Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Monday, October 18, 2021
Invisible Fences begins in the post-hippie 1970s and features a young boy named Nathan and his slightly older sister Pam. Their mother suffers from agoraphobia, the fear of the outside. Her sickness leaves a deep etching in Nathan and Pam's growth. The idea of an "invisible fence" is created by their father through the use of scary stories or horrifying events that securely keep the family from exposure to the horrors of the outdoors.
As the narrative advances through the years, it's an emotional roller coaster through Nathan's childhood and eventually the transition into adulthood. As a man, Nathan is now experiencing a hefty emotional weight related to something from his past. He also is burdened with taking care of his parents, which leads to some recollections of his early childhood and the things that happened.
For the most part, Invisible Fences is revealed to readers through a murky, broken looking glass. That is the main reason this 150-page novel works so well. It requires some imagination from the reader while also forcing them to arrive at their own conclusions. Was there something evil outside? Did Nathan and Pam's parents protect them for a reason? Or, was it all a cautionary tale from challenged parents? Prentiss asks these questions in a subtle and clever way. The book's emphasis on growing and evolving is important. Invisible Fences forces us all to face dark truths.
As a short novel, Invisible Fences is extraordinary. If you love dark, emotional rides that span a lifetime, then Norman Prentiss will amaze you with his storytelling gift. This was a non-stop page turner. Highly recommended.
Friday, October 15, 2021
The book's narrative includes a Russian submarine firing on Alaska in retaliation for Moscow's bombing. The submarine Commander hears an urgent message broadcast by John Connor (the series hero). The radio message explains Skynet's hostile takeover and the need for humanity to unite to combat the machines. Later, the Commander and his crew team up with the Resistance forces to fight Skynet.
The events in the book occur over a 15 year period. Additionally, Cox's narrative also simultaneously presents events in 2015 from the perspective of a Russian resistance force in the Alaskan wilderness. They are attempting to destroy a Skynet train that is transporting uranium to Canada to improve weapons.
The book describes some awesome scenes of T-600 machines fighting the Russians in the snow and forest. I think this would have looked fantastic on film while also presenting a different look to the franchise. The book also includes the familiar Hunter-Killer machines and some really unique snowmobile Terminators - T-600 torsos mounted on snowmobile treads.
Greg Cox is no stranger to movie and television tie-in novels. He has authored books in franchises like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, Underworld, Roswell and many others. I felt that with Cold War, Cox was able to deliver an alternative look at the Terminator machines while still creating an action-packed story. If you are a fan of these films or graphic novels, you should find this book enjoyable.
Thursday, October 14, 2021
In the opening chapters, Barry and Maureen move from Los Angeles into a gated suburban community in Utah. Upon moving into their new house, Barry and Maureen receive a book of "conditions, compliance and restrictions" regarding the Homeowners Association that they are required to comply with. Unfortunately, with the hustle and bustle of moving in and becoming situated in their new home, the couple fails to read it. They are later shocked when they discover what type of community they are residing in.
The HOA contract prohibits the two from hosting any minorities in their house. Caucasian is the only prohibited race. Additionally, no one that is gay is allowed to be residents or guests in the community. Further, both Barry and Maureen are prohibited from reproducing offspring. The two quickly find that they aren't allowed to work from home (Barry is a writer). They also find that they must arise bright and early to clear off any pine cones, dead grass, twigs and branches from their property each day. They are prohibited from planting any shrubs, they aren't allowed to paint and they can't include any family photos as home decor.
These outrageous rules and regulations require that each house must have a camera inside that is monitored by the HOA. Barry and Maureen are subjected to sexual harassment and the HOA is allowed to use deadly force whenever a resident breaks the rules. The local police aren't allowed jurisdiction inside, prompting a legal war between the town and the HOA.
Like Little's The Store (1998), The Policy (2003) and The Resort (2004), The Association follows the same formula - corporations wielding authority on unsuspecting people. The novel's sadism is turned down compared to Little's other works, but there are still some violent and unsettling scenes for readers. If you are familiar with this author, you'll find no surprises. The Association is a disturbing horror novel with a unique perspective on home buying.
