Showing posts with label Movie Tie-In. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Movie Tie-In. Show all posts

Monday, November 27, 2023

G.I. Joe - Tales from the Cobra Wars

Hasbro began production of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toys in 1982 and licensed the line to Marvel Comics for an ongoing series. In 1983, the popular animated series began it's four-year television run, producing 95 total episodes. The franchise has spun into animated and live-action films, additional comic series titles, and an assortment of collectible toys that have lasted over 40 years. 

As a casual fan of the franchise (I grew up watching the animated series), I was surprised to find an anthology of short-stories set in the G.I. Joe universe. The book is called Tales from the Cobra Wars and it was published in 2011 by IDW and edited by World War Z novelist Max Brooks. The collection includes seven total stories authored by the likes of Jonathan Maberry, Chuck Dixon, John Skipp, Cody Goodfellow, and even Brooks himself. The book also features an introduction by Brooks and artwork by Michael Montenat.

I have always enjoyed the G.I. Joe ninja character Snake Eyes, including the 2021 Paramount Pictures film Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. I also really like Chuck Dixon's writing style, especially his amazing run on the Marvel Comics title The Punisher. So, the story I decided to review from this collection is simply called “Snake Eyes”, penned by Dixon. 

When the story begins, a mathematician named Hanover is lecturing at a conference in Geneva about an algorithm he has perfected over the course of ten years that can predict growth in the economy of a developing nation. After the performance, Hanover is interviewed briefly by a woman calling herself Anastasia deCobray, but fans of the franchise will quickly realize from Dixon's description that this woman is the heinous Baroness, a lieutenant to Cobra Commander. Hanover is then knocked unconscious and taken into a Cobra hideout in the French mountains. 

When Hanover awakens, he learns that he has been taken captive by Cobra in an effort to reverse his complex algorithm, ultimately creating a new formula that would quickly, and efficiently, decrease the growth of a developing nation. Cobra hopes to use Hanover's intelligence to cripple a nation. In an effort to force Hanover into working with Cobra they show the mathematician a camera feed from inside his daughter's apartment in Paris. Comply and she lives. Fail and she dies. 

This was a fun 28 page story that thrusts readers into a search and rescue mission as the good guys' ninja works remotely in Moscow to gain intel on Hanover's whereabouts. By communicating with Scarlet and Mainframe, two of his Joe teammates, Snake Eyes is deployed to this monastery in the high peaks for a rescue mission. There's plenty of gunfire, and a few sword swipes, to satisfy G.I. Joe fans. Additionally, unlike the tame television show, Snake Eyes kills his enemies, which added some much-needed realism to the heroics.

“Snake Eyes” was a fun short with plenty of action-packed excitement. But, it did force me to wonder why we aren't getting any full-length G.I. Joe novels. A twenty-pager is fine, but it would seem there are a ton of stories to write about a variety of universe characters outside of the graphic novel and comic medium. Based on the box-office failure of the most recent G.I. Joe film, I assume Hasbro is content selling toys and comic licensing. 

Purchase a copy of this book HERE.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Halloween - The Scream Factory

The Halloween film franchise has been going strong for nearly a half-century. Who knew that a babysitter killer could spark so much interest from fans while simultaneously creating enough timelines and multiverses to compete with Marvel Comics. Depending on your level of fandom, you are just casually watching Michael Myers stalk his prey through 11 films (Halloween III doesn't count) or piecing together the various movies into separate timelines. For me personally, this is my favorite horror franchise and I watch the films religiously. In my mind, I've organized them all into various categories and timelines, but I've never bothered with the novels. 

In paperback format, there are novelizations for seven Halloween films and at least one fan-fiction novelization (Halloween 5 by Jake Martin). However, besides the novelizations, Berkley published three original paperbacks in the late 1990s – The Scream Factory (1997), The Old Myers Place (1997), and The Mad House (1998). These three novels, averaging 150 pages, were catered for young adults and featured Michael Myers doing what he does best – hunting teens in Haddonfield, IL. The books were authored by Kelly 'O Rourke (aka Kelly Reno) and aren't related to each other. These are stand-alone stories. This review is for The Scream Factory, the first of the three paperbacks. 

