one ugly, mean-looking son of a gun. I don't know if you can make it out in the scan or not, but just below the barrel of the gun in the character's left hand is some faint pencil scribbling that reads "BW Gardner". This pulp is from the collection of the late Barry Gardner, a good friend and an absolutely wonderful fellow who was the son of Bennie Gardner, who wrote extensively for the pulps as "Gunnison Steele". Before he passed away, Barry had collected several hundred pulps with his dad's stories in them, and I wound up with the collection. Bennie Gardner wrote some very good full-length pulp Western novels, but he was really the master of the Western short-short, packing action, a credible plot, and usually a twist ending into two or three pages. Well worth reading, if you're ever flipping through a Western pulp with a Gunnison Steele story in it.
I’ve never been one to have music playing when I write, but lately for some reason I find that I have a CD going more often than not. Most of the time I’ve been alternating between Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for RED RIVER, Max Steiner’s score for KING KONG, and that DRIVE TIME compilation CD I mentioned a while back, which includes music by Tiomkin again, Elmer Bernstein, Ennio Morricone, Aaron Copland, and a few others. I’ve discovered that I really like Copland’s music, enough so that I may look for some other CDs of his work. This CD closes with a rather odd pairing of songs, the theme from “Route 66” by Nelson Riddle and “Happy Trails” by Roy and Dale. “Route 66” is one of those series I wouldn’t mind sampling again. I watched it some when it was on the air originally, but I was fairly young and have a feeling a lot of the storylines went over my head. Really like the theme song, though.
Depending on my mood I have other CDs I play. Lots of Western music, some jazz and lounge stuff, Herb Alpert (both on his own and with the Tijuana Brass), Norah Jones and Diana Krall, a Greatest Hits of Steely Dan CD, and HISTORY: AMERICA’S GREATEST HITS. Now, I’ll admit that America was a pretty cheesy band, but their “A Horse With No Name” was a huge hit the second semester of my freshman year in college, at good old Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos (now known as Texas State University). The radio station we always listened to, KRMA ( “Radio Karma”, get it? Cool!) played “A Horse With No Name” what seemed like twenty-four hours a day. When my roommate and I weren’t listening to that, we were listening to Cheech & Chong’s LP, BIG BAMBU. It’s a wonder I have any brain cells left, not because of ingesting any illegal substances, which I actually didn’t, but a steady diet of Cheech & Chong and “A Horse With No Name” can’t be good for a person. The other vivid memories I have from that year are of watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and reading comic books and Doc Savage and Nick Carter paperbacks. Just don’t ask me about any of the classes I took. On the other hand, what better preparation could a person have for a life of writing paperback fiction?
As Cap'n Bob Napier rightly points out in one of the comments to the previous post, there are also openings in OWLHOOT, the Western apa, for anyone interested in producing a Western-related fanzine. We cover a broad range of topics, including Western fiction, movies, history, toys, comic books, TV shows, and music. As with PEAPS, the mailings make for wonderful reading, highly entertaining and often very informative. You can contact Cap'n Bob through his blog to get all the details. And you should be reading his blog anyway, as it's also entertaining. I'm in the midst of yet another week where all I'm doing is sitting and writing, and my reading time has been taken up mostly by editing and polishing another manuscript. Livia and I have also been working on a pitch for a possible new series, but we haven't really gotten it into shape yet. My brain is getting a little punchy from jumping from project to project so much. Still, it's not quite as bad as when I was working on an Adult Western and a biblical novel at the same time . . .
Yesterday was my day off this week, which meant that I went to three libraries, the post office, and I don't know how many stores. A hectic day to be sure. However, the mail brought one goodie: the current mailing of PEAPS, the Pulp Era Amateur Press Society. This is one of two apas I belong to, the other being OWLHOOT, the Western apa. For those of you unfamiliar with amateur press associations, the term refers to a group of people with a similar interest (in my case, currently pulps and Westerns, and I used to be in REHupa, the Robert E. Howard apa) who produce a fanzine consisting of essays, reviews, mailing comments, etc., every quarter or so and send off the appropriate number of copies to the official editor of that particular apa, who bundles them all together and sends out mailings consisting of one copy each of every member's contribution. The arrival of the PEAPS mailing is always a highlight for me. I'll read through it at least three or four times before it's time to put together something for the next mailing. I haven't had a chance to really dig into this one yet, but it looks to be loaded with lists and bibliographic information. Membership is limited, but there are some spots open at the moment. Anyone who might be interested in joining can drop me an email, and I'll put you in touch with the editor. I also read a good pulp story called "Twenty Grand is Jack", a private eye yarn by Eugene Cunningham that appeared in an obscure pulp called BLACK BAT DETECTIVE MYSTERIES, an issue of which was recently reprinted by Adventure House (the edition I read; I sure don't own the original). I wasn't aware that Cunningham had written any private eye stories until I read this one. I knew him strictly as a Western writer, and not one of my particular favorites, either. The detective in this story is a little off-beat. He's a retired general and former soldier of fortune who was mixed up in several revolutions in Central and South America, now the owner of his own private detective agency in San Francisco. I don't know if this was a series or just a one-shot. It certainly could have worked as a series. In this case, the hero investigates an upcoming prize fight that may or may not be fixed, which leads to all sorts of dramatic action, of course. I'm still not real fond of Cunningham's choppy style, but it works pretty well here, better than in his Westerns, in fact. I liked this one well enough that it's almost prompted me to give some of Cunningham's Westerns another try, although I don't have time to do that right now. I didn't make my page count goal today, but I'm still ahead of where I have to be for the month. Just not as far ahead as I was. I'll make it up, though.