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
In 1950, Bruno Fischer became a success story with his bestselling novel House of Flesh. Prior to that, Fischer was concentrating on writing full-length mysteries while also contributing to the dime magazines and pulps. He authored hundreds of stories in the 1930s and 1940s for magazines like Dime Mystery, Dime Detective, and Black Mask. I recently located a July, 1946 issue of Mammoth Detective and was happy to find a Bruno Fischer story inside.
Fischer's "Cop with Wings" is a 5,600 word short story with illustrations by H.W. McCauley. In the story, Van Sheridan is the protagonist, a bold detective sergeant working in a crime-infested town. The city's town hall and most of the businesses and interworking are controlled by a savvy criminal named Peter Holland. Sheridan has butted heads with Holland before, but on this night it's over something unexpected.
Tonight, Van Sheridan and his girlfriend Emily are in Peter's house asking for his marriage blessing. Confused? Emily is Peter's daughter. Van Sheridan is forced to swallow his pride, accept a partial defeat, and ask his nemesis for a marriage blessing. Peter is outraged by the request and angrily advises Emily that she won't receive a penny of his fortune if she marries Van Sheridan. Further, Peter swears that he controls the city's police force and that Van Sheridan will be fired. After the heated argument, Emily asks Van Sheridan to leave the house and that she will discuss the affair with Peter alone.
As Van Sheridan is leaving the house, he overhears Peter telling Emily that she is "messing around with other men..." Contemplating the accusation, Van Sheridan strolls the streets and decides to go back to the house. In the drive, Van Sheridan overhears Peter yelling at someone before the booming sound of a gunshot. Racing into the house, Van Sheridan discovers Emily is standing over a dead man. Shockingly, he also sees Peter holding the smoking gun.
This was such an effective story and Fischer's writing is top-notch. I found the character development as a smooth presentation that changed the roles significantly by the story's end. Fischer's ability to transform this simple "whodunit" into a riveting mystery is reliant on the key statement of "...other men." Just that simple piece of dialogue creates a completely different narrative. The reader is aligned with Emily, but then doubt and suspicion quickly sweep in to create emotional confusion. This is just brilliant writing and I loved the way it was presented. You can read this story for free HERE.
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
By the middle of the 20th century, publishers began experimenting with their consumers by offering different formats for books. Instead of relying on a slim comic book, the idea of a "graphic novel" developed. The idea was to offer more text and story, essentially creating a longer comic book narrative. These new graphic novels wouldn't possess the standard internal advertisements and predominantly were one-shots. They weren't necessarily part of a long, continuous series. With this new marketing, the dominant paperback publisher of the time decided to test the waters.
In 1950, Fawcett Gold Medal published their one and only graphic novel, Mansion of Evil. This 129th Gold Medal paperback was authored by Joseph Millard, a talented writer who wrote science-fiction, mystery, and westerns. His most popular literary work was the Man with No Name, an eight book series of westerns based on the three Spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood.
In a clear tribute to author Brett Halliday (real name Davis Dresser), Millard's protagonist in Mansion of Evil is Beth Halliday. She works as an exhibitor at Melton's Art Gallery. Her fiance is a high-profile reporter named Larry Brennan. Beth's most recent art auction is the work of a notable painter named Maxwell Haimes. The artist stays out of the spotlight and remains secretive to many of his closest associates.
When Beth and Haimes are introduced, Haimes becomes excitable and slightly unstable. He advises Beth that she resembles his former wife. Additionally, he explains that his former wife, who was accused as a gold digger, was run off by his agent, leaving him heartbroken. A large portrait painting of her is left unfinished, but due to the remarkable resemblance Beth has to his wife, he can use her as a model to finish this masterpiece.
In a fast-paced sequence of events, Haimes grabs Beth and promises to pay her $500 if she will quickly accompany him to his studio to finish the painting. Beth accepts the proposal, but becomes frightened when Haimes advises that she will be gone a few days and that she can't return to her apartment to pack any of her belongings. Escalating the fear, Haimes drives Beth to a mansion in the country - a mansion that he claims no one knows he owns.