Ultimately, this novel only references events in the 1978 Halloween film. There is a mention of a body count, but it isn't correct. The book ignores any sequels, which makes it much easier to simply enjoy as a stand-alone horror novel. The knowledge that the Halloween film ended with Michael Myers being shot by his doctor and then disappearing is the only prerequisite needed. 

It's now 1997 and the small town of Haddonfield talks about Michael Myers as if he is an urban myth. The town's youth mostly designates the killer as a thing of legend, nothing more, nothing less. Myers hasn't been seen since 1978. High school student Lori Parker collaborates with her friend Sally to throw a large Halloween party in the basement of Haddonfield City Hall. The party, aptly titled The Scream Factory, will be a gathering of high school students and a local band (fronted by Lori's romantic interest). 

The events prior to the party leads to Myers appearance. In a series of murders, Myers begins killing some of Lori's friends and members of the town's staff. Myers is described as being covered in mud and having dirty hair, which brought to mind the imagery of “homeless” Myers in Rob Zombie's Halloween remake. Myers also does some things that are more in line with Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th), showing supernatural strength by dragging a large tree across a highway. But, at other times he is calling Lori on the phone and making bizarre noises or placing jack 'o lanterns at various locations (with a knife). Rather odd behavior that seems to contrast with the movie versions.

The Scream Factory isn't great, nor is it scary. But, I will state for the record that this is more of an “adult” horror novel than young adult in terms of savage violence and some gore. I'm not completely convinced this is a young adult book despite the clownish cover art. If you just have to consume everything Michael Myers, then by all means read this. Otherwise, just stick to the films, novelizations, and the occasional graphic novel.

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Friday the 13th - Mother's Day

The Friday the 13th film franchise isn't a stranger to media tie-in fiction. Nicholas Valentin Yermakov, using the name Simon Hawke, authored four novelizations of film installments (Friday the 13th I, II, III, VI) and popular crime-fiction author Michael Avallone also authored a novelization, Friday the 13th III (using an alternate ending not filmed). Arguably, the film franchise “jumped the shark” long before 1993, but it was this year that the Jason Voorhees character ventured into an unusual area – Hell.

After seven films of Jason attacking camp counselors, the eighth film, Jason Takes Manhattan, placed the hockey-masked murderer on a yacht and in Manhattan of all things. But, as odd as that film was, it would pale in comparison to the wildly outrageous Jason Goes to Hell

1993's Jason Goes to Hell re-positioned the unstoppable undead character into a more supernatural universe that incorporated other people performing as the Camp Crystal Lake killer. In this film, the long rumored idea of Camp Crystal Lake being haunted or cursed comes to fruition. Jason's heart is apparently affected by a supernatural power, so when a possessed coroner takes a bite out of Jason's heart, he becomes the killer. Through the course of the film, various people are “possessed” by Jason's curse. While some fans embraced the film, others felt it went a little far and distanced itself from what made the film franchise so successful – suspense, atmosphere, terror. Jason Goes to Hell also kick-started more unusual franchise additions like Jason X (Jason in space!) and Freddy vs Jason

If nothing else, Jason Goes to Hell does deserve some credit for thrusting the film franchise back into media tie-in fiction after a seven year absence. In 1994, Berkley published four young-adult novels that tie-in to the events that took place in Jason Goes to Hell. These four stand-alone novels, Mother's Day, Jason's Curse, The Carnival, and Road Trip. The books were all authored by William Pattison using the pseudonym Eric Morse. In 2011, Pattison released a fifth book, The Mask of Jason Voorhees, as a free PDF download. Being a fan of the film franchise, I decided to try the books out beginning with Mother's Day.

After numerous murders, Camp Crystal Lake now lies abandoned. Somewhere in the vicinity, a hunter named Joe Travers is stalking through the forest and stumbles on a white stone. Curious about the stone, Travers begins digging beneath it and discovers a rotted cardboard box containing Jason's deceased mother's head, which is somehow alive. The head begins to talk to Joe and gives him specific instructions to obtain construction equipment to dig up Jason's hockey mask. In doing so, Joe dons the mask and becomes possessed by the spirit of Jason Voorhees. 