I've talked here before about Will Eisner, specifically his work on the classic comic strip The Spirit. (Of course, calling The Spirit a comic strip really isn't accurate, but it's not exactly a comic book, either . . . but I'm getting sidetracked.) TO THE HEART OF THE STORM really does deserve the name "graphic novel". Told in flashbacks as a young recruit, an artist named Willie, rides a troop train in the early days of World War II, it's the story of Eisner's own family and his childhood and adolescence growing up as an artistically talented youngster in Brooklyn and the Bronx. One of the themes is the anti-Semitism that Eisner and his family encountered, but that's hardly the whole story. This book is filled with touches that are universal to childhood: being picked on by bullies, having to care for a younger sibling, dealing with parents, etc. It's great stuff, wonderfully written and drawn, and ultimately quite moving. I highly recommend it.
The reason for the scarcity of new posts on this blog in recent days is that I haven't really done anything this week except sit in front of the computer and pound the keyboard. And since I'm one of those dinosaurs who learned to type on an actual typewriter -- and a manual one, at that -- I really do pound the keyboard. This point was brought home to me when I did some cleaning up in my studio not long ago and found the five or six keyboards I had busted over the years and neglected to throw away. They're gone now. And I didn't have any books to talk about because I've been reading the same one all week, an incredibly long novel that I wound up hating. I stuck with it because there was some good stuff in it, and then the ending just wrecked it. It's my own fault. I've been burned before by the same author, in exactly the same way. I got some pulp reprints that I'd ordered in the mail today, so I may stick with them for a while. Tonight we watched the DVD of BATMAN BEGINS. I'm a noted curmudgeon and nit-picker when it comes to movies based on comic books, but I thought this one wasn't bad. The people who made it had their hearts in the right places. There were a few things I didn't like (over and above the godawful modern-day action movie editing style), but there were enough shots that looked really right to more than make up for the problems. I do wish, though, that they'd managed to work in the "Criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot" line. It's just not a Batman origin story without it.
I think it's just shameful the way somepeople are talking about Lindsey Lohan's nipples just to increase the traffic on their blogs. You won't catch me talking about Lindsey Lohan's nipples on here, no, sir. Nor will I discuss Paris Hilton's nipples, Angelina Jolie's nipples, Reese Witherspoon's nipples, or, for the sake of diversity and equality, Antonio Banderas's nipples. So there.
Some of the first comics I ever remember reading were Westerns: THE LONE RANGER, ROY ROGERS, and GENE AUTRY. Not too long after that, an early favorite of mine was KID COLT, OUTLAW. (I wouldn't mind reading some of those again, to see how they hold up.) Over the years the popularity of Western comics has certainly come and gone, but they've never really gone away completely. In recent weeks two new Western series have debuted, both from DC. Actually, only one is completely new: LOVELESS, written by Brian Azzarello, author of the excellent, mythic crime series 100 BULLETS. LOVELESS shows a strong Spaghetti Western influence, and the plot -- former Confederate soldier comes home after the war to find his land taken over by Union soldiers and brutal carpetbaggers -- is very similar to the backstory of the long-running Slocum paperback series, as well as numerous other Western novels. It's hard to tell where the story will go from that setup, though, because things barely get underway in the first issue. As usual, Azzarello writes good dialogue, but like the TV series DEADWOOD, it's heavily laced with profanity. The other new series is actually a relaunch of an old series (and another favorite of mine), JONAH HEX. Bounty hunter Jonah Hex is also a former Confederate, a brutal man who carries as many emotional scars as he does physical ones. He starred in a long-running series of his own during the Seventies and early Eighties, and I liked most of the stories quite a bit. This new series treds pretty much the same ground, following Hex's life as a bounty hunter and gun-for-hire. Unlike LOVELESS, which is intended to be an on-going storyline, the scripts for the new JONAH HEX are self-contained and well-written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. I've read the first issues of these new series and liked them both. In addition to the rough language in LOVELESS, both books are pretty bloody and violent, so they're not for the squeamish. The art on both series is excellent, by Marcelo Frusin on LOVELESS and Luke Ross on JONAH HEX. I plan to continue reading these comics, and I'd like to see them be successful because, well, they're Westerns, and there ought to always be Western comics in the world. In my world, anyway. Now, if anybody at Marvel wants me to write a relaunch of KID COLT, OUTLAW, I'd be more than happy to talk to them . . .