Millard's mystery novel is a combination of suspense and horror with an overlapping central question - who is Laura? Readers are teased throughout the narrative as Haimes continues to refer to Beth as "Laura". Soon, Beth is spiraling into a sea of chaos as Haimes promises two associates that he will be throwing Beth down a massive staircase to prove her death was an accident. When a nurse sedates her, Beth realizes she's about to die in this mansion of evil.
Millard's problem is that he doesn't provide enough information to keep the reader hooked. He ends each chapter with some captivating event that suggests all will be revealed in the next chapter. But, Millard hesitates to offer any answers to so many puzzling questions. It's written as though readers are waiting a full month before the next issue. Instead, it's just a page turn to the next chapter. I'm not sure why the story was structured this way or the reason why Millard leaves the carrot dangling for so long. By the time everything is revealed, I had lost all vested interest.
If you love mysteries where readers are totally baffled by the events for two-thirds of the book, then Mansion of Evil will please you. I needed something more to keep the pages turning. Instead of answers, there were just more questions. No thanks. You can read this book for free HERE.
Monday, October 11, 2021
Friday, October 8, 2021
Thursday, October 7, 2021
The first thing you need to know is that Reckless was written for the 1970s and 1980s men's action-adventure and crime-fiction fans. If you love David Morrell, Robert B. Parker, Jon Messman, and Lawrence Block, Reckless is for YOU. The basic premise is quite simple. Ethan Reckless is the lone hero who performs complicated tasks for money. It's not that different than the 1940s and 1950s private-eye books, but Reckless isn't a licensed detective and he is mostly working illegally. Reckless is similar to Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder character in that regard. The icing on the cake is that these books are set in California in the early 1980s.
Ethan Reckless became an FBI agent in the early 1970s. In flashback scenes, Brubaker explains that Reckless was working undercover to infiltrate a group of Vietnam War protesters. Mostly these groups were peaceful, but this particular assembly is planning on bombing large portions of the city. When Reckless attempts to stop a bombing, he's caught in the blast. The explosion creates some facial scarring and Reckless loses portions of his memory. After that incident, Reckless eventually finds himself at odds with his fellow FBI colleagues. He eventually quit with three years of pension. Once that ran out, Reckless began solving problems for people. In the early days he describes his "office" as just him and his surfboard.
Fast-forward to Los Angeles in 1981 and Reckless now works out of an old abandoned theater. He has a phone number that people can call to report their problems. His female punk rock assistant handles the calls and offers Reckless the job selections. Reckless is shocked when Rainy advises him that someone on the phone is asking for Donovan Rush. This was his old undercover name when he was working the protest bombings.
After obtaining a time and place, Reckless arrives at a roadside diner to find that his old flame Rainy is the one asking for him. She was one of the protesters that Reckless fell in love with prior to the explosion. She explains that she was involved in a bank robbery in 1974. The group stashed the money with a promise that they would all lie low for a few years until the heat died down. Once she was able to locate her partner, Rainy learned that the money is gone and he's now living a posh life in northern California. She wants Reckless to retrieve the $100,000 she's owed from the robbery.
Reckless is a stylish throwback to the books we read, review, and love here at Paperback Warrior. It's smack-dab right in our wheelhouse. This first volume is 150 pages and is just a well-written, action-packed narrative with plenty of twists and turns. The art is exceptional with plenty of violent details - this isn't for the squeamish. The bank heist is really just a small portion of the book, instead the storyline weaves in and out of the FBI investigation, CIA drug runners, a phenomenal origin, sex, and a gritty, Hell-bent revenge angle. If you've been reading Paperback Warrior reviews (or listening to the show), trust me when I tell you to read this book. You won't be disappointed.
Note - The second volume of the series is called Friend of the Devil and is set in Los Angeles in 1985. Like the first volume, there's retroactive storytelling from the 1960s and 1970s that play a prominent role in the 1985 job. The third book is called Destroy All Monsters and will be released in October of 2021.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
After the Civil War, Dan Morgan headed west to carve out a frontier living. In Wyoming, Morgan finds a beautiful stretch of wilderness and starts building a home. After clearing land, planting potatoes and constructing a small cottage, Morgan bought horses and livestock. After settling in, two gunmen step onto his property and shoot him. The men burn the cabin and steal his animals.