In Newkirk, Massachusetts, the book's young protagonist, high-schooler Carly receives an invite from a high-school dropout named Boone. The plan is for Boone, Carly, and four other kids to take a weekend trip to Camp Cystal Lake to party. Carly, a shy virgin (the prerequisite for Final Girl material) agrees to go if her mother will consent. Later, Carly discovers that Boone called her mother and pretended to be a teacher to gain permission for the trip. So, these six kids head to the abandoned Camp Cystal Lake campground where Jason Voorhees is now alive and well through the body of Joe Travers. This should be fun.

Like the film series, the campers receive a warning when they stop for gas just outside the campground. A man named Ned warns the group “...there's evil in the air all around this lake. If you live here too long, it gets in your blood, it gets you thinking bad things.” Later, readers discover how true that statement is when it is disclosed that Ned lives in a house with his mother's dead body. Obviously, the campers ignore Ned's warning and embark on the camping trip.

Pattison's storytelling is fast-paced and surprisingly violent considering this is a young-adult novel. At just 114 pages, the body count begins to rise around page 80. With six potential victims for “Jason” to prey on, the action moves around the campground with familiar kills happening in the lake's water, around the cabins, and in the dense forest. As the body-count dwindles to just Carly (not a spoiler, anyone worth their salt should realize she is the survivor), the book encompasses that same frenzied feeling executed by the various films – final girl versus Jason. The chase scenes scurry around locked cars, wrecked motorcycles, open graves, and the hiking trails around the lake. 

It was obvious that Pattison really enjoys the Friday the 13th franchise, and his writing was top-notch even with the irritating teenage point-of-view (boy-chasing, social uneasiness). In terms of the violence I alluded to earlier, the book also presents some nightmarish sequences containing slimy grotesque worms. The combination of hack 'n slash and supernatural elements was excellent. If you enjoy the film franchise, then I highly recommend Mother's Day. It has everything you know and love about the films.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, May 15, 2023

Star Trek - Ice Trap

Listen, you can journey down any internet rabbit hole and find heaps of Star Trek information regarding movies, games, toys, comics, and novels. I'm not going to saddle you with a bunch of information about publishers, series titles, and years. Ice Trap is the 60th installment in a series of Star Trek tie-in books published by Pocket Books between 1979 to 2002. These books feature the original series characters that debuted on NBC in 1966 – Spock, Captain Kirk (William freakin' Shatner), etc. - aboard the USS Enterprise. I'm not a Trekkie, but I've watched episodes here and there of all the Star Trek shows. So, a 1992 book that looks like a “Dirk Pitt in Star Trek” adventure appealed to me. Don't fault me on my Star Trek knowledge. I'm the most pedestrian fan of any casual Trekkie circle.

The crew of the USS Enterprise is assigned the mission to investigate a missing research shuttle on the frigid ice-crusted planet Nordstral. The planet serves the pharmaceutical industry by harvesting plankton for drug use. But, the research crew has gone missing and some of the industrial workers have gone mentally insane. With McCoy, it is Kirk's job to find the sources creating these psychotic episodes. On the flip side, Uhura and Chekov dig into the whereabouts of the research shuttle by conducting interviews with the planet's inhabitants, an alien race known as the Kitka. 

Most of the book's narrative and plot development consist of Uhura and McCoy working directly with Nordstral Pharmaceutical's guides across the icy tundra. The mystery lies in the fact that one of the guides may be a murderer keeping outsiders from the precious plankton. The investigation by Kirk and McCoy deals with the scientific aspect, but as the book gains momentum into the finale a hefty action sequence unfolds with the two trying to escape a flooding ship. Also, to add a horror aspect to the action, the novel introduces a giant underwater sea monster. Can you say KRAKEN?

The book's cover suggests the author is L.A. Graf. In reality, the Graf name is a trio of authors named Julia Ecklar, Karen Cercone, and Melissa Crandall. The perspectives in the book change numerous times within each chapter, so the abrupt character switches were jarring. I found myself re-reading pages to discover which group of characters I was in the midst of. This may have been a result of rotating authors writing certain parts, or it was designed that way. But, the effect wasn't enough to ruin the adventure. Ice trap was a lot of fun to read and placed me in a Star Trek mood for more installments of the series. If you love space travel or a good icy adventure, this one is recommended.

