Showing posts with label Marvin H. Albert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marvin H. Albert. Show all posts

Monday, July 11, 2022

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 97

On Episode 97, Eric and Tom collaborate for a comprehensive feature on Jon Messmann, the prolific author and creator of The Trailsman series, The Revenger, The Handyman, and numerous Nick Carter: Killmaster novels. Eric also reviews Messmann's stand-alone action-adventure novel, Bullet for the Bride. Tom reviews a vintage crime-fiction paperback called The Mob Says Murder by author Marvin Albert and Eric offers insight on his new projects with Brash Books and Cutting Edge. Listen on any podcast app, or download directly HERE.

Listen to "Episode 97: Jon Messmann" on Spreaker.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Mob Says Murder

Albert Conroy was one of the cadre of pseudonyms employed by Philadelphia native Marvin H. Albert (1924-1996) to flood the market with his innovative crime and western novels of the mid-20th century. As far as I can tell, he wrote 14 paperbacks as Albert Conroy/Al Conroy between the years 1952 and 1972, including a stand-alone crime-noir paperback from 1958 titled The Mob Says Murder.

Eddie Driscoll is six years into his state prison life sentence for a fatal bank robbery he didn’t commit. In his day, he did plenty of bank holdup jobs, just not the one that landed him in the pen. Driscoll spends his days pining away for his wife who left him and remarried a year into his sentence. Nevertheless, he remains infatuated and in love with the memory of her soft flesh against him.

One day, Driscoll gets an unexpected visitor in prison. It’s a spicy Mexican dame is pretending to be his cousin delivering a cryptic message that Driscoll interprets as an invitation to bust out of the prison with the help of unknown friends on the outside. This evolves into an early-novel breakout that's about as good as any pulp fiction jailbreak I’ve ever read. Before you know it, Driscoll goes from lonely and horny inmate to a most-wanted fugitive.

The person pulling the strings to orchestrate Driscoll’s shaky freedom is a mobster named Bruno Hauser who runs a nightclub and illegal gambling joint called The Ocean Club. Hauser has a problem - the anti-crime governor has been sending state law enforcement goons to Hauser’s joint to bust up the place and interrupt business. Hauser’s solution? The governor must go. Interestingly, the same governor was once the prosecutor who wrongfully put Driscoll away for life. After his guilty verdict six years ago, Driscoll swore revenge on the prosecutor, and Hauser is hoping to utilize Driscoll as an assassin to remove their shared enemy from office permanently. After all, busting a guy out of prison means he owes you a big favor, right?

Albert has crafted another crime-noir masterpiece here. I thought I knew where the plot was headed based on the cover art spoiler, but it quickly became clear that the artist and copywriter had never read the book themselves. The novel’s characters are vivid and the dilemmas - both practical and moral - are taken seriously by the author. The relationships between the characters are especially well-drawn and add a dose of humanity to this ultra-violent and sexy 141-page lost classic. The plot is perfectly constructed and the dialogue is crisp. There’s really nothing to dislike about this novel.

The Mob Says Murder is another work of pulp literary greatness by Albert. The more I read from him, the more I’ve come to believe that he was a uniquely excellent writer of his era and a step above his peers. For reasons unclear to me, I don't believe this one has ever been reprinted since it hit the spinner racks in 1958. Maybe someone will read this review and do something about that. It’s really something special.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Girl with No Place to Hide

Between 1958 and 1961, Philadelphia native Marvin H. Albert (1924-1996) employed the pseudonym Nick Quarry to write a six-book series starring a hardboiled Manhattan private detective named Jake Barrow. The series has been largely lost to the ages until a recent resurrection by Stark House imprint Black Gat Books. The third installment, 1959’s The Girl with No Place to Hide, is back as a mass-market paperback for modern readers to read and enjoy.

Jake is our narrator for this taut 185-page mystery. After leaving a strip club at 2:30 in the morning, our hero witnesses a woman – a real dish, by the way – being dragged into an alley by a thug. Jake dispatches the mauler, saves the damsel in distress, and brings her to his apartment for safekeeping. Her name is Angela, and she’s filled with secrets. Angela is convinced, with good reason, that someone is trying to kill her. However, she doesn’t trust Jake enough to share the complete story. Jake steps out of his apartment for a few minutes before returning to find that Angela has disappeared.