Shocked by the heinous events, Morgan is left with nothing and forced to walk through the wilderness. He had previously stumbled on an old wagon road and a widowed woman named Cora. At that time, Cora explained that her husband had been killed and that she had no place else to go. She defiantly declined Morgan's help and settled in to wait for help by her wagon. Unarmed, with no supplies or horse, Morgan makes his way back to Cora's wagon to ask for assistance.
Morgan and Cora make a deal. She will provide him everything she has...but herself. In exchange for the horse, wagon, supplies, and valuable gun, the two will form a business partnership. She will help Morgan rebuild in exchange for 50% of the farm's eventual profits. Between a rock and a hard place, Morgan accepts the deal. After the two rebuild the cabin and begin to settle in, the riders come after Morgan again. This time, Morgan and Cora flee to Wyoming City as their cabin and supplies burn again.
Ketchum is a fantastic storyteller and I was glued to the action and propulsive plot. Morgan's desperation to make a living in a rugged wilderness is admirable. When he finds that a land baron named Gilby is cheating potential landowners, the book's second half ratchets up the gunfire and intensity.
Perhaps the most intriguing portion of Ketchum's presentation is the role Cora plays. Unlike Louis L'Amour, Ketchum places more responsibility and value on his female characters. Instead of the traditional hero coming to the aid of the widowed woman, Ketchum spins the narrative. Cora and Ketchum don't immediately have a romantic relationship (if ever), but instead are relying on each other as 50/50 business partners. Cora is iron-willed, independent to a fault, and a tremendous fighter. In the mid-20th century, western authors didn't place a strong emphasis on female characters. I really liked Ketchum's "against the grain" direction.
Overall, Wyoming is a fantastic western chock-full of violence, action, mystery, and a unique character development. It also questions the protagonist - is he vengeful or self-righteous? While not as crafty, I think Ketchum is comparable to Arnold Hano. The two authors have a more abstract presentation of the traditional western formula.
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
After The Fade is a novella constructed around the question, "what happens after the music fades?" Is the silence an outro or really an intro? How comfortable are we with the thick silence after the fade?
Malfi presents these questions with an idea that certainly is influenced by the age old concept of taking average people and putting them in extraordinary circumstances.
Monday, October 4, 2021
"Demons in Darkness" is presented in first-person narration from Mason, a young man living in the small town of Tarrington, Rhode Island. Mason is working in a cozy hotel when a guest appears asking for accommodations. The man is dressed in a long black cloak and signs the register as Blake. Mason's boss Lucas seems to be hypnotized by Blake immediately. Who is this strange guest?
When Mason discovers that Blake's suitcase is actually a coffin, he begins to rely on vampire mythology. After a daytime investigation, he learns that Blake is actually the iconic, fiendish Transylvanian vampire known as...Dracula. Mason discovers that Blake/Dracula has hypnotized part of the small town on a quest to find the location of an old abandoned mill. In the backstory, Mason explains the significance of the mill and its rumored connection to the supernatural. Will this small Rhode Island town host an epic showdown between the living and the dead?
Conway's story is a rich, traditional horror tale that features one of the most iconic vampires of all-time. Since Marvel is the parent company, this version of Dracula is the same one featured in the admired, lengthy comic series The Tomb of Dracula (1972-1979). Mason's first-person narration is written in a way that matches the character's young age, making this a more personal account of these horrifying events. If you loved Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1975) or the film Fright Night (1985), "Demons in Darkness" is a must-read.
Friday, October 1, 2021
After his mother died, Rye Tyler and his father join a wagon train journey across the harsh Midwest. During the trip, Rye's father is murdered by Native Americans after being abandoned. A savvy and experienced cowboy takes Rye under his wing and mentors him into manhood. Rye learns how to shoot, fast-draw, hunt, play poker and farm, all of the necessary skills a young man must possess to survive in the late 1800s. Eventually Rye meets a young girl named Liza and the two develop an enduring friendship.
