Showing posts with label Charles Runyon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charles Runyon. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Object of Lust

Like a lot of working authors of the paperback original era, Charles Runyon (1928-2015) supplemented his income as a mystery and science-fiction writer by authoring titillating sleaze novels using a pseudonym. Black Gat Books, an imprint of Stark House Press, has unearthed a 1962 title Runyon wrote under the pen name Mark West for a contemporary reprint.

Marian, age 35, is a bored and lonely housewife and mom who is initially receptive to the flirtatious advances of 22 year-old Lewis Leland. Things escalate into hot-and-heavy make-out sessions for the pair in the woodsy confines of the lake resort town where Lewis works teaches high school girls how to water-ski.

After Lewis saves Marian from drowning in the lake, they get together on-the-sly for some thank-you-sex, the encounter ends abruptly when they are almost caught together in the woods by some local kids. Marian develops cold feet and loses the fire in her belly for young Lewis. The problem? Lewis doesn’t want this forbidden romance to end and goes into a full stalker mode.

Unlike most novels about creepy stalkers, this one is partially told from the creep’s perspective. This is a trick that Runyon also employed in his groundbreaking serial killer novel from 1965, The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed. Runyon does a particularly good job of getting the reader into Lewis’ infatuated head, and the writing is particularly solid.

Unfortunately, the paperback isn’t a crime-suspense novel throughout. Instead, the plot swims in the histrionics of the daisy-chain of affairs and infidelities among the summer lovers in Marian’s orbit. It’s pretty standard fare for a 1960s sleaze paperback and nothing you haven’t read before if you’re familiar with the genre.

To be clear, the scenes with Lewis becoming increasingly unhinged were pure gold. For my money, I’d have preferred more creepy stalker stuff and way less relationship drama filler. Is this book worth your while? Runyon was definitely a unique talent, but this isn’t his best work. It’s not much better than a mediocre Orrie Hitt book covered in some light suspense shrink wrap.

Buy a copy of the book HERE.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 19

In this episode, we have a hardboiled discussion regarding censorship in our favorite genres. Eric reviews “Bloody Jungle” by Charles Runyon and Tom covers “Modesty Blaise” by Peter O’Donnell. You don’t want to miss this one! Stream below or on your favorite podcasting service. Download the episode directly at (LINK)

Listen to "Episode 19: Hardboiled Censorship" on Spreaker.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Bloody Jungle

Author Charles Runyon experienced commercial success with his fourth published work, 1965's crime-fiction novel “The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed”. The Korean War vet followed up that novel a year later with a rather unique literary choice. Like Harry Whittington, Runyon authored a single fictional novel about the Vietnam War, “Bloody Jungle.” It was published by Ace with cover art by famed western pulp artist Gerald McConnell.

Lieutenant Clay Macklin is a battle-hardened Green Beret stationed at Phu Duc, near the Cambodian border. As the novel opens, both Macklin and his demolition Sergeant Bill Cranor locate a North Vietnamese defector crawling through the base's outer perimeter. Under some distress, the defector warns Macklin and company that a battalion of NVA soldiers have regrouped and are heading to Phu Doc the next night. With only 34 US personnel on base, the team feels that the NVA will slaughter the team and the 2,500 sympathetic villagers.

In an early plot twist, Macklin and select riflemen are separated from the base as Phu Duc is overcome with NVA. Stranded miles from the nearest US camp, Macklin drags a wounded man into a small village where he befriends a young woman and her baby. Here, Macklin learns more about the attacks and where the NVA are campaigning next. As the narrative explores Macklin's harrowing journey, Runyon enhances the storytelling with a budding romance between Macklin and the villager.

“Bloody Jungle” has many twists and turns on its ultimate road to Hell. I can't spill much of the second half of this novel, but it's a real powder-keg ready to explode. Runyon takes readers through jungle battles, base bombings, torture sequences, romance and even some detective work in downtown Saigon. At only 160-pages, the action is nearly non-stop and extremely violent. This isn't a novel for weak stomachs...but I think readers familiar with the author's work realize there is a violent temperament in many of his characters. Overall, this is an expensive, rare paperback that deserves a reprinting.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Color Him Dead

Charles Runyon has worn a number of hats in his lifetime – Army service in Korea, farmer and industrial editor. Quitting his job to become a full-time writer didn't quite lead to the lap of luxury, but it did produce over 25 novels including Edgar Allan Poe award winner “Power Kill” (1972). Runyon's third work, Gold Medal paperback “Color Him Dead”, was released in 1963, just two years prior to what is arguably his most notable work - “The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed”. The novel has been reprinted by Prologue in both digital and physical formats. 

“Color Him Dead” introduces us to Indiana prisoner Drew. In the book's prologue, Drew has had a brutal altercation with another inmate that's placed him in isolation. When called to the warden's office, Drew learns that his mother has passed away. In that same frenzied prologue, Drew, accompanied by guards, attends his mother's funeral only to escape in a high-speed chase afterwards. In flashbacks we realize that Drew is after a woman named Edith, but it's too early for Runyon to reveal the reason. 

The opening chapters explains that Edith is now married to a Caribbean dictator named Barrington. The two reside on a rural island that Barrington rules with an iron fist. While in command of slaves, villagers and industry, Ian spends his day fornicating with the local slaves while attempting to impregnate Edith monthly. Ian's enforcer is the brutish Doxie, a cruel henchman who repeatedly beats slaves to death in an effort to impress his employer. Where does Drew fit in?

Without revealing too many spoilers, Drew and Edith once had a life together. Due to certain circumstances, Edith sent Drew to prison as an innocent man. Now that Drew has escaped prison his sole purpose in life is to kill Edith. Where the novel excels is Runyon's rather clever idea to have Edith experience amnesia. What's the fun in killing someone who doesn't actually remember the reason you're doing it? That's the focus of the narrative as Drew, shockingly, seduces Edith in an attempt to jog her brain into remembering him. As the ploy continues, Drew starts to fall in love with Edith all over again. 

While this novel may sound a little mushy and out of place on the crime rack, believe's a real barn burner. Doxie and Barrington's attempts to displace Drew is brimming with action, fistfights and an exciting gun battle in the island cliffs. Further, there's a whole second thread of action as Drew partners with two islanders to kill Barrington and end his rule. While there's a good amount of romance – and sex – between Drew, Edith and the lovely Leta, it's paralleled by an equal amount of high-octane action. Runyon's writing is fast-paced with an intriguing cast of characters to keep the pages turning. Overall, I couldn't be more satisfied with this book. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE