Showing posts with label Michael Avallone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Avallone. Show all posts

Friday, April 15, 2022

Ed Noon #17 - Assassins Don’t Die in Bed

The character of Ed Noon began as a traditional wisecracking, skirt-chasing private eye in the mold of Richard Prather’s Shell Scott. Over time, author Michael Avallone (1924-1999) pulled a clever trick and began sending Noon on spy missions at the request of his recurring client, the U.S. President. Such an adventure is the 17th Ed Noon novel, Assassins Don’t Die in Bed from 1978, currently available as an affordable ebook

The novel begins with a call to Noon on his red, white and blue telephone providing a direct line to the President. The Man needs Noon to shadow a U.S. elder statesman named Henry Hallmark on a tour of Europe in furtherance of maintaining the peace. The President has reason to believe that Hallmark (America’s Churchill) is in danger of being assassinated and needs Noon to keep him safe. If you’re wondering why the U.S. law enforcement, diplomatic, and intelligence community doesn’t just work together to protect our famous emissary, you have no business reading this paperback. 

Aboard the ocean liner is an array of colorful characters and suspect assassins. This includes a Japanese Sumo wrestler named Buddha who can snap silver dollars in two between his fingers. There’s also a woman named Gilda Tiger who is regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the world. Will Noon lay her? I’ll never tell! There’s also an Indian political leader seeking to shepherd his starving Hindu nation under the political umbrella of the Red Chinese. 

Further dressing up this cruise ship mystery is an assortment of spy gadgets Noon brings along for the ride. It’s clear by 1968 that Avallone was influenced by the James Bond films, and he wasn’t alone. During this period, there was an arms race to crown a paperback series as “The American James Bond.” With Noon, Avallone threw his hat in the ring and decided to have some real fun with the concept. 

Overall, Assassins Don’t Die in Bed is a better-than-average novel for the genre with a really terrific hardboiled ending. Avallone was a solid author who could always be counted on for a good, pulpy read. If you’re new to the Ed Noon party, you safely can start with this one and not be disappointed. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of this ebook HERE.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Butcher #33 - Go Die in Afghanistan

Here is The Butcher score so far. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being “burn the book now” and 10 being “use PTO and read it in one sitting.” 

#07 Death Race is a 1. Seriously, it is that bad. 
#23 – Appointment in Iran is like...a 7. It's a lot of fun. 
#01 – Kill Quick or Die is a 3. 
#12 - Killer's Cargo shuffles in at a 6.
#35 – Gotham Gore is a 1. 

Using the skills I acquired in Mrs. Miller's 6th grade math, that's an average Butcher score of 3.6. That's filthy ugly. But, my problem is that I own the whole series. I hope you don't.

Go Die in Afghanistan is supposedly a series stand-out. It was published by Pinnacle in 1982 and authored by Michael Avallone. It also has a great painted cover by the esteemed Earl Norem. At just shy of 200-pages, the premise has Butcher, aka “Iceman”, in Afghanistan to rescue a NASA nuclear missile expert from those pesky Soviet invaders. He knows he's never accepted a more crucial challenge. I know I just want to avoid placing a metal fork between the pages and microwaving the book.

The narrative begins with Butcher planning a departure from Tel-Aviv. After receiving a call from White Hat (a U.S. spy agency), Butcher is advised that his next mission starts right now. But first, he shoots an old villain named Peanut Man Pennzler and stuffs him in a hotel closet. Then, the hero heads to Afghanistan to rendezvous with the rebel forces opposing Soviet occupancy.

The rebels are intensely infatuated with Butcher and are well educated on his prior exploits with the mob. A fierce, sexy rebel named Tzippora advises Butcher that her “juices flow for him.” In a rather gross sex scene, Tzippora advises Butcher that it's that time of the month, but can't suspend her desires. Butcher admits that this “birds and the bees” encounter with Tzippora will be unlike anything he's ever experienced before. 

Eventually, Butcher and Tzippora are captured by the Soviets and harshly interrogated. Butcher uses the old explosive chewing gum routine (chew it, then throw it, kaboom!) and escapes. But, before the final dash, Butcher shoots his P38 from the hip and precisely places a bullet down the barrel of a Soviet's gun. Avallone describes Butcher as the equivalent of Robin Hood, Davy Crockett and Sergeant York. Then, all of the supporting characters die, Butcher returns home. The end.