After shooting a man in self-defense, Rye is forced into a life of solitude in the mountains. L'Amour's narrative allows readers to follow Rye's transformation from innocent boy to hardened frontiersman. Rye's fast-draw earns him a deadly reputation that he re-enforces in numerous towns. Rye's life becomes a prosperous one as he joins a cattle drive, becomes a cattle owner, and then later becomes a town marshall. But, his true quest is locating Liza's whereabouts. When he learns she has been taken by outlaws, Rye becomes a savage hunter.
At 143 pages, To Tame a Land feels more epic than its shorter length. In many ways it's the proverbial coming-of-age story, the traditional "make a man out of him" through violence and upheaval. I found that L'Amour's writing seemed misplaced with many storylines and outcomes packed into the propulsive plot. It's as if L'Amour didn't really know what the story was but had several ideas that intertwined. Because of that fragmented presentation, To Tame a Land is one of the rare L'Amour novels that I didn't care for. There's better westerns out there.
Thursday, September 30, 2021
The pacing and action was superb, but I found myself with very little sympathy for some of the characters. They all seem to be flawed in ways that violate certain ethics and moral conduct for me personally. It is that disconnection with the character that seems to be the basis for my slight disappointment. However, Curran absolutely delivers a hair raising good time with his horrific creations.
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
With Thirty Miles South Of Dry County, Burke presents a vivid portrait of rural America, brush stroking with remarkable detail considering his Irish upbringing. Tanner is the embodiment of the aging small town Southern man. The town of Milestone is a macabre exhibit that's surrounded with a smooth Gothic curtain. There's mystery, suspense and menace packed into this scary short novel.
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
After her father‘s retirement from the Navy, Myrna invests some of his money into buying the Hawaiian Heaven Hotel off Pearl Harbor shore. She runs the small hotel and serves beer to the sailors who need a midpoint between the water and Honolulu. It’s a quiet, peaceful life until the emergency radio begins announcing that a Navy submarine has become trapped in underwater debris. After three days of monotone and grim announcements, the men on board have begun to lose the remaining oxygen.
The sub, S14, is stuck on the ocean floor, wedged in discarded wooden wreckage with torpedo tubes that are jammed. Hoping for a rescue attempt, the Navy sends divers Harry Morris and Richard Brennan down to the vessel to attempt to clear the tubes. If they are cleared, the men can be safely ejected. But, the attempt fails and only Brennan makes it back to the surface alive.
On the last night of the rescue attempt, readers learn that a guest in the hotel has been murdered and their corpse placed in a seldom used wine closet. Who’s dead, who’s the murderer and how is it related to the submarine disaster? The bulk of this complex mystery is brought to life when Brennan checks into the hotel awaiting a Navy request and the obligatory press interviews.
Fisher’s hotel ensemble is a cast of likely suspects, each possessing a possible motive for murder. It’s a traditional mystery complete with a competent Hawaiian detective named Mulane probing for answers. Brennan and Myrna strike up a romance, but when Myrna’s father is murdered, all fingers point to Brennan as the killer.
I really enjoyed this short novel, and found that Fisher was really in his element. Fisher himself served in the Navy aboard a submarine stationed in Hawaii, so his writing has a descriptive sense of realism. The romance angle is Fisher’s signature. Combining these two ingredients into a hotel murder mystery was brilliant.
Storm on the Island is a captivating mystery with unique characters in an exotic location. Even better is that the story exists for free at archive.org HERE.
Monday, September 27, 2021
Friday, September 24, 2021
After his mother's death during childbirth, Trubee Pell was raised by his father, Walter, on a farm near Warrensburg, New York. After abandoning an unfortunate marriage, Trubee joined the army and served during World War I. It is there that he met two low-life scoundrels - James Pilgrim and Martin Flood. The audacious trio boozed it up during the war and afterwards bummed around the U.S. avoiding labor and responsibility. Out of ideas, Pell suggests that the three of them go back to New York and shack up with his father.
Walter lives a simple, farming life in solitude. At first he's happy to see his son, but soon realizes that tribe has changed significantly since the war. The three men physically and verbally abuse Walter. They force him to work, cook their meals and provide free lodging. While mostly drunk, the men spend their days shooting, illegally hunting and robbing. During a home intrusion, James steals a stack of nude magazines. In one of the books, he finds an ad for dating.