Buy a copy of this book HERE. 

Friday, April 14, 2023

Mission Impossible - The Priceless Particle

The Mission Impossible TV show aired for 171 episodes starting in 1966 and spawned four paperback tie-in novels and two juvenile ones. The first of the juvenile books was a 212-page novel from 1969 called The Priceless Particle by crime fiction veteran Talmage Powell (1920-2000). Having never seen the show or the contemporary movies, it seemed like a fair place to start.

The Impossible Missions Force - or IMF - is a secret U.S. Government Agency that handles jobs way too tough for other agencies. The IMF is headed by Jim Phelps, an executive who also seems to handle a good bit of fieldwork. While in Italy, Phelps is passed a secret message (cool tradecraft, by the way) alleging that a biochemical researcher has developed a synthetic protein that could end world hunger. The scientist has been taken captive by the evil dictator in the impoverished home nation of Masacar.

Both the Americans and the Russians want to bust the doctor loose and harness his formula. If the totalitarians gain control of the key to solve world hunger, they’ll leverage it to turn the world commie. Whereas the U.S. will use the technology for nothing but benevolent good — ‘cause that’s how we roll.

The mission, if Phelps chooses to accept it (spoiler alert: he does), is to free the captive scientist before the Russians do. He puts together his core team of agents from the TV show to handle the mission. The book nicely doesn’t assume the reader is a student of the show, so each character gets an appropriate amount of exposition.

It’s interesting that this book was originally released for the juvenile market because there’s nothing childish about the writing or plot. Powell’s language is mature and the geopolitics aren’t dumbed-down. Granted, there’s no sex or profanity, but I bet there wasn’t any in the adult Mission Impossible paperbacks authored by Walter Wager using the John Tiger pseudonym. Part of me wonders if Powell was even informed this would be packaged for kids with a cardboard hardcover like a Hardy Boys novel.

The Priceless Particle is a solid rescue-the-prisoner story sprinkled with lots of cool, espionage-fiction tricks of the trade. For my money, there was a bit of over-reliance on uncanny disguises, evidently a trope of the series, but not enough to ruin the adventure. There’s no real bodycount or violence, but the author generates plenty of excitement nonetheless.

I can definitely recommend this novel without reservations. Talmage Powell wrote one other Mission Impossible juvenile novel for Whitman Books called The Money Explosion, which I’d read in a heartbeat if the price was right. Don’t spend a fortune on The Priceless Particle, but if you have it on a shelf or find a cheap copy, it’s a perfectly pleasant diversion.

Buy a copy of this book HERE. 

Monday, February 6, 2023

Dark Shadows #01 - Dark Shadows

Paperback Library published 33 Dark Shadows novels from 1966 through 1972. These gothic paperbacks were based on the American soap opera that ran on ABC television from 1966 until 1971. The paperbacks were authored by popular gothic author William Edward Daniel Ross under his pseudonym Marilyn Ross. Thankfully, these novels make up a stand-alone series that can be read independently of the television show. They re-create the show, evident with this first paperback, the eponymous Dark Shadows, capturing most of what occurs in the Dark Shadows debut episode. But, the paperback series changes some of the characters and even adds new ones that aren't featured on the television version. Thus, it creates its own universe and continuity. If you want to avoid sappy daytime television reruns, then this paperback series is exactly what you need. Plus, it is completely affordable as audio books on CD or on your favorite streaming service like Hoopla or Audible. 

In Ross's series debut, young Victoria Winters arrives in the fictional Maine seaside village of Collinsport. Readers learn that she was orphaned as a baby and she never learned who her parents were. Money was mysteriously supplied to her throughout her upbringing in the form of a mailed check. Now, she is ready for her next job as a governess to a young boy at Collins House, an enormous mansion that houses over 40 rooms. 

Meeting the family, she discovers that Elizabeth Collins Stoddard hasn't left the house in nearly 20 years. Her brother, Roger Collins, is a single guy that possesses a rather dull outlook on life in between his routine cocktails. There's also Carolyn, a rambunctious, spunky young adult that finds relief from the boredom at a local bar. But, the most interesting character is that of Ernest Collins, a symphony violinist that experienced the death of two loves. The first was his wife Elaine, who supposedly died in a car accident. The second was a lover that threw herself from Widow's Hill, a place far above the rocky shore where women apparently jump to their deaths. 