Without a paying client, Jake takes it upon himself to find Angela and learn who is trying to kill her and why. He makes a logical leap that her threat is somehow tied to a grisly murder of a newspaper ad man around the same time and leverages his relationships with NYPD homicide to get the inside scoop. There’s a side plot involving a middleweight prizefighter with an approaching title bout. There’s also wiretaps, heaving breasts, thugs who kill, thugs who need killing, dirty cops, love triangles, torture, extreme violence, and 1950s stylized sex. No joke, this paperback has something for everyone, and the influence of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer shines brightly throughout every page.

As a character, Jake is a hardboiled archetype who loves the ladies, booze, and using his gat when pushed too far. Albert is an unsung hero of the paperback original era who was equally proficient in the crime and western genres, and The Girl with No Place to Hide presents the author at the absolute top of his game. The mystery and its solution were perfectly crafted with enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing until the satisfying solution. Let’s hope this reprint sells like hotcakes, so Stark House/Black Gat bring back more Jake Barrow mysteries. Highest recommendation.


Although The Girl with no Place to Hide is the third installment in the Jake Barrow series, the paperbacks can be read in any order. Here’s the original series order – all published under the Nick Quarry pseudonym by Fawcett Gold Medal:

1. The Hoods Come Calling (1958)
2. Trail of a Tramp (1958)
3. The Girl with No Place to Hide (1959)
4. No Chance in Hell (1960)
5. Till it Hurts (1960)
6. Some Die Hard (1961) 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Driscoll’s Diamonds

Crime-noir author Marvin Albert (1924-1996) began writing stylish, high-adventure novels in the 1970s under the pseudonym Ian MacAlister. It was a commercialized combination of successful writers such as Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean. I especially liked Albert's writing style and I've been on an adventure-fiction kick of late. It was this motivation that led me to try out the 1973 Fawcett Gold Medal paperback Driscoll’s Diamonds.

In the middle chapters of the book, it is explained that the mercenary Driscoll, his partner Royan and three other hardmen ambushed diamond smugglers in Africa. Following the shooting, the diamonds were successfully stolen and the gang fled the scene. En route to the getaway plane, Royan betrayed the group and killed all but Driscoll. In the bloody exchange, Driscoll took the diamonds, left on the plane, but then crashed near a shore in the Middle East. Having survived the accident, Driscoll’s diamonds were stuck in the pilot's seat that was now underwater. 

Albert's narrative is a sprawling adventure yarn as Driscoll attempts to reclaim the diamonds from the sunken aircraft. He is in love with a woman named Shana and both have a big future planned based on recovering the diamonds. Unfortunately, Driscoll and Shana are both taken hostage by Royan and several hardened mercenaries. They have to lead Royan to the diamonds in return for their lives. Driscoll knows that he and Shana are dead anyway, so he's fighting tooth and nail along the way. There's a multitude of escape attempts, gun battles and the obligatory tough guy talk as Royan and Driscoll recount some of their old missions together. 

I loved this novel and found it better than Albert's other Middle East scavenger hunt novel, Valley of the Assassins. Driscoll and Shana are two admirable characters and I liked the heated tension between the various characters. There's a surprise when two other parties join the hunt, but I'm going to leave that unexplained in the hope that you read this book. If you love desert climates with tough men betraying other tough men looking for dirty money, then you are going to love Driscoll’ Diamonds. It's a gem.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Valley of the Assassins

Using a combination of the names Ian Fleming (James Bond) and Alistair MacLean (Where Eagles Dare), author Marvin Albert (1924-1996) conceived the pseudonym of Ian MacAlister in the early 1970s. The prolific author of crime-fiction, tie-in novels, and westerns authored many books under his own name as well as the names of Al Conroy and Nick Quarry. Conveniently, at the height of the 1970s high-adventure market, Albert used the MacAlister pseudonym to write four genre novels. I enjoyed his 1973 WW2 adventure Skylark Mission, so I was anxious to read Valley of the Assassins, another of Albert's stand-alone paperbacks published by Fawcett Gold Medal in 1975 under the MacAlister name.

