Showing posts sorted by relevance for query The Hall of the Dead. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query The Hall of the Dead. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Conan - The Hall of the Dead

As most Robert E. Howard fans know, literary agent Glenn Lord located several boxes of the author's unfinished manuscripts in 1966. In an effort to collect the manuscripts into printable short stories, Lord acquired the talents of Howard scholars Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp to assist in editing and re-writing these stories. 

One of these stories, “The Hall of the Dead”, was a fragmented Conan the Cimmerian document created by Howard and then re-worked by L. Sprague de Camp. This version was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction's February 1967 issue. It was also placed in the popular Conan paperback published by Lancer in 1967 and later reprinted by Ace. It also appears in 1989's Sphere publication The Conan Chronicles. Howard's original version, unedited by de Camp, was later published in the 2000s in two separate omnibus editions, The Conan Chronicles Vol. 1 and Conan of Cimmeria Vol 1.

Like many other stories, the era of “The Hall of the Dead” is set during Conan's thieving years, around 18-20ish. It picks up when Conan enters an abandoned, ancient city called Larsha. In a hot-pursuit is a group of Zamorian soldiers who have been assigned to arrest Conan for theft. These soldiers are led by Captain Nestor, who somehow escapes a trip-wire that befalls the entire group of men with an avalanche of rocks. With Conan in the abandoned city, Nestor enters hoping to solely capture him. 

de Camp is often criticized for not “getting” Conan, and there may be sufficient evidence for that argument, but in stories like “Hall of the Dead”, it is all about telling an exciting story. Whether it was Howard or de Camp describing the empty streets, desolate houses, crumbled buildings, etc., the visual imagery is very evocative. It sets up the story and the atmosphere quite well. 

As Conan engages in urban exploration, a giant slug squirms into the narrative to wreak havoc on the trespasser. This is typical “boss level” writing for sword-and-sandal or fantasy, when the hero matches power and strength with a big baddie. But, alas, this isn't the final boss. When the two characters decide to team-up and steal precious, forgotten treasures in Larsha's Royal Palace, a host of scary monsters appear to harass the thieves. This sets up the final boss battle.

There's nothing to really dislike about “The Hall of the Dead”, but loyalist complaints favor Howard's original version, which is shorter and features some differences in Nestor's actions in the story and the disappearance of the giant slug. In essence, I felt the story as a whole, regardless of writer, effectively placed Conan in a gloomy post-apocalyptic setting of an abandoned city, albeit a very short visit. Fans of Conan literature will easily recognize the moral preaching – bad things come to thieves. It's a recurring theme for these stories that feature a criminal-minded Conan on a self-serving mission to steal treasure. But, the fun is watching the struggle and inevitable loss. For that reason alone, “The Hall of the Dead” is worth the price of admission. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Conan - Conan

Many of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Cimmerian short-stories were out of print for decades, or had steep auction house pricing that prevented casual fans from reading them. Aside from one Ace paperback, and a series of Gnome Press hardcovers, these previously published stories existed in back-issues of Weird Tales

Beginning in the late 1960s, Lancer began publishing affordable paperbacks collecting these original Robert E. Howard published Conan stories. In addition, these collections also included unpublished Conan manuscripts and new material edited or authored by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. You can journey down any pulp sword-and-sorcery rabbit-hole and read more about the development of these Lancer paperbacks, the discovery of manuscripts by Howard heirs' literary agent Glenn Lord, and both the praise and criticism of Conan pastiche writing, which is included in these Lancer editions. 

I want to simply highlight the stories including in each paperback, beginning with the very first Lancer edition aptly titled Conan. The collection was first published in 1967 and features a Frank Frazetta cover. The paperback, weighing in at just 221 pages, includes two of Howard's most respected and well-known Conan stories, “The Tower of the Elephant” and “Rogues in the House”, with the latter selection influencing the book's cover art. 

“Introduction” - As I alluded to earlier, the development of the Lancer paperbacks is a much talked about event that populates the sword-and-sorcery community. In this five page introduction, author L. Sprague de Camp introduces readers to Robert E. Howard with a brief biography. He also cites a specific letter that Howard wrote to fellow author Clark Ashton Smith explaining how the Conan character was created. In addition, de Camp analyzes the term “heroic fantasy” and how it came to fruition. 

“Letter from Robert E. Howard to P. Schuyler Miller” - This is four and a half pages showcasing a letter that Howard wrote to the science-fiction writer and educator Miller. In the letter, Howard explains the Hyborian nations and comparisons to medieval Europe, Asia, and Africa. The letter also displays Howard's explanation of Conan as the king of Aquilonia for many years. This letter was originally published in the The Coming of Conan hardcover by Gnome Press in 1953.

“The Hyborian Age, Part 1” - Howard's 14-page essay outlining the entire Hyborian kingdom and the rise and fall of the various cultures that make up the sprawling landscape. This was originally contained in the The Phantagraph in 1936, and subsequently in the volumes The Coming of Conan, King Kull, and Skull-Face and Others.

“The Thing in the Crypt” - Some find fault that this book, which is a celebration of Robert E. Howard's Conan creation, offers a non-Howard work as the first fictional story in the collection. “The Thing in the Crypt” was authored by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, but the reason it is the first actual story in the collection is because the books, edited by Carter and de Camp, are a road map of Conan's chronological life. This story features Conan as a teenager who just escaped a slave pen after being captured after a raid in Asgard. Later, there is a story that Bjorn Nayberg authored (with assists from Carter and de Camp), “Legions of the Dead”, that predates the events in this story. It is found in Conan the Swordsman. In “The Thing in the Crypt”, Conan finds a cave containing a mummified corpse holding a sword. When he takes the sword, the mummy comes to life and the two battle. This story also influenced a similar scene in the Conan the Barbarian film. “The Thing in the Crypt” first appears in this story collection. 

“The Tower of the Elephant” - This first appeared in the March, 1933 issue of Weird Tales. A young Conan arrives in Arenjun and overhears a conversation about the wealth and riches contained in a tall structure deemed The Tower of the Elephant. Always looking for thieving opportunities, Conan climbs the tower with the help of another thief, Taurus. Conan discovers cosmic horror inside the tower and fights to escape. Howard’s endless imagination just flows onto the page with this wild, action-packed adventure. It quickly pulls you into the story with just a few opening paragraphs. The author's prose is just so smooth and stimulating, providing excellent plot development and pacing.

