Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Zero Cool -- John Lange

I remember seeing the original editions of this book and others by John Lange, who was really Michael Crichton, but even though they seem like the sort of book I would have read back in the Sixties and Seventies, somehow I never got around to them. Now with Hard Case Crime bringing some of the John Lange titles back into print, I get a chance to read them without having to hunt up those pricey original editions.

ZERO COOL is more of a thriller than a mystery, although its protagonist, radiologist Peter Ross, has plenty of mystifying things to figure out during the course of the book. He’s in Spain where he’s supposed to present a paper at a medical convention, when he gets involved with a beautiful young Englishwoman, assorted Spanish and Italian and Arab villains, an American who wears buckskins like a frontiersman, and a corpse that goes missing after Ross is kidnapped and forced to perform an unorthodox surgical procedure on it. Everything is fast and breezy and a little over-the-top from the get-go, and the book becomes more bizarre as it goes along. I should have loved it.

But from all the good reviews I’ve read, I seem to be the only person who didn’t care much for this book. It’s not bad, mind you. I found it to be sort of entertaining, but I didn’t care much for the hero and despite the fast pace of the prose itself I thought the plot took ’way too long to develop. The first half of the book is a bit repetitious with the various gangs of hoodlums taking turns kidnapping and/or threatening Ross. The second half, where things actually start to move the story forward, is better. But Ross is still a dumb and not very sympathetic hero.

I enjoyed ZERO COOL enough so that I’ll certainly read Hard Case’s other John Lange reprint, GRAVE DESCEND, which I also have. I hope I like it better.


Nathan Cain said...

I skipped this one because I didn't care for Grave Descend very much. It wasn't a terrible book, but it wasn't good either. Very Blah.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Hey James! Speaking of Zero Cool, did you catch this interview yesterday with Hard Case Crimes author and co-founder Charles Ardai?


I found it very entertaining and thought you might be interested.

Randy Johnson said...

I've read five of the Langes. Easily, the best is The Last Tomb(Easy Go). An unknown tomb found in Egypt. A team comes together with an intricate plan to spirit the treasures out of the country.

Paul Bishop said...

Any Idea if there is any truth to the rumor that John Lange was a psydonym for Michael Crighton?

James Reasoner said...

I think Crichton has acknowledged that he wrote the John Lange books.

Todd Mason said...

I'll belatedly pop in and add that John Lange, a professor who has published extensively, mostly fetishist novels in the "Gor" series, as "John Norman," just confuses this matter. Apparently, Crichton's use of Lange was a complete coincidence.