Throughout the narrative, Victoria is tormented by an unseen stalker that plays tricks on her. At night she can hear heavy breathing and footsteps outside of her room. She finds a creepy mask hanging from her ceiling and is attacked in the dark cellar. The scariest moment for Victoria is when her car suddenly loses control and crashes. Of course, Elizabeth and others refuse to believe that anyone is stalking Victoria. But, the mystery points to Ernest as a possible suspect.

Unfortunately, this debut Dark Shadows paperback is a dull, uninspiring read. Ross utilizes long, drawn out dialogue to pad the book's length, leaving readers lulled into a bored mood with the pointless conversations. The attempts to scare or harm Victoria are few and far between, leaving very little activities to keep readers enthralled. Further, the atmosphere is described as sunny and warm, which left me disconnected from the television visuals of the old seaside mansion draped in fog. If I didn't read the title or the “Victoria Winters” name, I never could have guessed this was a Dark Shadows book. In addition, both Elizabeth, Ernest, and his lovers are not included in the television show.

Perhaps the series will improve with more of a supernatural element. Barnabas Collins, despite appearing on the cover of at least one printing of this specific paperback, doesn't appear in the series until the fifth installment. In the meantime, steer well clear of this dud.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Quantum Leap #01 - The Novel (aka Carny Knowledge)

It's summer 1992, I'm 16 years old, and taking summer driving school lessons in the bible belt. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I got home around 9pm to a sweltering hot house (we had no AC), turned on our brand new, state-of-the -art Zenith 25” cabinet television with full color and a remote control. I settled into a couch potato mood, pointed the clicker at the screen, and...there's nothing on television that interests me. I'm forced to watch summer syndication, the epitome of boredom. Although it began airing on NBC in 1989, I had never watched Quantum Leap up until that moment. NBC was running a special summer week of show reruns hoping to boost ratings going into a new season in the Fall. There I was with that memorable theme song, the blue lights, Sam Beckett electrifying and morphing into some static time traveling energy. My first experience with Quantum Leap. Oh boy. 

Quantum Leap was created by Donald P. Bellisario, the television mastermind of hit shows like Magnum P.I. and N.C.I.S. He pitched a science-fiction time-traveling show to NBC and it grew into a sensation, spawning comics, paperbacks, conventions, and five wildly entertaining seasons of television that remain in rotating syndication to this day. The show even gained a reboot in the Fall of 2022 with a new cast. 

The idea is rather simple. Dr. Sam Beckett created a time-traveling program, the Quantum Leap Accelerator, ran by a supercomputer deemed "Ziggy". The program is funded by the U.S. Government and housed in the New Mexico desert. The technology is supervised by a whiz named Gushie and a medical doctor named Tina. But, the most charismatic part of the show is Al, an Admiral that partners with Sam during the time travel. In the first episode, Sam steps into the accelerator and vanishes. He awakens to find himself in the past and controlling another person's body. Al can only appear to Sam as a hologram, but provides useful information from a colorful device called Handlink, which is a glorified smart phone. 

The accelerator transports Sam into the past, but some sort of supernatural intelligence is perceived to have taken over the whole program. Each episode, Sam learns that the person he is inside of will either die, cause others to die, or experience some sort of tragedy. His job is to avoid these events from happening - righting the wrongs. His insight is that Al can provide odds that whatever he is altering will correct the issue. Once he “fixes” the problem, Sam leaps through time and into another life. But, if he fails to correct the issue, there's a high probability that he will die in the event or be forced to live the remainder of his life as that person. While Sam is controlling the body of the person in the past, that same person is flung into the present day and remains in a waiting room inside of Sam's body. After all of this is fixed, things go back to normal and that person never realizes their course of life was altered. But, each leap Sam makes he is hopeful that he will return to himself, back to his real life, back home. 

