Showing posts with label Amber Dean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amber Dean. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Something for the Birds

Here's the deal. Amber Dean's real name was Amber Dean Getzin and she lived from 1902 until 1985. She wrote 17 total novels, but 10 of these were part of an amateur detective series starring Abbie Harris. What's left are stand-alone stories, mostly suspense or crime-fiction that uses odd plot devices to keep novels unique and innovative. Case in point, Something for the Birds (hardcover 1959, paperback 1961), which features bird watchers mixed up with a heist team. It's crazy. It's unbelievable. It's entertaining as Hell. 

First things first, if you love both Lionel White and Dan Marlowe's characters plotting to knock over a bank while also conspiring to knock off one or two of their own heist team, then you'll love half of this book. No question. From that perspective, Dean showcases Frank and his three teammates (2 male, 1 female) planning a bank heist in Rochester, NY. Mostly, they perform well and get away with the money. Interesting enough, they decide to mail the stolen loot to a general delivery address in the small town where they plan to chill until the heat is off. 

The small upstate New York town the heist crew picks is inhabited by a group of friends that spend their free time as “birders”. I had to look the term up, but it's basically Paperback Warrior nerdiness, only with birds instead of books. These jokers keep log books of flight patterns, migration, what bird is mating (giving the bird) to another bird, species, calls, etc. Like, totally spaced out on birds. 

One of the birders has a lazy daughter that ships a package of dirty laundry back home for washing. Inevitably, because this is a crime-fiction novel, the birder accidentally gets the box of stolen cash and the bank robbers receive the dirty clothes. The mail is so unreliable. However, the birders never stop to open the box they have mistakenly received because they are on the hunt for bird eggs. But, the robbers know the birders have the money and are suspicious that they will go to the police. Frank and his team, which are warring with each other over the botched plans, head into the forest to shoot the women. Thus, this book's second-half is a suspenseful womanhunt birdwatching adventure with some mild humor. 

Something for the Birds was a lot of fun to read and is on par with Deadly Encounter in terms of tight, concise plot development. Dean's novels possess quirky characters in unusual circumstances, performing “outside the box” hobbies or careers. She does create some reader abrasion by constantly changing character perspectives and locales. But, I was okay with the dizziness. In regard to the mailing fiasco, I believe the author had another novel with the premise wrapped around a New York Post Office, but the title escapes me.  

Overall, if you enjoy heist books and the ultimate fallout when the plan goes south, then Something for the Birds is a soaring recommendation. Don't let this one fly away.

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Encounter with Evil

Aside from the seven-book series of Abbie Harris mysteries, Amber Dean authored ten stand-alone crime-noir and mystery novels between 1944-1973. My first experience with the author was 1959's Bullet Proof, a novel that was well-written but poorly executed. After acquiring a copy of her Pocket Books paperback Encounter with Evil from 1961, I found the chilling synopsis just too inviting to pass up.

The book's opening pages finds David, his wife, and their 15-year old daughter Lauren traveling by car through a rural stretch of Ontario, Canada. At 2:00AM, with their daughter safely tucked away in the backseat, the couple walk into a diner for some early morning coffee. Oddly, ten men file in sporadically over the course of twenty minutes followed by the awakened teenage Lauren. After locating her parents, Lauren announces that she’s returning to the car to get some more sleep. David and his wife pay for their meal, get back in their car and drive 45-minutes down the road before glancing into the backseat to discover that Lauren is gone.

Like a Twilight Zone episode, the couple head back to the diner and find that it's mostly closed with a couple of men still sitting inside. The customers claim that they never saw the family and maintain that the diner didn't have a female waitress when they were there. After disputing their side of the story, the couple head to the local police station where they are surprised to learn that the diner would have been closed for business at 11PM and the waitress they claim served them left town with her husband the day before. The Canadian cops show some anti-American bias by accusing David of lying about the whole thing.