“The Hall of the Dead” - This was a fragmented Conan the Cimmerian document created by Howard and then re-worked by L. Sprague de Camp. This version was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction's February 1967 issue. Like many other stories, the era of “The Hall of the Dead” is set during Conan's thieving years, around 18-20ish. It picks up when Conan enters an abandoned, ancient city called Larsha. In a hot-pursuit is a group of Zamorian soldiers who have been assigned to arrest Conan for theft. As Conan explores this abandoned city, he teams up with another thief as the two fight giant slugs and other baddies that are protecting gold within this abandoned city. There's nothing to really dislike about “The Hall of the Dead”, but loyalist complaints favor Howard's original version, which is shorter and features some differences in Nestor's actions in the story and the disappearance of the giant slug. In essence, I felt the story as a whole, regardless of writer, effectively placed Conan in a gloomy post-apocalyptic setting of an abandoned city, albeit a very short visit, and that was very rewarding. 

“The God in the Bowl” - This Robert E. Howard story wasn't published in the author's lifetime. It was rejected by pulp magazine Weird Tales, and after Howard's death, went undiscovered until 1951. It was then edited by L. Sprague de Camp and first published in Space Science-Fiction's September, 1952 issue. The premise reveals that “thief” Conan accepts a job from Nemedia's Governor's son to break into an antique house to steal a precious diadem. This diadem is being kept in a sarcophagus that was apparently discovered in the dark realm of Stygia. However, there is a monster lurking in the house and and the overnight clerk is found dead. The story has a really unique flavor for a Conan story and nearly borders on detective-fiction. Overall, I can recommend “The God in the Bowl”, but there are plenty of other Conan stories you should be reading before this one.

“Rogues in the House” - This story first appeared in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in January, 1934. That same year, it was also featured in a short story collection, Terror by Night, published by Selwyn and Blount. The premise has Conan being assisted by an aristocrat to escape prison. In a series of wild events, Conan, the aristocrat, and a priest are trapped inside of a large house. The house contains a number of deadly traps used to enslave and kill the priest's political rivals. But, this story also influenced the Conan paperback's front cover with Conan battling Thak, an ape-like creature that prowls the house. This story is one of my all-time favorites by Howard and is filled with political intrigue, action, and savage violence. A must read.

“The Hand of Nergal” - Originally a fragmented story authored by Howard  in the 1930s, Lin Carter completed the manuscript and titled it. Along with appearances in Conan, “The Hand of Nergal” was also featured in The Conan Chronicles and Beyond the Gates of Dream. In the story, Conan is a mercenary serving Turan. In the heat of battle, Conan is battling these crazy giant bats when he nearly falls unconscious. Thankfully, Conan had discovered a strange amulet days before, which helps to repel the bats. Conan meets a female warrior and the two of them journey to the city of Yaralet to battle the sorcerer responsible for conjuring up these crazy bats. I really enjoyed this story and found Carter's stroke of science-fiction and fantasy a great blend with the more “on the nose” carnage that Howard's Conan typically creates. The Carter and Howard blend worked well, in my opinion, on the Kull stories, and you get that same sense of adventure, dark sorcery, and utter doom in this story.

“The City of Skulls” - This paperback collection is the first appearance of this story, which was originally titled “Chains of Shamballah” in the first printing's table of contents. This is one of only two stories in the collection that is authored by both Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp, void of any Robert E. Howard writing. In this story, Conan's military unit is massacred, leaving only himself, his friend Juma, and a princess alive. The three are taken captive and forced across mountains, through bitter cold winds, and into a warm jungle called Shamballah, the City of Skulls. It's an epic story with Conan and Juma eventually sold into slavery aboard a ship and the princess being promised to a Toad-God-Thing. The story locations are described so well and thrust these characters – unwillingly – into the heart of madness with high altitudes and low temperatures. Mix in the ruthless rowing expedition as testaments to Conan's internal fortitude to soldier on. That's why we read these harrowing adventure tales. Carter and de Camp can tell a great story and I feel like “The City of Skulls” is a worthy addition to this stellar Conan collection. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Roadblaster #01 - Hell Ride

I have been reading books for over thirty years now and this is by far the worst piece of trash I've had the pleasure of reading. I plan on buying copies of this book and sending it out as gifts to my buddies. It is one of those strange things in life that is so abysmal that it is laugh out loud funny. Thank God for "Roadblaster". Thank you Paul Hofrichter...better known as the voice of "he who creates the horror".

The 'Roadblaster' debut is called "Hell Ride". It's filth was released to the masses in 1987 via Leisure's "Adventure" line. I believe there are a total of four books in the series and I am searching high and low for the other three. The author is Paul Hofrichter and I'm sure that isn't a house name but it damn well should be. Of course the series is yet another 80s entry in the "Soviets nuked America" formula ('The Last Ranger', 'Out Of The Ashes', 'Phoenix'). This one was supposed to center around a one word hero named Stack and his mechanical abilities. 


80s action heroes need guns, bullets and babes. Stack has none of these. In fact, Stack has no skills whatsoever, runs from action and is a complete loser. But more on that in a minute.

Let's start with the cover. It shows us some sort of science fiction/fantasy scenes of a hero in some sort of shoulder padded cloak complete with a gold coin badge and bullet belt.That hero is not in this book. There are no cloaks, shoulder pads, bullet belts or gold coin badges. Our hero Stack...the Roadblaster...has jeans and a t-shirt and his gold coin badge is a taxi driver's license. Yes. The motorcycle gang on the cover wearing cloaks, American Gladiator apparel and battle helmets is not in this book. Our criminals are your normal Mel's Bar & Grill variety that shoot pool, chase broads and happen to ride motorcycles. There is a B-52 bomber on the cover and...oddly that is in this book.