There are several men's action-adventure novels that have the same vibe as Quantum Leap. Casca, Time Raider, and Richard Blade immediately come to mind. These are fun paperback series titles that create unique adventures with very little backstory required – hero simply solving the problem and moving to the next one. It only made sense for Universal to commission Berkley to create paperbacks affiliated with the show under their imprint Ace. These paperbacks feature different writers, freely able to create new adventures for Sam to leap into. Beginning in 1990, the first of 20 novels was published, although the first two were simply novelizations of television episodes and published separately through Corgi. 

The first of the Ace titles (18 total) was published in 1992 and simply called The Novel (aka Carny Knowledge in the UK). It was authored by Ashley McConnell, an American author that contributed to other television tie-in paperback novels in series titles like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Stargate SG-1, and Highlander. As a fan of the show, and avid paperback reader, I gained a good deal on a Quantum Leap lot of 17 total books, including the The Novel. I thought I would leap into the series with what I consider the first original Quantum Leap paperback story. Thus, the #1 is attributed to the title. 

McConnell begins the book like the television show, with Sam glowing blue and awakening to find himself in the body of a 20-something male named Bob Watkins. Sam learns from Al that he is in a small town in Oklahoma during the summer of 1957. Bob Watkins works at a family owned amusement park that has seen its better days. He's sort of a loner, an oddball that many find different and strange. These character attributes will later play a part in the overall plot development. But, for now all Sam learns is that the park's brand new roller coaster will soon derail and seven people die. He's there to somehow prevent this from happening. 

The author provides an adequate explanation of the Quantum Leap concept and the characters involved. Additionally, she provides some unique insight into the things happening in the present with Al, Gushie, and Tina when Ziggy begins to malfunction. I thought this additional storyline helped diversify some of the narrative into different thought processes and character perspectives. However, the most unnerving perspective is that of the unknown killer, a man that apparently has some knowledge of the roller coaster and how to modify it into a murder machine. Several separate chapters feature perspective's from the killer's point of view and his memories of prior attacks. This reminded me of Mary Higgins Clark or Charles Runyon's shifting perspective into the mind of a killer.

While the day-to-day activities are slightly tedious – Sam fixing amusement park machines and rides, the park owner's struggles financially, family history accounts – the build-up into the seemingly inevitable accident was exciting. I really enjoyed McConnell's knowledge of the show, specifically citing prior television episodes and Sam's fixation on avoiding a mental hospital (a possible repercussion if he can't avoid the accident). This was really strong storytelling with a noticeable nod to the fans.

McConnell also authored series installments 2-4, and 7 and I'm looking forward to reading those. If you are a die-hard, a casual fan, or completely new to the show, this debut novel is an entertaining crime-fiction read. I love all of the vintage crime-noir pertaining to carnivals and circus acts, and with this story set in 1957 in a sleepy amusement park town, the noir element is easily replicated. The Novel is an easy recommendation. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Predator - Concrete Jungle

Nathan Archer was a pseudonym employed by science fiction and fantasy author Lawrence Watt-Evans for the publication of a 1995 media-tie in paperback, Predator: Concrete Jungle. The book was based on the 1989 Dark Horse Comics graphic novel with the same title by Mark Verheiden, which was based on the popular 20th Century Fox movie franchise.

The story is set in New York City during a severe August heat wave. Our heroes are two jaded NYPD homicide detectives named Rasche and Shaefer. The pair used to be narcotics officers, and they were transferred to the murder detail after some excessive force issues. If you’re a fan of fictional excessive force, this is the novel for you.

One night, a gang summit is ambushed and the cops make it to the tenement to find skinned gang-banger corpses hanging upside-down from the ceiling joists with their blood draining onto the floor below. It’s a grisly scene, and the cops fail to initially understand the severity of the threat. Of course, I knew who did it, but I had the benefit of seeing the cover of the paperback.

Rasche and Shaefer are stereotypical 80s movie cops at war with their own ignorant management hell-bent on covering up and minimizing the pending bloodbath to be unleashed on the city. The U.S. Army also gets into the containment and the denial act with all the ineptitude you’d expect from a genre story resting heavily on action movie tropes.

The upshot, as you know, is that Predator monsters from outer space are hunting humans in New York City armed with invisibility shields, energy cannons, pocket nukes, and deadly blades to filet their prey. Fans of the original Predator movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger will be pleased with some Easter eggs tying this novel directly to the inaugural film.