Like the dating apps of today, James sends out $1 and a brief biography explaining his physical appearance and attributes. The company then forwards this information to a woman in his area. In this instance, James' letter is sent to a young woman from New Jersey named Anna. Her parents have died and she is looking for a husband and a new life elsewhere. James, who is short and fat with rotten teeth, explains in his letter that he is tall, handsome and has a large farm. When Anna arrives at the Pell farm, she is shocked to find out that James does not fit his biography. In addition, she is surrounded by three vicious and sexually charged men in a foreign place miles away from anyone.
Sanford's The Old Man's Place is a carefully designed character study bursting with tension and intrigue. I found myself so emotionally invested in these characters and their raw, primal instincts. The author creates this slow spiral into some very dark places. The ethical, morally centered Walter experiences so much loss and heartache as a father. I was able to identify with this character so much and I felt so much sympathy for him. Anna, who borders upon the angelic, is pushed into this pit of vipers of violence and moral depravity. Sanford's narrative is saturated with rage and grief and has this unusual subtext on human suffering.
Like his novel Make My Bed in Hell, John Sanford is nothing short of extraordinary with The Old Man's Place. It's darkly wonderful and honest, well ahead of its time considering the 1935 publication date. Sanford is seemingly timeless, possessing a rare skillset that rivals some of the best noir authors of all-time. My hat is tipped to Brash Books for affordably inviting modern ages to experience this sensational author.
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
In the future, animals have been contaminated by a deadly virus. Due to the health risks, most of the world's animal populations have been destroyed. Due to lack of animals, cannibalism has become legal. Body farms have been created that raise humans in the same way that cattle are raised today. These humans (called heads) are raised to consume, so they have no intelligence beyond the walls of the cage. Their vocal cords are removed and based on ethnicity, race, age and gender, humans are packaged into categories and sold. Human meat (known as special meat) is then bought by processing plants (slaughterhouses) where the entire organism is used for food or manufacturing.
Marcos is a second generation employee of the meat processing industry. He acts as an account executive for "meat runs" where he reviews processes and procurement. After experiencing the loss of a child, Marcos goes into a deep depression and his wife moves out. This loss evokes empathy for the people who are slaughtered. Most of the author's narrative is devoted to Marcos contemplating the whole meat industry and its negative impact on mankind.
After Marcos is gifted a woman, high human grade, he begins to look after her. Naming her Jasmine, Marcos develops an illegal relationship with her that results in a pregnancy. If the law finds out he had sexual intercourse with a "head," he will be slaughtered. In order to keep the relationship and pregnancy a secret, Marcos hides Jasmine from his home and starts a process of resigning from his work. Complicating matters is the death of his elderly father and a strained relationship with his nagging sister.
Tender is the Flesh is inspired by several novels. In many ways it resembles the 1953 dystopia novel by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451. In this book, the protagonist begins to question the government's strict rules and the importance of free will. Other influences range from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) and the 1973 film Soylent Green, which was loosely based on Harry Harrison's 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room!. More recently, the Japanese anime The Promised Neverland, originally released in 2019, is close to the premise of the story.
As much as I wanted to like Tender is the Flesh, I found it too reliant on graphic torture and death. The central story of Marcos becoming an enlightened citizen was lost in the dense atmosphere of dismemberment and gore. Frequently, the author details the human slaughterhouse, the processes, and additional bi-products of this savage society. In disturbing scenes, Bazterrica describes the brutal torture of puppies and the raping of an adolescent girl. These scenes exist merely for shock value and reminded me of the insane carnage of Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door (1989).
I appreciated the social warnings and the clear criticism of animal cruelty, corporate greed and capitalism. There are positive takeaways, but it requires a strong stomach and the ability to distance yourself from the violence. I found it distasteful and over the top. Read at your own discretion.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Monday, September 20, 2021
Friday, September 17, 2021
The latest entry in the Men's Adventure Library Journal series is Maneaters: Killer Sharks in Men's Adventure Magazines. The book is available in both hardcover (196 pgs) and softcover (172 pgs) editions. This collection features three decades of thrilling vintage shark stories, all complimented by vividly colorful, awe-inspiring artwork one would expect from the Men's Adventure Magazines.
Inside, Deis' preface and Doyle's "Death Has Sharp Teeth" introductions outline the book's purpose and how sharks became the most common "man versus animal" stories in MAMs. They proved to be the best adversary, an underwater villain that later soared to new heights with the theatrical phenomena known as Jaws. Doyle explains that "...even among the onslaught of tigers, alligators, and bloodthirsty rodents, sharks were something special." Steve Cheskin echoes those sentiments with his informative foreword. Cheskin, the creator of the beloved Shark Week television programming on Discovery Channel, explains how the shows began in the late 1980s. He illustrates that there is a mystery about sharks, a natural fear of them that captivates people.
Anyone familiar with MAMs, or Deis and Doyle's prior compilations, will appreciate their dedication to preserving the eye-catching artwork that mesmerized readers of these magazines. On Page 89, Mort Kunstler's artwork is presented as a terrific gallery. The gallery includes an informative write-up titled "The Godfather Meets Jaws." Beyond Kunstler, this book is loaded with artwork from the likes of Ken Barr, Bruce Minney, Walter Richards, Clarence Doore, Wil Hulsey, and Robert Stanley. I'm not an art aficionado, but these paintings are simply incredible.
With nearly 20 stories, there's plenty of meat to sink your teeth into. From Ray Nelson's cleverly funny "The Mail Carrying Shark" (Real, Sep. 1953) to Tom Darcy's gruesome adventure "The Sharks Got My Legs" (Man's Adventure, Oct. 1959), these stories are outrageously scary, but possess action and adventure narratives featuring prevalent heroes.
If you aren't a Men's Adventure Library Journal consumer, what's stopping you? Beyond just this Maneaters book, there are hundreds of awesome paintings, gripping stories and unique analysis saturating these awesome compilation and coffee-table books. This is such a neat nostalgia that celebrates a special place in American literature. There's no better place to test the waters than this shark-infested feast.
Thursday, September 16, 2021
The main character of the book, Corey Bowen, explains how he ended up in the dusty and dry workcamp of Five Shadows. After his father died, Bowen worked as a miner and a cattle herder. Between jobs, Bowen meets another cattleman named Manring in a bar. After learning from Bowen's experience, he hires Bowen to ride along with him on a small cattle drive. Bowen reviews Manring's bill of sale and determines that he legitimately bought the cattle. However, after only a couple of days on the trail, the law comes. Bowen and Manring are charged with stealing cattle and sentenced to years of hard labor at Five Shadows.
This Arizona prison is run by a man named Renda. The government provides Renda .75 cents a day for each of the 30 prisoners and cash for supplies. Renda keeps a majority of the money and limits the prisoners to a small diet with very little accommodations. They sleep on blankets, eat wormy food, and suffer health conditions. Renda can't afford any of his prisoners to escape, thus his criminal empire will fold.
Throughout the book's narrative, Bowen and Manring plan a prison break. This will not be easy due to the use of Apache Scouts and trackers around the camp's outer perimeter. However, in pocket narratives, Leonard creates some inner turmoil within the camp. The superintendent's wife is planning on exposing Renda, but she's being held against her will. She proposes that Bowen kill her husband and make a run for it. At the same time, a young woman named Karla has an attraction to Bowen. She wants to expose the corruption and Bowen's innocence through the courts. What method does Bowen use - escape from violence or patiently await a new trial in a judicial system that has already betrayed him once?
Leonard's western examines political corruption - greed, deceit, and the quest for power. Bowen's decision on how to escape the prison is an interesting one. There's a lot of moving parts and the novel requires the reader's concentration. The narrative isn't laced with action, but instead relies on strong characters and an intriguing story. I found both female characters to be determined to a fault - one craving violence and the other nearly angelic. The contrast was brilliant.
If you require an action-packed prison break story, Escape from Five Shadows is unlikely to satisfy you. If you want the complexity of crime and the slow unravel of authority, this novel will deliver the goods. It's a smart, well-written novel that offers a rather unique plot for the time period. Recommended.