The novel begins with a guy named Stack. He is in northern California doing a little hunting on vacation. His wife and three kids are in New York holding down the fort while he is trampling about. From a mountain side Stack witnesses the mushroom clouds of doom and realizes the Soviets have nuked most of California. Oddly enough he doesn't panic...certainly the idea of his family being killed by bombs had to cross his mind but instead he makes his way into Fresno picking up a few survivors along the way. Once this is established the book completely switches gears and now tells us all about a small Airforce team flying over the Pacific in a B-52 with nukes ready to drop on the Soviet Union. They have engine trouble and are forced to land in California with a belly full of armed death. After sixty plus pages of Stack's story we now get fifty pages of B-52 engine failure. Where the Hell is this Roadblaster versus motorcycle psychos alluded to in the synopsis?

Oddly the next introduction we if we needed about a motorcycle gang that just happens to be cruising around looking for a town to take over. I am not making this up...the gang is called The Bloodsuckers and the member names are:

Black Doughnut
The Viking
San Quentin Sal
Billy Bullshit
Ivan The Terrible

The Bloodsuckers get about twenty pages or so before we switch back to Stack. He picks up a fifteen year old girl named Rayisa and drives to a small town for food and shelter. He hangs out in his van...eats, sleeps and makes mindless chatter with the band of survivors. You know...heroes named Stack do these kinds of things in action adventure novels. In one of the more ridiculous scenes, The Bloodsuckers decide that the small town of Vista Royale is perfect for an orgy. They roll into town and start shooting and raping all of it's citizens. The small band of survivors decide they will go out and liberate the town and push out the bikers. They go to Stack and tell him about the situation and that basically The Bloodsuckers are running a train on Vista Royale's women and they need to be stopped. They ask if he can join them. His response?

"No thanks. I've had a day and night I won't forget if I live to be a hundred. Good luck with everything."

Good luck with everything?!? A town is being raped in post apocalyptic Hell and this guy is going back to his van to lay down? What? His wife and kids are possibly dead in New York and he is taking catnaps down by the river? So, needless to say the survivors pounce on the town, get annihilated and retreat back to the safe zone. They return to town and stir Stack into saying this to the Sheriff...

"Sorry about what happened. I took a nap in my van, but all the commotion as your people came back into town woke me. What I want to say is that if you need my help in the future feel free to call on me".

Priceless man. Just priceless.

At one point one of the survivor's asked Stack if he knows anything about nuclear radiation cures. His response...

"I'm no doctor. Maybe home remedies. I don't know."

Home remedies for radiation sickness? Really. Really?

We read a few more despicable aspects of The Bloodsucker's reign in Vista Royale. Apparently only 24 hours removed from a nuclear war the only thing to do is to take over a small town and have pizza, beer and sex in various houses on Main Street. The gang fight a little with each other but none can really speak in complete sentences and resemble something more akin to 'Hills Have Eyes' than the roving motorcycle gang they should be. The survivors in the mountain decide Stack, of all people, will lead their next attempt at reclaiming the town. Apparently his naps in the van and ridiculous dialogue is enough to render him the only capable leader. Oh and this awesome conversation...

Sheriff: "Have you got weapons?"

Stack: "A Savage 99F hunting rifle that holds a five-bullet clip plus additional ammunition and various knives."

That spark of wisdom leads the Sheriff to ask:

"Have you had commando training?"

Stack says "I was in the National Guard and took commando courses".

What in God's name are commando courses? Is there some branch of our military that teaches Commando? Speaks Commando? Performs Commando? What is a Commando Course? Because of Stack's great commando skills he leads the assault and loses fifteen year old Rayisa to the gang. As he prowls around from house to house he sees his new "daughter" figure stripped naked and being whipped to oblivion with a leather strap. In her cries of pain she stops to ask the gang why they are whipping her and "she has never been whipped like this before". As if whipping a fifteen year old girl's bare back and buttocks spread eagle is just a normal Friday night. But this whipping is something really different. What does Stack do? He watches the whole thing and does nothing. He must have learned this in his commando courses.

Soon the battle spreads out and the motorcycle gang finds out a B-52 filled with nukes is just a few miles away. If they can get their hands on the nukes then they can have sex with most of the country's survivors. In a final battle scene, Stack really does nothing, asks for a lot of assistance from the town and survivors and eventually lets two of the gang members escape. 

Wow...all of that came from this back cover synopsis:

"One man stood out like a tracer round in the night sky. His name was Stack and his skills at staying alive made his mechanical wizardry even more valuable. Tough, dangerous and ruthless, he could build or repair any piece of machinery ever made. And in a world where cars and gasoline were worth far more than human lives Stack could name his own price."

Does that synopsis sound like a different book? Stack has no mechanical wizardry other than driving a van and sleeping. He doesn't build or repair anything after the bombs fall. How could gasoline and cars be worth that much? Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. The worst piece of trash ever written and one that will go down in the "Hall Of Shame". I desperately need to pick up the other books to see how our hero evolves in a world gone bad. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Blood of my Brother

Roll out the red carpet. Vacuum it. Fluff it a little with the heel of your shoe. Why? The festivities are about to begin. The Hall of Shame is receiving its newest member, the 1963 paperback Blood of my Brother, written by the very talented Stephen Marlowe (real name Milton Lesser). Only, Marlowe didn't want to use his name for this turd. Instead, he used the name C.H. Thames. To rub salt in the wound, Armchair Fiction reprinted this book. 

In the opening chapter, spoiled college kid Johnny Baxter is with an unknown person cracking a safe in a mansion. Next chapter, Johnny is found floating in the ocean. Dead. His car went off of an embankment and crashed into the lake. Johnny's father is devastated and regrets some of his fatherly decisions in life. Johnny's step-brother Dave is a modest attorney in town and the star of the family. He goes to identify the body and believes his brother was murdered. 

Dave believes there is foul play because Johnny's car is turned the wrong way in the lake. That's it, that is the big piece of evidence. Pay no mind to the flask, the fact that his brother was an alcoholic, the reckless lifestyle, the fast Jaguar. Just the wrong direction in the lake. The next 129 exhausting pages consist of Dave interviewing the college faculty, Johnny's roommate, the fraternity brothers, and Johnny's father. Readers already know that Johnny was stealing money from his father, so that little little morsel is quickly chewed up and dismissed. Second, if Dave can't figure out that Johnny's roommate, Tony, is the killer, then there is no reason for him to be an attorney. Here's some clues:

1 – Tony is flatass broke. 
2 – Tony has clothes and jewelry belonging to Johnny.
3 – Tony has a freakin' gun under his bed.
4 – Tony won several medals for killing a ton of bad guys in the Korean War.
5 – Tony tells lies.
6 – Tony seems jealou....nevermind, you get the idea. TONY IS THE DAMN KILLER! 