The writing is mostly satisfactory. The action scenes are vivid and bloody in a plot that moves at a fast clip over 300 big-font pages. The dialogue is embarrassingly bad, but never bad enough to give up on the paperback. If the concept behind this media tie-in paperback appeals to you on any level, I promise it won’t disappoint. Recommended. 

Get the book as part of a three-book omnibus HERE.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 98

Gil Brewer is a fixture of mid-20th century crime-fiction, and on this episode, Eric and Tom discuss his life and career. Tom tells listeners about a new collection of short-stories by Robert Colby and Eric highlights the career of crime-noir writer James M. Fox. Reviews include a post-apocalyptic novel that was the basis for the 1979 film Ravagers and a Manning Lee Stokes classic. Listen on any podcast app, paperbackwarrior.com or download directly HERE

Listen to "Episode 98: Gil Brewer" on Spreaker.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Street Hawk #01 - Street Hawk

Street Hawk was an ABC television show that aired 14 total episodes in 1985. Many considered it to be Knight Rider on a motorcycle, but that isn't entirely accurate. As a mid-season insert in January, the show had to compete with powerhouse prime-time soap Dallas, which spelled its doom. Despite broadcasting in 42 countries, and possessing a robust, crossover line of toys and merch, the show majorly flopped. But, this isn't TV Warrior, we cover books. 

Target Books of London acquired the licensing of Street Hawk in 1985, and published four paperback novels:

1. Street Hawk by Jack Roberts
2. Cons at Large by Jack Roberts
2. Golden Eyes by Charles Gale
3. Danger on Target by David Deutsch

I was just nine when the original Street Hawk premiered, and while I remember watching it (infatuated with the intro music) and owning the toy cycle, I don't remember any of the particulars. So, Roberts novel, which is an adaptation of the show's pilot episode, was fresh and new to me. The books are somewhat hard to find, but I was ecstatic to find the first paperback at a used bookstore.

Jesse Mach is a motorcycle cop that runs daredevil competitions in his spare time. Mach and his partner are in a California desert when they ride upon a drug trafficking operation. Mach's partner is killed and Mach becomes disabled and loses his mobility. Forced to take a desk job for the police department, Mach is motivated to find the drug runners that ruined his life and murdered his partner. 

Mach's chance for revenge is introduced by a research engineer named Norman Tuttle, who works for the Federal Institute of Law Enforcement Technological Development. Tuttle explains to Mach that he is overseeing Operation Streethawk and Mach has been chosen by the institute to be the test driver. He invites Mach to a clandestine laboratory in the inner-city. It is here that he has developed a sophisticated all-terrain vehicle that, upon first glance, resembles a motorcycle. The vehicle can travel up to 300mph and has laser cannons. The bike's accessory is a high-end helmet that has cameras and GPS. Additionally, Mach is adorned with wrist cannons and the institute properly heals his leg.

In pulpy fashion, Mach has a day job in the department's public relations office and contends with a manager named Sandy that was once a journalist. But during his free time, he investigates the drug running operation and its connections to corruption within the department. Sandy and Mach form an investigative team, but she isn't clued into Street Hawk. By the book's finale, Mach has mastered the machine and can successfully use it to fight crime.

There's really nothing to dislike about this short action-adventure paperback. If you loved the 80s “super vehicle” shows like Knight Rider, Airwolf, and Blue Thunder, then you'll bring out your fan-boy soul by reminiscing about Street Hawk. The book has enough character development and crime-fiction elements to make it enjoyable. I liked the love interest hints between Sandy and Mach and the humorous “mad scientist” predictability of Tuttle. Overall, this was just a lot of fun and totally unnecessary. That's why it is great. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, June 30, 2022

77 Sunset Strip (aka The Cases of Stuart Bailey)

Roy Huggins (1914-2002) wrote and produced a number of popular television shows like Maverick, The Fugitive, 77 Sunset Strip, and The Rockford Files. Beginning in the early 1960s, Huggins became the vice president in the television division at Universal where he worked for 18 years before becoming an independent producer and signing with Columbia Pictures Television. His television career was plagued with denied credit and compensation, leading to a more controlling contract that he created known as the “Huggins Contract”, a template used by other Hollywood producers later. 