The novel introduces a boater named Eric Larson. While being a part-time adventurer, Larson spends most of his life around the Persian Gulf escorting tourists, gun-runners and exiles into and out of Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. In the opening pages, Larson discovers three bodies lying on a series of rocks in the islands known as the Arabian Nights. After learning that two of the men are dead, Larson nurses the remaining man back to health and delivers him to authorities in Iraq. Unbeknownst to Larson, the man hides a treasure map on Larson's boat.

Later, Larson is attacked on board his boat by two dagger-wielding assassins. After disposing of the killers, Larson discovers the map and goes down a rabbit hole following the treasure and a secret cult of assassins that can be traced back to 1072 AD. Larson teams with a Kurdish woman named Darra, the daughter of a famous freedom fighter. He also reluctantly agrees to an alliance with an Iranian cop and together the group embarks on a mission to locate the treasure.

Albert's intentions with this book are solid. The makings of any good desert adventure story would surely include a Middle Eastern treasure hunt involving Kurdish rebels and a secret order of assassins. However, the narrative crawls slowly and incorporates way too-many history lessons of the region. Of the novel's 190-pages, only 30-pages really have any action or movement. The author simply regurgitates what he likely learned from National Geographic for much of the book.

I never felt invested in the main character’s success or well-being and found the academic nature of the prose boring. This is a very different book from the high-adventure, high-octane action of Skylark Mission. I still have two more of these Marvin Albert/Ian MacAlister novels to read, but now I'm in no hurry.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Skylark Mission

Marvin Albert (1924-1996) was a prolific author of men's action adventure, western, mystery and crime-fiction novels. The Philadelphia native wrote a number of detective, mafia and western novels under the pseudonym Al Conroy. He also wrote a six-book series of private-eye novels starring Jake Barrow under the name Nick Quarry. In the 1970s, Albert capitalized on the high-adventure genre of British thrillers made famous by the likes of Alistair MacLean. Using the very British sounding pseudonym of Ian MacAlister, Albert authored four stand-alone high adventure novels – Strike Force 7, Valley of the Assassins, Driscoll's Diamonds and the subject of this review, Skylark Mission. The paperback was published by Fawcett Gold Medal in 1973.

The 175-page novel is divided into four parts – The Trap, The Mission, The Trek and The Assault. The opening chapters introduces readers to a man named Sam Flood, a merchant sailor aboard the S.S. Fleming  (an ode to the James Bond author?) during World War 2. The freighter is attempting to sail through the Vitiaz Straits, a guarded canal thick with Japanese torpedo boats. The destination is northern Australia, a temporary safe haven from enemy-occupied New Guinea and New Britain. After the ship is struck and sunk, Flood and two-dozen passengers are forced to navigate back by sailboat to a Japanese torpedo base in the New Britain jungle. The opening act climaxes when Flood escapes the base and makes a daring run through the jungle to find an Australian widow named Nora. Together, the two contact allied forces from a Coast-Watcher's tower.

The bulk of the narrative follows protagonist Captain Mike Shaw and his partner Corporal Neal Miller as they embark on a do-or-die mission to destroy the Japanese base. By doing so, they can liberate the prison camp and provide a safe zone for the fleeing fleets to safely journey to Australia. The author's depiction of the fighting-man Shaw is enhanced by the character's need to avenge his wife and children's deaths at the hands of Japanese forces. As an older character, his skills and abilities are balanced well with the much younger, more able Miller. To help offset some of the doom and gloom, Albert places a comedic character into the narrative, a drunken former WW1 flying ace named Qualey. Once the mission unfolds, the story flirts with the romantic pairing of Shaw and Nora – two widows horribly affected by war with a saving grace found within each other.

