Six full length detective novels with a mix of longtime bestselling mystery authors and some new to the genre. This set includes James Reasoner’s legendary debut novel TEXAS WIND. Originally published in 1980, TEXAS WIND has been acclaimed as one of the finest private eye novels ever written. DEVIL IN A CAGE is a classic private eye novel by renowned action/adventure author W.L. Fieldhouse. Featuring a compelling protagonist in John Weller, a complex plot, sheer storytelling energy, insightful social commentary, and a vivid portrait of Las Vegas that could only be provided by an insider like Fieldhouse. A powerful novel of crime and detection. Multi award winning novel WILD NIGHT is a historical detective novel. In the 1920's Lucas Hallam was something of a legend: a Texas Ranger turned Pinkerton agent turned Hollywood P.I. And when the occasion arose, Hallam mounted up again and rode with Tom Mix, William S. Hart, and the other famous movie cowboys of the silent era. He didn't think of his past often, and it was the furthest thing from his mind when he went into Chuckwalla, California, hoping to turn the ghost town into a movie set . . . even when the two men started shooting at him. SOME DIE HARD is legendary mystery and thriller author Stephen Mertz's first novel, originally published in paperback nearly forty years ago and long out of print. Part hardboiled private eye yarn, part classic novel of detection (with a locked-room mystery unlike any other), SOME DIE HARD is pure entertainment. In TRIPL3 CROSS, veteran author John Hegenberger spins a yarn that is both an exciting thriller and a compelling piece of "noirstalgia", expertly recreating a sense of late-Eighties paranoia and double-dealing and painting a vivid picture of Washington and Cuba during that era, as well as saving a shocking twist for the very end. Acclaimed, bestselling historical novelist James J. Griffin makes a stunning debut as an author of contemporary thrillers with MURDER AMONG THE CLOUDS. Fast-paced, populated with compelling, intriguing characters, and filled with fascinating police procedure and breathtaking suspense.
What a great bizarre cover by Norman Saunders on this issue of TEN DETECTIVE ACES. I wonder if the story by G.T. Fleming-Roberts lives up to it. He was a pretty good writer most of the time. Other good writers in this issue are Lawrence Treat and John A. Saxon, plus a number of other authors I haven't heard of.
That's a colorful, eye-catching cover on this issue of the long-running WESTERN NOVELS AND SHORT STORIES. Once you get past that action-packed scene, there are stories by Walker A. Tompkins, Joseph Chadwick, Dean Owen, Ray Townsend, and a few other lesser-known writers. WESTERN NOVELS AND SHORT STORIES was considered a third-string Western pulp, at best, but most of the time it had pretty good writers in its pages.
This guy Orrie Hitt can really write, see? This book
here called THE WIDOW, it’s about a tough guy named Jerry who gets fired from
his job building a highway, so he goes to work washing dishes and sweeping out
at this crappy café that’s got some crappy tourist cabins with it. It’s a lousy
job, but Jerry’s okay with it because there’s this girl named Linda who’s
married to the son of the old lady who owns the place, and she’s a real babe.
Then there’s this other girl named Norma, and she used to work as a nude model,
so you know she’s gorgeous, but she’s also really nice and would just as soon
put all that behind her. So Jerry likes both of ’em and figures, well, why the
hell not, he’ll just make a play for both of them and see what happens. But
then Linda’s husband, who’s a hotrodder, wrecks his jalopy and kills himself,
which means Linda’s a widow now, and you know how widows are, and at the same
time Jerry finds out that the land where the café and the cabins are is
actually worth a bundle, and if something was to happen to the old lady, hey,
Jerry might be able to get his hands on some of that dough and get one or both
of the girls to boot . . .
Well, you gotta read it to find out what happens, but this guy Hitt is good, I
tell you, pal. You should pick up a copy.
Do some people collect noose covers? Surely they do. No matter what sort of cover is on a pulp, somebody somewhere collects that kind. I don't collect noose covers, but I do have a real fondness for THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE and have never read a novel featuring the character that I didn't enjoy. The Phantom novel in this issue, "Master of the World", is by Norman A. Daniels writing under the Robert Wallace house-name, and there are also stories by long-time pulp author/editor Anthony M. Rud and two authors better known for their Westerns, Allan K. Echols and A. Leslie Scott, writing as A. Leslie this time around. Quite a few Phantom Detective novels have been reprinted, and I need to round up some more of them.