But, Dave interviews hundreds of people and discovers that Johnny has cleverly blackmailed every one of them. He's taken photos of them doing the humpty-hump, caught them in elaborate forgeries, threatened to report cheating to the faculty, and on and on. It's ridiculous to think Johnny Baxter has this many blackmailing schemes in the works and that this little California college is hosting this many blackmailing schemes. These people aren't that interesting. But, none of it matters! Pages 12 through 141 serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever. You can read the first 12 pages and the last 9 and that's the book. Open, shut, the end. A pointless endeavor. My suspicion is that Marlowe knew this book sucked. That's why he didn't want his name associated with it. I also think that he gave his readers a secret code so they would stay away from this novel - the title. The acronym is B.O.M.B. 

It brings me great pleasure to return this book to its little plastic book condom, complete with a piece of sticky scotch tape across the horizontal flap. I have no plans to ever open it again. I'm placing it in our virtual purgatory for bad books. Thus, the Hall of Shame remains open. This book does not. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Paperback Warrior Primer - Edward S. Aarons

Author Edward S. Aarons is mostly associated with his long-running and successful series Assignment, starring a CIA agent named Sam Durell. However, Aarons was extremely prolific in the decades prior to his Assignment books. In today's Paperback Warrior Primer, we reveal who Edward S. Aarons is and delve into his remarkable literary career. 

Edward Sidney Aarons was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1916. He attended Columbia University and gained degrees in both literature and history. At the young age of 17, Aarons had his hands in writing short stories while also working through college as a newspaper reporter and a fisherman. This experience probably lends itself to his crime-noir novels, which typically feature reporters and/or fishing towns in the Northeast.

By the end of the 1930s, Aarons had three full-length novels written - Death in a Lighthouse (aka Cowl of Doom), Murder Money, (aka $1 Million in Corpses), and The Corpse Hangs High. These novels were published by Phoenix Press and authored under the name Edward Ronns. 

Like most of the mid-20th Century authors, Aarons served in WW2. He was part of the U.S. Navy between 1941-1945 and reached the rank of Chief Petty officer. During his military service, Aarons sold a lot of his short stories to the pulps. He was featured in the late 1930s and 1940s pulps like Thrilling Detective, Angel Detective, Detective Story Magazine, Complete Detective, etc. According to Crime Mystery and Gangster Fiction Magazine Index, I found 92 short stories listed from the 30s through the 50s under the name Edward Ronns. Needless to say, by the time Aarons was discharged from the Coast Guard in 1945 he transitioned smoothly into full-time writing. 

In 1947, his hardcover Terror in the Town was published. It was later reprinted in 1964, complete with a suspenseful, horror-styled cover. I had the opportunity to review it for the blog HERE. In 1947 and 1948, Aarons wrote two novels starring Jerry Benedict, a newspaper cartoonist who functions as a private-eye. The first one was called Lady, the Guy is Dead, which would also be printed as No Place to Live. The second book was called Gift of Death and I had the opportunity to review it HERE. Like Terror in the Town, Aarons used a distinct atmosphere with moonlit graves, dark cornfields and a weird menace styled-subplot involving a family curse. Also in 1948 Aarons saw his novel Nightmare published internationally. I also have a review of that novel HERE.

Up until 1950, each of Aarons' published novels listed his name as Edward Ronns. But, in 1950 he used the pseudonym of Paul Ayres to contribute to the Casey, Crime Photographer series created by George Harmon Coxe. The series installment was Dead Heat. In 1951, his novel The Net was published by Graphic and reviewed HERE. Most of the author's 1950s crime-noir novels were published by the top crime-fiction company at the time - Fawcett Gold Medal. They published stuff like Escape to Love, Passage to Terror, Come Back, My Love, The Sinners, Catspaw Ordeal, The Decoy and so forth. But at the same time, Aarons was also being published by Harlequin, Graphic and Avon. In 1950, he had five novels published, two in 1951, two in 1952, two in 1953, and then one more in 1954. 

It is remarkable to think that Edward S. Aarons had 20 novels published before he really struck gold. His career trajectory is very similar to John D. MacDonald. Aarons honed his craft in the pulps and wrote stand-alone novels until he was ready to launch a series character that carried him financially for the rest of his career. For Aarons, this was his Assignment series starring CIA operative Sam Durrell and published by Fawcet Gold Medal.

The first series installment is Assignment to Disaster, published in 1955. After the debut, the series ran for 48 installments through 1983. Each book in the Assignment is mostly a stand alone title - the original printings weren’t even numbered. The series hero, Sam Durrell, is a Cajun from Louisiana who left the swamps to attend Yale. It's there that he learned several foreign languages. Later, he served in WW2 in the OSS - which was the real-life precursor to the CIA. When readers first meet Sam in 1955, he’s an operative in the CIA’s espionage division.

Each novel is a single assignment for Sam. He needs to carry out each mission for the CIA, with his adversaries generally being the Soviets, the Chinese, or one of their client states. Many of the books provide the setting in the title: Assignment Bangkok, Assignment Peking, Assignment Budapest, etc. Others are named after the sexy vixens Sam encounters on his adventure: Assignment Helene, Assignment Madeline, Assignment Zorya, etc. Sam meets a lot of different people trying to get his mission off the ground, and they all join forces to succeed. Assignment is like a combination of Nick Carter: Killmaster and Matt Helm. Better than Killmaster, not as good as Helm. 

Edward S. Aarons wrote the first 42 Assigntment installments up until his death. His last book, Assignment Afghan Dragon, was released post-humously in 1976. Then, also in 1976, the 43rd installment, Assignment Sheeba, was released under the by-line of Will B. Aarons - the brother of  Edward. There were six Assignment books under the Will Aarons name released through 1983. There are two important things to know about the Will Aarons installments.