As silly as this all sounds, and believe me its totally bonkers, Go Die in Afghanistan is still fun. At this point, I have to start treating The Butcher title as a modern pulp. His silly, over-the-top, completely impossible antics are no different than say...Black Bat or Masked Detective. It's zany 1930s and 1940s pulp hero nonsense, but more dirty and violent. 

I can't think of The Butcher as a serious spy series on par with Matt Helm or Nick Carter. It's the wrong way to look at this series. Suspend disbelief, put your mind into a pulp magazine, and then read The Butcher. It  may be the only way to gain any sense of enjoyment. If not, then you'll end up with an exploding microwave. 

Go Die in Afghanistan is a 6, bringing the average score up to...4. Yikes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Dark Cypress

Michael Avallone (1924-1999) was a prolific author that contributed work to many different publishers and genres. Along with authoring television and movie tie-ins for franchises like Man from U.N.C.L.E., Planet of the Apes, and Friday the 13th, Avallone penned a number of stand-alone crime-noir and mystery novels. Avallone also authored over 38 private-eye novels starring his character Ed Noon. In the late 20th Century, Avallone took to writing Gothics using pseudonyms like Jeanne-Anne De Pre, Dorothea Nile, and Priscilla Dalton. Perhaps his best Gothics were penned using the name Edwina Noone, a clever nod to his own private-eye character. My first experience with Avallone's Edwina Noone novels is Dark Cypress, originally published in 1965 by Ace.

The novel stars Stella Owens, a young woman who has arrived at the gloomy, yet magnificent, manor known as Hawk House. Stella has accepted a job as a live-in tutor for Todd Hawk, the only child of a wealthy widow named Arthur Carlton Hawk. Upon her arrival at the mansion, Stella is introduced to Gates, the family's friendly butler, and Dahlia, the family's snobbish housekeeper before being introduced to her young charge.

Stella is immediately consumed with a foreboding atmosphere that surrounds the house and its inhabitants. Dahlia's mysterious behavior serves as an odd voice of authority. Prophetically, she warns Stella that a bedroom upstairs must remain locked and off-limits from any curious exploring. Dahlia's motherly treatment of Todd is both preachy and scolding, a characteristic that lies in stark contrast to Stella's warmer approach. In repeated tutorial sessions, Todd confides in Stella that he is fearful of being taken away soon. He also provides a disturbing account of his older brother Oliver dying in the family's large pool. It's this event that lies at the heart of Avallone's mystery. How did Oliver come to drown in the pool, what's in the locked room and why does Todd suggest that there's an evil presence roaming the dark halls and corridors of Hawk House?

Like any good Gothic, location is key. Avallone's choice to place the characters and events in rural Connecticut during a late New England winter is important. As the tension mounts, the sense of isolation keeps the characters confined to this monstrous structure. Through the narrative, the family's secretive backstory slowly unfolds to explain Stella's precarious dilemma. The storyline is laced with mysterious horror that's nicely balanced with a small offering of romantic development. As a Gothic stereotype, Stella is the vulnerable beauty that becomes trapped in the bad place. Is it the structure or the people that make it a dangerous meeting?

Avallone is just a great author and his use of description makes this chilling novel such a pleasure to read. From cavernous dark forests to narrow, entrapping hallways, Avallone's prose is filled with vivid imagery that proves to be a ghostly character unto itself. If you have a supernatural addiction, Dark Cypress offers just enough sinister happenings to make it a furious page-turner. Unfortunately, the book remains out of print and used paperback copies have become pricey. However, I strongly urge you to spend your hard-earned dollars on acquiring a copy.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, May 7, 2021

The King of Horror & Other Stories

Paperback Warrior has a thing for Stephen Mertz. That admiration comes partly from the fact that the M.I.A. Hunter novels were my first introduction to the men's action-adventure genre. Since we started this blog, we have mostly focused our reviews of Mertz's work on military and vigilante fiction like Mack Bolan, Tunnel Rats and the M.I.A. Hunter novels. Thanks to Wolfpack Publishing, a collection of Mertz's short fiction stories has been compiled under the title The King of Horror & Other Stories. This multi-faceted examination of Mertz's fast-paced style offers a blend of genre offerings that display the author's diversity.