I'm not ruining anything for you that you won't read on the back cover. Encounter with Evil is a riveting suspense story that thrusts the parents into extraordinary circumstances. Lauren's fate is eventually revealed to the reader, but we are along for the ride as her frustrated mom and dad attempt to buck the system of small-town injustice in their attempts to find her. The narrative switches between Lauren’s experience, the parental nightmare, and a few surprising characters with unclear roles that aren’t fully explained until well into the novel.

While not perfect, Amber Dean is a terrific writer. Like Bullet Proof, I found that some elements weren't perfectly executed but generally well enough to satisfy readers. I wish her writing style had a more gritty flavor, perhaps with more violence and death. Instead, this is a pretty tame novel and not a far-stretch from modern young adult fiction. Nevertheless, I read it in nearly one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope to find and read more of Dean's vintage paperbacks in the future.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, April 20, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 40

Episode 40 of the Paperback Warrior Podcast is our contentious “Women and Minorities” episode. If you can handle the heat, listen to the guys candidly discuss the work of Helen Nielsen, Amber Dean, Joseph Nazel, and Marc Olden. Be warned: This episode is sure to be highly controversial and may spark a worldwide boycott. If you dare, check it out on your favorite podcast app, stream below or download directly HERE:

Listen to "Episode 40: Women and Minorities" on Spreaker.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Bullet Proof

Amber Dean (real name Amber Dean Getzin, 1902-1985) was a New York native that authored 17 mystery novels between 1944 and 1973. One of the author's most consistent characters was that of Abbie Harris, a nosy amateur detective that debuted in 1944's Dead Man's Float. The seven-book series features Harris solving mysteries and assisting police in and around Rochester, New York. My first experience with Amber Dean is a stand-alone novel entitled Bullet Proof, published in 1959 by Popular Library.

In the novel's opening chapter, Jac Constable and his wife Betty are talking with New York State Police regarding a possible male voyeur that was spotted in their vineyard. When the police depart after failing to locate the perpetrator, Jac spots the man in a nearby bush. After a confusing sequence of events, Betty calls the police to return to the house. But too little too late. Betty is shot and killed by the lunatic hiding in the bushes.

Next, this opening sequence is replayed again from the perspective of the lunatic in the bushes, a 16-year old named Henry Muslim. Muslim has escaped from a nearby juvenile delinquent facility called Diligence and spent the last two nights sleeping in the basement of an abandoned house. After stealing a .22 rifle, Muslim is driven by the need for attention. He isn't fueled by adolescent rage, sex or money. He simply wants to be chased. In alternating chapters, the book changes perspective from Muslim to various law enforcement officers. But, the book's main character is Jac Constable's sexy secretary Hallie Brown.

The author forces readers to spend a great deal of time in the headspace of Hallie. These sequences are saturated with Hallie's lust for Jac, her flirtation with a local cop and daydream segments where Hallie is embraced by a husky cop and taken to an Alaskan cabin. As a fan of hardboiled, vintage crime-fiction that features tough cops and ruthless killers, the author's lovey-dovey approach to storytelling wasn't exactly the narrative promised by the book's inspiring cover. Eventually (I mean page 80 of 124-pages), Hallie is kidnapped by Muslim but the two never actually engage in dialogue. In fact, Muslim ties her up and leaves. The end.

I'm sure Amber Dean is a fine mystery author and has her share of cozy mystery fans. Based on my experience with Bullet Proof, I'm not one of them. Her method of saddling the storytelling on a number of characters was confusing and took me out of the story. After a shocking opening chapter, the rest of the book just waddles in mediocrity as Muslim peeps on residents, sits at a drive-in movie and tinkers with a car. Hallie is wasted as an overbearing sex goddess that remains tied in a chair for most of the book's hectic finish. The cops are clueless while the author pitches a surprise swerve at the end.

Bullet Proof was a dreadful reading experience and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. If you have to own this book due to its vivid cover, please entertain purchasing a copy of it HERE.