First, series fans generally agree that these books don't possess the same quality. Second, Will Aarons didn't author these books. He hired a ghost writer named Lawrence Hall to write them. This mystery was crowdsourced and solved on the Mystery File website, and you can read the sequence of edits to their article solving this authorship HERE.

But, aside from the Assignment installments, Edward Aarons was able to sprinkle in another 10 unrelated novels through 1962. Some of these were based on screenplays like Hell to Eternity, published in 1960 and reviewed HERE.

Edward Sidney Aarons died from a heart ailment in New Milford, Connecticut in 1975 at the young age of 58. His obituary in the NY Times stated that his Assignment books sold more than 23 million copies and were reprinted in 17 languages. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Super Secret Agent Philis #01 - The Fall Guy

Between 1972 and 1985, Ritchie Perry (born 1942) wrote a 13-book series starring a British Intelligence agent named Philis (a dude) battling international criminals who pose a national security threat to Great Britain. In the U.S., the paperbacks were published by Ballantine, but many of them have been released as ebooks which should save you some time hunting them down. Start with the 1972 opening installment, The Fall Guy.

The British Intelligence arm in the series is SR(2) with the initials standing for “Special Responsibilities.” The group is designed to do things the police are not able to - namely assassinate threats without the blessing of a judge or jury. In this series debut, Scotland Yard wants SR(2)’s help in neutralizing the South American end of a cocaine trafficking operation, while the cops handle the domestic arm in the U.K. After an SR(2) sleeper agent in Brazil goes missing during the investigation of a drug exporter, a new operative is needed in the region. Enter Philis.

The Fall Guy serves as an origin story for Agent Philis - the hero of the 13 book series. When we meet him, he is a small-time British smuggler of booze and cigarettes working a beach town in Brazil. After a lengthy prologue giving the readers a third-person view of the intel agency’s mission and its challenges, the narrative abruptly switches to first person with charming and humorous Philis telling the story.

Philis is a wisecracking playboy who is kidnapped by SR(2) operatives who convince him to search for the missing SR(2) agent in a Brazilian beach town. Nearly the entire paperback takes place on the Brazilian coastline, and the author, who has also written a non-fiction book about Brazil, makes the culture and topography come alive. It’s a great setting for a thrilling adventure. As Philis gets closer to the truth about the missing spy, the author ratchets up the intensity and extreme violence. Consider yourself warned.

Where does the Super Secret Agent Philis series fall among its spy-fiction cohorts? It’s not as dense as a Robert Ludlum novel, but it’s way smarter and better-written than a Nick Carter: Killmaster volume. The cheeky first-person narration reminds me of Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm series, and the well-written Britishness of the whole affair recalls Adam Hall’s Quiller books. In any case, it’s a way smarter book than the illustration on the paperback cover would have you believe.

In short, I haven’t been this excited to start a new espionage series in a long time. Hopefully, the later installments keep up the same level of high quality on display in The Fall Guy.

Series Order:

As is often the case, the American publisher renumbered the series differently for the domestic reprints. However, with the exception of the first installment, I’m told that adhering to strict series order is not required. The series order below is the best that the Spy Guys and Gals website could discern given the available data:

1. The Fall Guy (1972)
2. A Hard Man to Kill / Nowhere Man (1973)
3. Ticket to Ride (1973)
4. Holiday with a Vengeance (1974)
5. Your Money and Your Wife (1975)
6. One Good Death Deserves Another (1976)
7. Dead End (1977)
8. Dutch Courage (1978)
9. Bishop’s Pawn (1979)
10. Grand Slam (1980)
11. Fool’s Mate (1981)
12. Foul Up (1982)
13. Kolwezi (1985)

The author also published a 1991 novel called Comeback that many sources list as the 14th book in the Super Secret Agent Philis series. My research shows that the book stars an entirely different lead character who may or may not exist in the same universe. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Conan - Rogues in the House

The Conan the Cimmerian short story “Rogues in the House” first appeared in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in January, 1934. That same year, it was also featured in a short story collection, Terror by Night, published by Selwyn and Blount. Other appearances of the story can be found in Skull-Face and Others (1946), More Not at Night (1961), Conan (1967), and The Conan Chronicles (1989). Additionally, the story was adapted into comics by both Marvel and Dark Horse. 

A lot of Conan scholars and fans point to “Rogues in the House” as a prime example of Robert E. Howard's literary greatness. Visually, Frank Frazetta's  cover art for the 1967 Lancer paperback Conan depicts the famed scene from the story when Conan is fighting Thak, the hideous ape-creature. That may resonate in some way with fans gravitating to the story as well. But, there's no denying that it is a fantastic Conan offering and one that is certainly treasured for specific reasons.

The premise is that an aristocrat named Murilo has committed illegal affairs with foreign powers. A priest named Nabonidus, who is probably involved in the corruption as well, threatens Murilo by gifting him a box containing a co-worker's bloody ear. Murilo understands that he could be on a hit list and needs protection. Murilo visits Conan, who has been arrested for public intoxication, in the local jail. He bribes him that he will provide an escape as long as Conan agrees to kill Nabonidus that night. 

Things don't necessarily go as planned, and the subsequent events all culminate with Murilo, Conan, and Nabonidus all meeting at the priest's cavernous house. In a wild exchange, Conan and Murilo learn that Nabonidus has laid out a number of deadly traps throughout his house to enslave or kill rivals. One of these traps is a large enclosure where Thak, a wild ape-creature, prowls around. When Nabonidus' and Murilo's rivals arrive at the house, the trap is set for Thak to kill them. Again, things don't go as planned and the three are caught in their own trap with the savage Thak.

As I mentioned above, this is a great Conan story with a well designed plot considering the story's length. The political intrigue at the story's beginning propels the story, which leads to a familiar exchange between a government leader and Conan. In stories like “The Hall of the Dead” and “The God in the Bowl”, readers see that Conan is often sought after by government officials or becomes a partner in some sort of heist. This extends that theme with Conan and Murilo's mutual agreement that each needs something the other has – assassination skills and freedom. It's a wonderful criminal balance.