While I enjoyed the entire collection, here are some highlights:

“Last Stand” features Blaze and Kate, a unique pair of mercenaries who are married to each other. This gritty duo travels the world, accepting contracts to guard stagecoaches, participate in various revolutions or just killing selected targets. After a long career of blood and bullets, Blaze and Kate eventually saved up enough to retire to Mexico. When the story begins, they are both attempting to cross the border, but are ambushed by Native Americans. Through 11 action-oriented pages, the two of them attempt to shoot their way out only to be plagued by wave after wave of warriors. It's really a last stand for Blaze and Kate as Mertz places these characters in an extreme position to test their love for each other. This is an effective story that shows the powerful force of love through overwhelming adversity.

Like “Last Stand”, the Vietnam War story “Fragged” again showcases Mertz's interesting outlook on marriage and the ties that bind. “Fragged” features Cord McCall, an investigator working for the U.S. Criminal Investigation Division in Saigon. McCall investigates homicide, desertion, robbery and other crimes committed within military ranks. Interestingly, McCall's wife is also in Vietnam as a war reporter. The two find themselves in Firebase Tiger, a military installation where McCall is responsible for a homicide investigation. A lieutenant-colonel in the 13th Infantry Battalion was killed by a hand grenade in his own barracks. It is up to McCall to determine if this is an enemy penetration or if someone within the battalion committed the murder. It is a great return to the golden age of the mysteries of the locked chamber – which, why, where, how. Also, there is Mertz's signature of sandbags, guts and bloody warfare. These two characters also appear in another included story called “Chez Erotique” as well as Mertz's novel Saigon Homicide.

Mertz says that “Talon's Gift” is the nastiest story he has ever written. It's not so much nasty as it is violently shocking. The narrative features a suburban couple named Talon and Evie. When Evie departs to the movie theater, Talon begins to spin the cylinder of his .38 while explaining to readers (and himself) that Evie has been unfaithful. There's some backstory on the neighborhood and the couple's neighbor Pete. The most intriguing part for me was Talon's profession. I won't spoil the fun for you. It's an enjoyable read. 

The book's centerpiece is “The King of Horror”, a short-story that Mertz penned about his friend and longtime author Michael Avallone (1924-1999). In many ways the main character, established horror author Rigley Balbo, is Avallone. Mertz's line, “A man who was cheated and pushed aside by these grubby, Johnny-come-lately punks and their million-dollar contracts and their New York Times bestsellers”, perfectly describes the peaks and valleys of Avallone's career. In first person narration, Balbo explains that he was an A-lister early in his career before the publishing market dried up. Crummy distribution, poor advances and strangled sales have plagued Balbo's career for a decade. Needless to say, Balbo's household name tarnished along with the relationship with his publishing agent. Like one of those old Alfred Hitchcock stories, Balbo has a plan to get even with his agent, a grand scheme that will vengefully heal his heart and mind. However, Mertz pitches a wicked curveball to delightfully wreck Balbo's plan. I loved this story and it's one of those rare “industry insider” stories that jerks the curtain on the hectic and turbulent publishing world.

There are so many great stories in this collection, from Mertz's tribute to the pulps with “The Lizard Men of Blood River” to the slick and violent “The Death Blues”. The compilation showcases all of Mertz's skill and passion - violent storytelling with a powerful sense of love, loss and regret. It was a real treat to find Mertz submerged in many different genres and styles. King of Horror & Other Stories is a real showpiece of skill and craftsmanship. If you've never stepped out of Mertz's Mack Bolan world, this is your certified encouragement to delve into this author's deep literary catalog. It's a dive worth taking.

Buy a copy of this book HERE 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Ed Noon #14 - "Lust Is No Lady"

During his prolific career, Michael Avallone wrote around 38 novels and countless short stories featuring his private eye character, Ed Noon. Most of the early installments are straightforward mystery novels in the bawdy tradition of Shell Scott or Milo March. Later in the series, Avallone reinvented the Noon character as a spy working on special assignments handed to him directly by the U.S. President. Toward the end of the series, I’m told that Noon tangles with UFOs and aliens. He was an all-purpose, multi-genre hero for the ages.

“Lust Is No Lady” is the 14th novel in the series - although I’ve found that they can be enjoyed in any order. The paperback was originally released in 1965 by Belmont Books and later again under the title “The Brutal Kook.” Avallone’s son, David, is a successful comic book writer who has lovingly kept the Ed Noon series available as affordable Kindle editions while preserving the original cover art wherever possible.

The story opens with Noon’s car experiencing a blowout while driving through desolate Wyoming en route to a much-needed California vacation. While preparing to change the tire, a small airplane flies out of nowhere and starts dropping bricks from the sky onto his car - destroying any hope of a roadside repair.

Setting out on foot in the blistering heat, Noon finds a half-dead, naked, Native American woman staked to the ground with vultures circling above. The language barrier prevents a full explanation, but the woman leads Noon to a small settlement in the middle of nowhere called Agreeable Wells where every person that Noon encounters behaves in a guarded and suspicious manner.

While stranded with these oddball settlers, Noon is not exactly a prisoner but not quite a guest among them. A brutal murder occurs and Noon - being a hotshot NYC private detective - lends a hand toward getting to the bottom of the situation. However, the bigger mystery to the novel involves the true reason these people are in the middle of nowhere. For much of the novel, Noon is an observer bearing witness to a feuding and duplicitous small community brimming with dysfunction and greed.

At some point during this short paperback, it occurred to me that “Lust Is No Lady” was Avallone’s attempt at placing Noon into a Western novel - albeit one with periodic attacks by a killer airplane. The good news is that this works splendidly thanks to the author’s knack for compelling storytelling and vivid characters. The action sequences - particularly the one at the book’s climax - are all expertly engineered for maximum excitement.

As long as you know what you’re getting - a big-city private detective plopped into an old west adventure - “Lust Is No Lady” is an easy recommendation. You really can’t go wrong with the Ed Noon novels of Michael Avallone.


Thanks to the efforts of David Avallone, an unpublished Ed Noon book called “The Walking Wounded” by Michael Avallone will finally be published. The novel was written in 1973, and features cover art by contemporary comic book artist, Dave Acosta. Keep an eye on Amazon for details about this exciting release.

Buy a copy of "Lust is No Lady" HERE

Monday, July 2, 2018

Nick Carter: Killmaster #03 - Checkmate in Rio

In May 1964, the third 'Nick Carter' book, “Checkmate in Rio”, was released through the Carter-heavy publisher Award Books. This time, Carter is assigned the case of the missing AXE agents. The opening sequence has Hawk (AXE's superior) providing the intel to Carter and the reader. In Rio de Janeiro, six agents have gone missing in an area that's low-hanging fruit for the notorious Red Countries. Carter and co-agent Rosalind Adler, whom Carter undressed with his eyes in the first paragraph, head to Rio disguised as wealthy enthusiasts soaking up the rays and local hospitality.

As opposed to the series opener, the enjoyable “Run Spy Run”, this book really pushes the envelope and moves Carter into a more violent version. In a remarkable scene where Carter is holding a dazed bad guy in a closet, he reminds himself that he is the KILLMASTER and must complete the assignment by doing just that. As he pushes Hugo, an Italian stiletto, into the enemy, we come to realize that Carter is becoming the slaughter-house spy. It's not always so dark and grim, in fact more changes occur undercover. 'Checkmate in Rio' includes four sex-scenes, with Carter doing the nasty with Adler twice as well as one of the missing agent's wives twice (once as a violent “take me now” screw).

Aside from the intrigue, espionage and sex comes loads of high-velocity action. Here, Carter and Adler get equal stage time in car chases, fisticuffs and gun battles. In one explosive scene we see Carter protecting a mother and child as waves of enemies assault the house. Or, in another, a tight-laced action scene is built around a gas bomb as Carter holds his breath in an attempt to escape the baddies. Whoever penned this...Michael Avallone or Valerie Moolman, it's a stellar entry in this well-respected series.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Nick Carter: Killmaster #01 - Run Spy Run

Nick Carter is a WW2 veteran who's employed as a secret agent for AXE. From what I gather in the opening pages of “Checkmate in Rio”, the third installment, AXE works as early penetration for the CIA. Carter's subordinate is a guy named Hawk, who in turn has his own higher authority that remains unnamed in this particular book. The goofy stuff? Carter has silly names for his weapons, and these names come up a lot in the narration. Wilhelmina is a 9mm Luger taken from a German soldier in the war. Hugo is an Italian stiletto. Pierre is a little marble that can be twisted to release deadly gas (which he carries on his scrotum in later books). The names aren't so bad, but I cringe when Carter yells things like, “Quick! Hand me Wilhelmina!”, or when the narrator tells us how good Carter is at everything due to his daily yoga routine. It reminds me of Doc Savage and his fantasy gym training leading to miraculous feats of wonder. It's bonkers, but enjoyable in an over the top way.