Skylark Mission is popcorn fiction done right. Albert is a terrific writer, and his ability to skirt the surface of this action-packed narrative is a testament to his storytelling. While being laced with WW2 atrocities, the book doesn't weigh down readers with a lot of emotional baggage. The emphasis is high-adventure, fisticuffs and blazing gunfire to please men's adventure readers and fans. In emulating the British style, Albert's delivery recalls a Jack Higgins novel, complete with a propulsive narrative and just enough variance in characters to keep readers invested in their destiny and fate. In other words, it simply doesn't get much better than Skylark Mission.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, August 3, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 55

Paperback Warrior Podcast Episode 55 delves into the world of heist fiction with a discussion of Lionel White. Also discussed: Annoying Price Stickers! Louis A. Brennan! Music to Accompany a Good Book! Donald Westlake! Skylark Mission by Ian MacAlister! And much, much more! Listen on your favorite podcast app, stream below or download directly HERE: Listen to "Episode 55: Lionel White" on Spreaker.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Murder in Room 13

Albert Conroy was a pseudonym used by Marvin Albert for much of his crime fiction and western paperback output during the 1950s through the 1970s. Sadly, most of his work hasn’t been reprinted and isn’t available digitally, so modern readers are left to pay collector prices for the old paperbacks with lurid covers. “Murder in Room 13” was a stand-alone mystery published as a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback original in September 1958.

Our narrator, Steve, is an ex-boxer and current trucker who meets Maude while passing through the seedy town of Riverton. Dinner with the beautiful stranger evolves into a one-night stand in Maude’s motel room - Room 13 from the title. After giving Maude the good pickle-tickle she desires, Steve leaves the sleeping nude behind in the motel and is arrested the next morning for her murder. And if you didn’t see that coming, you didn’t read the title.

Steve is whisked into a police interrogation room where he’s grilled by cops about what he supposedly did to Maude. Sometime after Steve left Room 13, Maude was beaten and strangled to death. Steve admits to having consensual sex with her that evening - she was alive at the time - but he maintains he didn’t kill the girl. Because of the overwhelming physical evidence against Steve, the cops aren’t buying his claims of innocence, and he is placed under even more intense pressure to confess. Of course, the opportunity arises for Steve to solve the crime himself to clear his good name, and Steve the boxer/trucker becomes a man-on-the-run investigating a serious homicide.

The basic plot of the innocent man accused of a murder he didn’t commit has been done a million times, but the author brings some new twists to the story throughout the lean 159 pages. There’s also a good bit of intense violence along the way and well-written, propulsive action. Overall, the paperback was a decent one written in a straightforward and compelling voice, and although Marvin Albert has done better, there’s plenty to enjoy in this fairly formulaic vintage paperback.

Fun Fact:

“Murder in Room 13” was adapted into a French TV movie called “Adieu is Marin!”

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Devil in Dungarees

During his life, Marvin H. Albert (1924-1996) was a prolific writer of mystery, noir, Western, and high adventure novels using the pseudonyms of Nick Quarry, Anthony Rome, Ian McAlister, Albert Conroy, and others. He also wrote many books under his own name, including several movie novelizations. In 1960, Crest Books released a 198-page paperback original called “Devil in Dungarees” under the pen name, Albert Conroy. Automat Press has recently re-released the orphaned novel as a Kindle eBook for three bucks.

After nailing young Peggy - maybe 20, maybe younger - in a motel cabin, police officer Walt Bonner is feeling the nerves. You see, he agreed to participate in a bank heist with some guys he barely knows. If it works, Bonner and Peggy - the titular devil who wears her tight blue jeans without panties - can run away to Cuba together and spend their lives porking in a rum-induced haze.

We learn pretty early in the novel that Peggy’s not a completely loyal sex partner. In fact, she plans to take off with another member of the heist crew leaving Detective Bonner without a girl or his share of the loot. The bank robbery itself happens early in the story, and most of the book is dedicated to the aftermath. As far as literary heists go, this one was well-planned and professionally executed. The benefits of having a bent cop in on the planning becomes very apparent - until things go south. The author was clearly channeling the paperbacks of Lionel White and Richard Stark when he wrote this one, and he seems to have mastered the formula.

Albert’s wrote “Devil in Dungarees” in a wandering third-person narration that slides seamlessly from one character’s mind to another’s. There’s an admirable self-assurance to his style that lets the reader know you’re in good hands through the twists, turns, and double-crosses. The paperback’s action toggles between a heist getaway story and a credible police procedural. The sex scenes are well-described and the action is a few notches more graphically violent than most 1960 crime paperbacks.

Overall, I have nothing bad to say about “Devil in Dungarees.” It was a sexy, action-packed heist thriller among the best I’ve ever read. Marvin Albert was the real deal, and I now want to explore more novels by him. Highly recommended.

Buy this book HERE