The complex housing structure that Nabonidus has created hosts the bulk of the story. With the addition of Thak, a wild creation by Howard, the story features the inevitable showdown between man and beast. The action is blood-soaked as Conan battles Thak with a razor sharp poniard, a scene that seemingly channels Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan, which was published 22 years before this Conan story. The government treachery, dialogue, and awe-inspiring action is a great blend that easily catapults “Rogues in the House” into the top echelon of Howard's Conan stories. Highly recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Killinger #01 - Killinger (aka The Turquoise-Yellow Case)

I read something online the other day that said Hell will be attempting to insert a USB into your computer for eternity. The catch is that no matter which side you place up, it will never properly fit. While that form of Hell would certainly warrant good behavior for a lifetime, I have a different version of Hell. It would require the condemned party to be placed on a small deserted island for eternity with an indestructible copy of Keith Parnell's paperback novel, and Hall of Shame inductee, Killinger

The front-cover blurb of the 1980 Pinnacle version, placed cleverly beside a rifle-toting, fit-as-a-fiddle Steve Holland, says this about Killinger:

“He likes his wine good, his women bad, and his enemies dead.”

What it fails to mention is that the book is nearly 250 pages in length and that anyone subjecting themselves to one page of this nonsense will suffer unimaginable horrors. This is Roadblaster bad, which is the epitome of bad literature. Whether it slides into the fiction-abomination, smelly cesspool as that novel is in the eye of the beholder, or nose of the sniffer. 

Jedediah Killinger III is retired and lives on a large yacht called Sybaris, docked in uneventful Santa Barbara, California. The boat has a secretary, a Japanese houseboy, 13 flavors of ice-cream, wood carvings of sexual positions, and lots of wine and fresh fish. In his spare time, he works as a maritime insurance investigator. Which brings him into an assignment to look into a shipping junk called Katja that was damaged at sea. Conveniently, the damaged vessel is docked near his own boat.

Killinger's investigation is basically just trying to bed down the daughter of the vessel's owner. He never leaves the dock area, has no actual purpose in the book, and just stands by eating, drinking, and partaking in intercourse with various characters. But, there's a heavy wooden crate on the damaged vessel and two people desire the crate. 

The plot is so dull and boring that it pains me to even outline it here. Two criminals, K.Y. Smith and Count Vaclav Risponyl, both want the crate. But, they feel like they must steal the crate. Think of the old roadrunner and coyote cartoon. There's elaborate attempts to steal the crate, which requires a giant crane, that end in disaster. These attempts are unintentionally comical, convoluted, and completely uninspiring. It's like how a great action installment, like Executioner or M.I.A. Hunter, would have a plot like this for about a half-page just to further the actual plot. Unfortunately, Parnell uses this simple plot for a full 250 page novel. 

Killinger should be avoided at all costs. It's tough, because Pinnacle released two versions, one in 1974 with a different cover and title as The Turquoise-Yellow Case, obviously cashing in on John D. MacDonald's nautical private-eye series Travis McGee and its color-coded naming convention. The 1980 version is simply Killinger. To add lemon juice to the wound, there is a second Killinger novel called The Rainbow-Seagreen Case. Essentially, three opportunities for you to have a Hellish reading experience. Stay alert in the book stores for this literary danger. Handle with care. See something, say something. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Champions Wear Purple

Oklahoma native Clifton Adams authored over 50 full-length novels and around 125 short stories for the magazines and digests. His first professional sale was the short story “Champions Wear Purple”, published in Adventure in January, 1947. Being a huge fan, I tracked down a copy of the magazine online and was surprised to find that it is an Oklahoma Wildcatter boxing story. Loving both boxing and Clifton Adams, it was a match made in Heaven.

In the story, an unnamed narrator tells the reader that he's an oil-rig worker on the Woodard Wildcat. With his throat as “dry as an Arizona test hole”, he strolls into Bert Harrison's Beer Hall to tip a few pints with his co-workers. While there, a young man walks into the bar carrying an Army duffel-bag. When he orders a glass of water, the narrator steps in and offers him a drink. But, the kid says he doesn't drink, but would like to locate a man named Winters.

The narrator takes a moment to explain to “The Kid” that Winters is the old guy sitting by himself at the bar reading an out of town newspaper. The narrator explains to the reader that Winters has never been known to say a nice thing and the only time he opens his mouth is to curse at someone. The Kid walks over to Winters and introduces himself as Lee Robertson. He explains to the old man that he was in France fighting the Germans with a guy named Pete. Before he died, Pete told Robertson to find Winters because he could make a fighter out of him. Winters, shocked and dismayed to learn that Pete was killed, yells at Robertson and told him to get out. 

The narrator, feeling sorry for Robertson, chases him down in the street and offers him a job on the oil-rig. While Roberson contemplates joining the crew, the narrator advises readers that Winters and Pete were like father and son, and that Winters was Pete's boxing trainer. Upon the verge of becoming the light-heavyweight champion of the world, the war came along and took Pete away. Now, Pete is dead and Winters is left to ponder what might have been. Robertson agrees to join the oil-rig crew, but also takes an offer to fight in the town's arena. 

Robertson becomes the local boxing hero and a real friend for the wildcatters. They make Robertson their new hero and he earns their accolades by knocking out the competition on regular Wednesday night fight cards. Winters on the other hand despises Robertson and won't offer a single word of encouragement to the young man. At the bar one night, the bets begin rolling when Winters finally says, “There's a man in Hobartsville he can't beat.” Winters bets all of them that Robertson will lose to the fighter. The match is then set and Robertson discovers that the Hobartsville fighter is a former pro that almost became a world champion. With his respect and fistfuls of cash on the line, will Robertson beat this seasoned, experienced opponent?

There was so much to enjoy about this story and I love how it all ties into a purple ring robe. In just a few pages, Adams forces the reader to care about these characters. There are a number of underlying elements that make this story exceptional. First and foremost, the idea that Winters only hates Robertson due to Pete dying. He nearly begs for it to have occurred the other way around with Pete living and Roberson dying. Second, I love that Robertson, despite being floored by Winters' disrespect, still soldiers on and continues his dream. The in-ring action was superb with a number of rounds described in great detail. If you love boxing, you will appreciate these swift scenes. 

From the narrator's cool, laid-back presentation to Robertson's fighting skills, "Champions Wear Purple" is a real treat. Despite it being his first published work, it is easy to spot Adams' storytelling talents. He was destined for greatness and this story is just a small preview of what was to come. You can read the entire Adventure issue, including this story, for free: 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020


Oklahoma native Jim Thompson (1906-1977) began authoring his brand of violent, hardboiled crime-fiction in the late 1940s. His 1952 novel, “The Killer Inside Me”, is regarded as a mid-century genre classic. Often the author's work was written in a fast-paced, unbridled style rich with anti-heroes, sociopaths and violent criminals who serve as story protagonists. In his efforts to push the boundaries of the average paperback, Thompson's craftsmanship is widely respected by literary critics yet is often criticized for his abstract delivery. Case in point is the 1953 novel “Recoil” originally published by Lion Books.

The story's protagonist, Patrick Cosgrove, is first introduced to readers on his last day of a fifteen year prison sentence at Sandstone State Reformatory. In flashback sequences, it's explained that Patrick had a wild bank robbing accident while deer hunting (gives new meaning to chasing bucks). As a product of the 1950s, the law of that era specifically required someone to mentor or accept the responsibility of taking a reformed prisoner under their wing. Without it, the prisoner stays confined. Patrick doesn't have any friends or family, so he wrote to hundreds of companies asking for employment. After months of silence, Dr. Luther, a psychologist and political lobbyist, responds to Patrick's letter in the form of a job proposal. After his release, Patrick goes to work for Dr. Luther and that's where things become unusual.

Unconditionally, Luther provides free room, food and a car to Patrick. Additionally, he pays him $250/month to be a town surveyor...but provides no real instruction. Confused, Patrick drives around all day and attempts to avoid the seedy side of town. Later, Luther's sexy and flamboyant wife throws herself at Patrick. Instead of restricting the behavior, Luther encourages it! It's as if Thompson just purposefully defies the genre's traditions despite the overall absurdity of the situation. When Patrick hires a private investigator to learn more about Luther and Lila, smoking guns, car chases and corpses begin populating Thompson's otherwise flat, one-dimensional prose.

I wasn't sure what to make of “Recoil”. My first impression was to fling the book across the room, but then realized I had hardwood floors and the Kindle version. Jim Thompson proves that everyone should do a short, preliminary search to obtain a book's general public reception. “Recoil” is mostly panned by readers, and I'm only contributing to that consensus. Like an old, rusty Volkswagen, I start and stop repeatedly when I venture into this author's lane. Artistically, there's nothing to celebrate in this paperback. It is filled with awkward scenes that not only fail to entertain, but are just confusing to the reader. Yet somehow I stuck around like some interstate rubbernecker just wanting carnage satisfaction.

In closing, here's a scene summary that is indicative of everything wrong here:

Patrick finds a dead body in an office building late at night. Fearing that he himself will be a suspect in the murder, he attacks the night guard and attempts to stuff the corpse in the backseat of his car.

It's this kind of stuff that brings “Recoil” ridiculously close to the Paperback Warrior Hall of Shame. Steer clear of this book at all costs.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Case of Jennie Brice

Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote a number of mystery novels, short stories, plays and poetry during a writing career which lasted from 1908 to 1952. She was often referred to as the American version of Agatha Christie. I've recently discovered her work and was delighted with her 1925 novel The Red Lamp. Striking while the iron is hot, I soon decided to read another, The Case of Jennie Brice. It was initially printed as a hardback in 1913 and later reprinted by Dell as a paperback in 1960.

The novel is set in Rinehart's own hometown of Allegheny, Pennsylvania (part of Pittsburgh) and stars a widowed woman named Ms. Pittman. In a first-person account, Pittman explains to readers that she lives in Pittsburgh's flooded neighborhood and runs a boarding house for tenants. As an experienced riverside resident, Pittman began moving residents and property from the lower floor of the building to the second floor. Cleverly, she also ties a small boat to her staircase bannister so she can simply sail down the hall and out into the city when the waters rise. 

Two of Pittman's tenants are a married couple, writer Philip Langley and actor Jennie Brice. As the dense rain descends on the city, Pittman begins to hear the couple arguing. The next morning, the boat is found cut and then re-attached to the bannister and there are bloodstains on the rope. In addition, Jennie Brice is missing. Did she leave Langly or was she murdered? When police locate a headless body near the river, the public consensus is that this is the body of Jennie Brice. 

As one can imagine, The Case of Jennie Brice ultimately became a complex murder mystery as well as a jury trial. Pittman teams up with a former NYC homicide detective named Howell to determine if Brice is really dead. Throughout their investigation, they learn that the couple were harboring a dark secret (for that time-period) and there may be suspicious grounds for Philip to kill his wife. A beautiful mistress, a mysterious guest, a wounded dog and Pittman's separated family all play roles in Rinehart's compelling story. 

The author's brilliant setting really enhanced this moody murder mystery. The very thought that the house is flooded and that Jennie Brice could be drowned in the den below was fascinating. There is also a disturbing tension throughout the house as Pittman begins to suspect other murderers inside. Rinehart creates an equally entertaining subplot with Pittman's relationship with her estranged siblings and niece. The two plots marry perfectly and are enhanced by the final act of the book, the inevitable courtroom drama.

I've never read anything like this before. With its wildly innovative story, the development of the propelling plot and captivating characters, I found it to be a better, although quite different, reading experience than The Red Lamp. Highly recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Conan - Conan the Defiant

Where does on even begin to discuss the Conan contributions of author Steve Perry? Where L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter's collaborations and novels are written fairly well, Perry is just flat out lifeless. His scenes go off into so many tangents that I had to jot down notes. I had no idea which character was alive, dead, or somewhere in between. At the end of the day none of it really mattered as Conan the Defiant went absolutely nowhere.

Conan The Defiant was originally published as a paperback original by the Tor brand in 1987. The book finds our hero shortly after he has left the cave of "The Thing In The Crypt." His wandering path leads him to the aid of Engh, an Oblate priest who is fighting off enemies using only a staff. Conan is intrigued and eventually the two are friends back at Engh's temple. There is a tussle, Engh is dead and Conan is off to right the wrong in the predictable vengeance formula. This is where things get bizarre. 