Like all the other Popular Publications Western pulps, .44 WESTERN had good covers, evocative story titles, and top-notch authors. The biggest names in this issue are Giff Cheshire and Tom Roan, but Max Kesler, Harold F. Cruickshank, and Rolland Lynch were all prolific, well-regarded pulpsters. Kesler wrote quite a few oil field stories, which I nearly always like. This looks like a good solid issue.
I like to read a good sea-going adventure novel now and
then, even though I’m about as much of a landlubber as you’ll ever find. Boats
and I do not mix. Similarly, I like aviation fiction, too, even though I’ve
been in a plane twice in my life, hated it, and will never go up again if I can
avoid it. But to get back to the sea, I recently read RICHARD BOLITHO,
MIDSHIPMAN, the first novel (chronologically, not publication order) in a
long-running series that was written by Douglas Reeman under the pseudonym
Alexander Kent. I’ve seen these books around for years but have never tried one
until now. Based on my enjoyment of this one, I’ll be reading more.
This novel is set in 1772, as sixteen-year-old Richard Bolitho is about to set
sail as a midshipman (not exactly an officer, but a higher rank than common
sailor) on His Majesty’s ship Gorgon,
a huge vessel that carries 74 cannon. Despite his young age, Bolitho is an
experienced midshipman, having gone off to sea when he was twelve because
that’s what the males in his family do. His grandfather was an admiral and his
father was a ship’s captain, and great things are expected of him as well. The Gorgon is going to patrol off the east
coast of Africa and search for pirates who have been plaguing shipping in the
It comes as no surprise that Bolitho and the Gorgon encounter those pirates, but before they do, Reeman provides
a vivid and interesting look at life aboard ship during this era. Bolitho makes
both friends and enemies and proves to be a likable protagonist. I enjoyed this
part of the book, but the pace gets a welcome kick in the pants when the Gorgon comes across an abandoned ship
that’s been looted by the pirates they’re after. This leads them on the
corsairs’ stronghold, an old castle on the African coast.
There are good action scenes on both land and sea with plenty of hacking and
slashing, and you know I always like a good swordfight. Reeman leaves the door
open at the end for a sequel, and I’m eager to read it. Best of all for my
tastes, RICHARD BOLITHO, MIDSHIPMAN is no bloated, overlong historical epic. It’s
a nice, brisk action yarn that’s probably not much more than 50,000 words. If
the other books hold to this pattern, I’ll definitely continue with the series.
"The Best in New Detective Fiction", this cover from MYSTERY BOOK MAGAZINE proclaims, and I think they could make a persuasive argument. Inside this issue are "The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches" by Fredric Brown, also known as one of the famous Dell 10 Cent Books (see below), as well as stories by John D. MacDonald, Philip Ketchum, D.L. Champion (creator of the long-running Phantom Detective series), the house-name John L. Benton, and a couple of authors I've never heard of, Jonathan Joseph and Bryant Ford. I don't know if that's actually the best, but it's pretty darned good.
Bill S. Ballinger is one of those mystery authors I’ve
been aware of for decades without ever reading much by him. I recall reading a
couple of his espionage novels featuring secret agent Joaquin Hawks back in the
Sixties, but I couldn’t tell you anything about them. However, I just read his
early suspense novel PORTRAIT IN SMOKE, which Stark House is reprinting in a
double volume along with the novel THE LONGEST SECOND, and I can see why it has
a reputation as an excellent novel.
To start with, Ballinger uses a technique that I hardly ever like, alternating
between first and third person, but makes it work really well. The first person
sections are narrated by Danny April (great name), who runs a low-rent
collections agency in Chicago. In an old file from long before he bought the
agency, he finds a photograph of a beautiful young girl named Krassy
Almauniski. And to put it simply, he becomes infatuated with her, all because
she reminds him of a girl he saw once when he was a young man but never talked
to. Love at first sight? Maybe, but certainly obsession at first sight. Danny
starts trying to find her, or at least find out what happened to her, and these
parts of the novel form a top-notch procedural yarn as Danny traces out the
details of Krassy’s life, step by step.
At the same time, in the third person sections, Ballinger gives the truth about
Krassy’s life, as opposed to Danny’s somewhat skewed view. This part of the
book reads more like a naturalistic novel about a young woman’s determined
climb out of the poverty and squalor of Chicago’s stockyards district all the
way to the heights of wealth and power, no matter what it takes. It’s
inevitable that these two storylines will intersect eventually, and when they
do, that’s when PORTRAIT IN SMOKE becomes a noirish crime novel with a very
nice twist ending.
Ballinger’s writing is smooth and polished, and his control over the
complex plot really had me turning the pages. This one hits the mark all the
way around for me with the writing, the pace, the plot, and the compelling
characters. Highly recommended.