In this one, Nick and AXE agent Julia Baron get tangled up in a plot designed by staple arch enemy Judas to blow up world leaders to propel the Red Chinese. It's called “Project Jet” and simply places bombs on planes to kill off various targets. It's a rather elementary plot, but Nick and Julia need to find the perpetrator and the reasoning. The novel is dominantly placed in London with all of the red herrings and suspicious looking smarties. It's here that Nick and Julia get into the sack in an effort to foil the evil mastermind. The book's finale puts both Nick and Julia in an underground horror fest to square off against the steel-handed Judas (of course he is bald, wretched and has a steel hand) and his deformed stooge Braile. It's overly fantastical, but that's part of the charm. As the agents run from location to location, there's intrigue about the location of the next bomb and an exhilarating rush to stop the ominous tick-tock. The book's ultimate plot leads to a plan to assassinate the US President. Published in 1964, I wonder if Avallone/Engel/Moolman wrote this prior to Kennedy's assassination in November of 1963? If not, I would have thought it a bit taboo to resurrect that idea during a time of America's mourning.

Based on this debut, I'm at the table with spoon and fork for 'Nick Carter'. From what I have read, if you can stomach this pulpy fruit, the series only ripens for more tasty and modern flavors later. While book two is still missing in action for me, I'm already on to “Checkmate in Rio” with an eye on book four. Killmaster for life.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Butcher #35 - Gotham Gore

You know how a schlocky action movie will promise you all kinds of crazy, high-velocity mayhem on the DVD cover, but then the movie delivers little or nothing of that and you’re left feeling ripped off?

Well, that happens with action/adventure novels sometimes, and “GOTHAM GORE” is a standout example. It’s the 35th and final novel in the Butcher series, written by Michael Avallone under the pen name Stuart Jason. 

The first disappointment an unsuspecting reader will face is that the Butcher doesn’t live up to his name. If you’re hoping (as I was) that he’s a kill-crazy vigilante psychopath, forget it. He’s actually a former Mafia guy who turned secret agent for the government. Oh well.

As always in this series, the novel opens with the Butcher having to deal with a would-be assassin. Once that’s out of the way, we slowly work our way into the slow-moving story, and slowly begin to realize that none of the cool stuff depicted on the front cover of the paperback will be forthcoming. 

The blurb on the back assures us that the novel has “something to do with black magic, hand grenades and a Demon Master--- with a little Nazi know-how thrown in for good measure.” Well, here’s what you’re led to expect, and what you’ll actually get: 

What you want: The evil Satanic ritual depicted on the book cover, with the human sacrifice of a busty virgin 

What you get: The Satanist is about as creepy as your dad’s accountant; the girl is no longer a virgin (ladies can’t resist the Butcher) and there will be no ritual and no human sacrifice

What you want: The Butcher blowing away bad guys with a machine gun, like he does on the cover

What you get: One pistol, no machine gun. The Butcher shoots only two or three people in the entire book

What you want: That Nazi with the “know-how”

What you get: The Satanist’s henchman is a German guy who never does anything remarkable, other than getting the drop on the Butcher several times but stupidly never killing him

What you want: That “Demon Master”

What you get: No demon, no master

What you want: The Satanist is scheming to blow up New York landmarks like the Empire State Building. Let’s see stuff get blown up!

What you get: Nothing gets blown up but the Satanist and his hide-out

What you want: The book’s called “GOTHAM GORE”, so let’s have some!

What you get: No gore, just a couple of explosions, and they don’t happen in Gotham 

What you want: A fitting conclusion to the saga of 'The Butcher', since this is the final book in the series

What you get: He calls Headquarters, gives the boss his report, that’s about it (mitigating factor: the book is finally over)

Johnny Rotten once asked his audience, “Ever have the feeling you’ve been cheated?” Why yes, Johnny, I have. I’ve read “GOTHAM GORE”.