A necromancer named Neg The Malefic has a small army of zombies, one of which is a beautiful woman named Tuanne. Neg also employes a vile henchman named Skeer. Why? Because he needs an amulet/charm thing called The Source Of Light. Apparently, if he has this amulet he can make even more zombies than he has now. Neg is basically trying to become Evil Ernie and rule the world with his corpse companions. In the way is Conan, the recently escaped zombie Tuanne and another beautiful wench named Elashi.

Perry goes on the deep end three-fourths into this book. He has an army of tarantulas hunting Skeer while the main characters are searching for Neg and an armed assassin and his crew are pursuing Conan. Neg himself has a crew of a dozen or more blind zombies trailing Conan. Who can keep up with this nonsense? To make matters even more confusing, Conan, Elashi and Tuanne become lovers of each other along the way - relationships, partners, enemies, heroes, etc. 

The end result was a battle that was quickly dispatched and disposed of in less than five pages. The absolute worst part? Conan actually cries at the end of the book. Crom be damned. There are at least four more Perry novels in this list and I'm not sure I can read another. This was absolute rubbish with a pretty cover. Hall of Shame was built for books just like this one.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Commander Shaw #08 - Skyprobe

United Kingdom author Philip Donald McCutchan (1920-1996) was the creator of the 22-book spy series starring British Naval Intelligence Commander Edmonde Shaw - a literary rival to Ian Fleming’s James Bond series. My first exposure to the series was the eighth installment, Skyprobe, from 1966.

I approached this series with some trepidation because of the whole “Commander” routine and my lack of interest in British Naval fiction or maritime adventures. I’m happy to report that there was no Navy stuff at all in the paperback, and Shaw may as well have been an operative for MI5, U.N.C.L.E., or The Salvation Army. He’s just a fairly generic British Spy working for The Crown.

While enjoying a beer at a pub, Shaw is approached by a man whom he immediately makes as a Polish Intel Officer. The Pole tells Shaw that there is a threat against the American spacecraft, Skyprobe IV, now in orbit. Soon thereafter, the informant is found dead in a park.

The man on the other side appears to be a Swiss mercenary who is clearly working for the dirty commies. But what harm could he cause an orbiting space mission that’s been in the sky for 13 days? The Brits care deeply about this mission because one of the astronauts on-board is a renowned British scientist, and the ship is using an experimental new fuel that will be a game-changer in the space race.

Shaw basically serves as a detective running down logical leads to learn who wishes to menace the orbiting spacecraft and why. The action cuts between Shaw on the ground and the astronauts inside Skyprobe IV blindly going about their mission while unknown forces are trying to undermine it.

I enjoyed this book and found it to be a good place to enter the series. Shaw is smart and tough, but not brimming with personality like, say, Matt Helm. You still like the guy because he’s competent and properly inquisitive. It was clearly written to be a James Bond clone, and I enjoyed the novel about as much as the Ian Fleming books I’ve read. I’d put Commander Shaw at the same quality level as Adam Hall’s Quiller series. It’s way better than Nick Carter: Killmaster, yet still inferior to Matt Helm.

Skyprobe is an easy recommendation for anyone enjoying a good spy yarn without the cartoonish conventions the genre often employs. In short, the novel made me want to explore the series further.

Buy a copy of this book HERE. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Cop with Wings

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, August 10, 2021

Delaney #01 - Blind Justice

Charles Herbert Shaw (1900-1955) was an Australian journalist and author. In 1952, Shaw's first novel, Heaven Knows Mister Allison, became an international bestseller and he sold the film rights to Eastern Film Enterprises, Inc. In 1953, Shaw used the name Bant Singer to write You're Wrong, Delaney, the first of four novels starring a drifter named Dennis Delaney. The book was published as a hardcover by Collins in Europe. In the United States it was published as a paperback by Pyramid as Blind Alley.

Delaney is a card sharp that has ran pool rooms and small gambling circuits for a number of years. As a WW2 veteran, he can run roughshod over any players that become drunk or out of line. For the last year, Delaney has been working for a criminal named Martini. As the book begins, Delaney has fled to a town 100-miles away in Black Springs. It's here that he's being questioned by a police detective named Keough about his possible involvement in Martini's slaying. Delaney explains that he had a physical struggle with Martini's right-hand man, Peters, but that beyond that he has no knowledge of this man's death.

Keough, who is immediately likable, lets Delaney go under the strict rule that he cannot leave Black Springs while the investigation is still underway. Hard up for a dollar, Delaney finds the local pool hall and chums around with a man he calls Fats. Fats leads him to an illegal gambling scene where Delaney has Fats use loaded dice to win the duo a wad of cash. But, when Fats tries to leave with the money, Delaney tracks him into an alley. It's here that Fats is lying face down in what appears to be a drunken blackout. Delaney grabs the money and an envelope and heads to a hotel room. In the morning, he learns that Fats are dead. Now, Keough could possibly pen both Martini and Fats on Delaney.

With 190 pages of small print, there's plenty beyond Delaney just trying to clear his name. He falls in love with a maid named Kathy while trying to extort money from a bride named Elaine. Fats were having an affair with the woman and that valuable information was found in the envelope. For 500 bucks, Delaney won't say anything about the affair. Otherwise, Elaine's husband will be notified.

Shaw's writing style is really catchy. He writes it in the first person, but Delaney's narrative is more a story. According to The Australian Dictionary of Biography, Shaw wrote in a 'terse and laconic prose. It's really clever and funny with Delaney's downtrodden perspective on life and his experiences. While the series is described as being "detective-fiction", I can't really imagine Delaney as a detective. I'd like to obtain the other books in the series just to learn what Delaney is actually doing with those books. He's not a cop or a detective, more like a con artist similar to Frank Gruber's Johnny Fletcher. But for now, all I have is just this series debut and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Series Order:

1. You're Wrong Delaney (aka Blind Alley) 1953
2. Don't Slip, Delaney (1954)
3. Have Patience, Delaney (1954)
4. Your Move, Delaney (1956)

Buy a copy of this book HERE