This is the other half of that Ace SF Double I was reading the other day, and like Lesser's RECRUIT FOR ANDROMEDA, this early novel by Robert Silverberg, writing as Calvin M. Knox, is pretty good. It's also a good example of taking a standard plot from one genre and transplanting it to another. In hardboiled mysteries, you've sometimes got the lone government agent out to smash the dope racket in a corrupt town. In THE PLOT AGAINST EARTH, you've got the lone Terran agent out to smash the hypnojewel racket in a corrupt galaxy. A little hokey, but Silverberg makes it work just fine and his prose is always a pleasure to read. I don't know if this story was first published in one of the SF digest magazines, but it certainly seems possible, especially given the fact that the book is dedicated to Robert A.W. Lowndes, one of the magazine editors who bought a lot of Silverberg's early fiction. I like the cover on the Ace edition, which is by Valigursky, because not only is it striking but it also depicts an actual scene from the book.
At times I've felt like the last author on the planet who didn't have his or her own domain name. Well, no more. Now you can go to www.jamesreasoner.com to read about the books I've written in the past, see the books that are currently out, order autographed books, etc. There's also plenty of information there about all of Livia's books. This is actually the same website we've had for a while, but it's newly updated. The best way to contact me is still through this blog, though.
I haven't posted much about the writing lately because there just hasn't been much to say. Yesterday was a bad day, the first one I've had in a while, and today wasn't much better until late afternoon, when I finally got up a head of steam and wound up with 25 pages for the day. I have things worked out so that I know how many pages per day I have to do in order to get everything in on time, and yesterday put me in a hole. Today's output, though, shaved off a little of the deficit, and I hope to be back on track by the time the weekend is over. A couple of weeks ago I turned down the chance to pitch for a TV tie-in novel. The series in question is one I've never watched, the advance was low, and while the deadline wasn't ridiculously short, it happened to fall when I have other books due, so I knew that even if I got the job (unlikely due to my lack of familiarity with the show), I could never deliver on time. Still, even with all that going against it, the decision to not even try for it gnawed at me for a few days. I'd really like to do more tie-in work, but this just wasn't the right job at the right time. I'm reading THE PLOT AGAINST EARTH, an early SF novel by Robert Silverberg writing as Calvin M. Knox, and hope to have a few things to say about it tomorrow.
Gideon Hawk is a dedicated and highly competent lawman until a personal tragedy starts him on the vengeance trail. Frustration with a corrupt justice system turns him into a full-fledged vigilante who deals with lawbreakers on their own level. It would be easy, based on that description of the plot, to dismiss this book as Mack Bolan in the Old West, but it’s actually much more than that. With his sure-handed prose, Peter Brandvold creates a fast-paced, action-packed novel that also has a great deal of emotional depth.
It’s no coincidence that one of the characters in this novel is named DeRosso. At times in this bleak but compelling tale Brandvold almost seems to be channeling pulp and paperback author H.A. DeRosso, widely acclaimed as the master of Western noir. Brandvold has his own voice, though, influenced by comics, Spaghetti Westerns, and a strong grounding in traditional Western novels. His characters are sometimes bizarre but always well-drawn, so that even the most unsympathetic of them come across as human, and he writes great action scenes as well as having a heartbreakingly poignant touch with the quieter moments. This is a fine, fine book for readers who like their Westerns on the hardboiled side.
And here's the cover of the science-fiction digest mentioned in the previous post, with art by Malcolm Smith. Growing up, the only SF magazines I ever saw were ANALOG, AMAZING, and THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION. I never knew IMAGINATION and its companion magazine IMAGINATIVE TALES existed until Bill Crider told me about them. Since then I've been picking up issues on eBay every now and then, and I've enjoyed every one of them.
This short novel was originally published in the July 1953 issue of the science-fiction digest IMAGINATION, under the title “Voyage to Eternity”. It was reprinted six years later as half of Ace Double D-358 as RECRUIT FOR ANDROMEDA. By the way, I think the magazine title is much better than the book title.
The plot won’t contain many surprises for anybody who has read much science-fiction. Approximately every two years, a certain number of healthy young males between the ages of 21 and 26 are selected in a national lottery and drafted to serve in some top-secret project. Supposedly a system is in place to rotate these men back out of the service, but in reality they all disappear and none of them ever come back. This has led the public to dub the project the Nowhere Journey (which also would have made an okay title). Unknown to anyone in America, the Communist empire in Russia has a similar project going on. Lesser cuts back and forth between an American draftee and a Russian one, and you know they’ll wind up butting heads sooner or later. Bit by bit, the reader is let in on the secrets of the Nowhere Journey, and everything finally comes together in a slam-bang space battle.
I’ve been aware for a long time that Stephen Marlowe, the author of the Gold Medal series about hardboiled private eye Chester Drum, was really Milton Lesser and that he started off writing science-fiction. Only in recent years, though, have I actually started to read some of Lesser’s SF and found out just how much of it he really wrote. He consistently turned out smooth, entertaining prose no matter what the genre, and that’s the case in this novel. Interestingly, there’s a little story-within-the-story in this book that echoes some of Lesser’s Gold Medal work as Marlowe. Although dated and fairly predictable, RECRUIT FOR ANDROMEDA is worth reading.