Huggins dabbled in writing crime-fiction as well. He wrote three full-length novels – The Double Take (1946), Too Late for Tears (1947), Lovely Lady, Pity Me (1949). In The Double Take, Huggins introduced a Los Angeles private-eye named Stuart Bailey. Bailey is hired by a man who is being blackmailed due to his wife's past. Through the narrative, Bailey digs into the woman's past to free the man from extortion. The novel was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post and appeared in a condensed form in the March 1946 issue of Mammoth Mystery

Bailey appeared three more times in short stories featured in The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire. These three short stories were compiled into a compilation by Mystery House in 2019 called The Cases of Stuart Bailey. There was also a compilation of these stories released digitally in 2015 by Jerry ebooks under the title The Complete Cases of Stuart Bailey. However, the best version of these three stories is the compilation called 77 Sunset Strip. It was published as a paperback by Dell in 1959 and makes the three stories flow seamlessly into one novel. The stories are connected as Bailey weaves in and out of these three assignments while dating a woman named Betty Callister (who appears as a character in the first ten chapters). 

I've read the three stories and here are my thoughts on each:

“Now You See It” (The Saturday Evening Post, May 25 1946)

Bailey is invited to a Westwood mansion by a man named Mr. Trist. However, when he arrives at the man's front door, Trist advises him his services are no longer needed and gifts him $150 for his troubles. But, when the man's son appears, Bailey is quickly ushered inside and introduced to a dinner party as an old family friend named Mr. Tate. Just when Bailey finds that the scenario couldn't become any stranger, the lights go out, Trist is stabbed through the heart, and all fingers point to Bailey when the lights flick back on. According to the police, Bailey isn't a chief suspect, but they want Bailey's assistance in investigating the murder. Huggins builds the case around the innovative technique of disguising the murder weapon by morphing it into something entirely different. The story was a bit convoluted and I didn't entirely understand the plot, but Bailey was captivating enough and I enjoyed his interaction with the characters and police. 

“Appointment with Fear” (The Saturday Evening Post, September 28 1946)

Bailey receives a telegram from a woman named D.C. Halloran asking him to meet her at a bar in Tucson, AZ. When he arrives for the meeting, he finds that Halloran is a beautiful woman that is suffering from a paranoid personality with depressive tendencies. She feels that someone is looking to murder her and she wants Bailey to find the who, when, where, and how. Against his better judgment, Bailey spends the night with Halloran and awakens to discover her dead. Huggins uses the familiar premise to place Bailey as the chief suspect on the run from Tucson's finest to clear his name. I thought the story was fast-paced with a number of twists and turns. It also showcased Tuscon's night life and landscape of that era, which I found fascinating. Recommended.

“Death and the Skylark” (Esquire, December 1952)

This was my favorite of the three Bailey shorts. In this case, Bailey is hired by a boatman named Callister, who feels that his next voyage will lead to his own murder. Bailey takes the case and becomes a passenger on Callister's yacht. The crew is Callister's wife, first mate, and daughter – not exactly a prime suspect list. But, as the pleasure cruise commences, Bailey discovers that each character has a deadly agenda. Sure enough, Callister is fatally shot and it is up to Bailey to survive the cruise while determining who the killer is. I love boat stories and I really enjoyed this trio of characters. The story was tight and slightly confined, but developed into a real showpiece of Huggins' descriptive and fast-paced writing style. Highly recommended.

Huggins used The Double Take novel and these three short stories to develop the Stuart Bailey private-eye character. By slightly retooling the character, he successfully transitioned him from printed page to the small screen. Bailey became the private-eye character of 77 Sunset Strip for six seasons. The show featured Bailey working with another PI named Jeff Spencer out of an office located at 77 Sunset Strip. The show's last season featured episodes that starred only Bailey.

* Thanks to The Thrilling Detective blog for providing some of the author's backstory. You can also read all three shorts online for free HEREBuy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

X-Files - Goblins

I'm an X-Files fan, one of those weird X-Phile nuts. To prove it, I have an old trunk filled with show toys, coffee mugs, calendars, books, action-figures, autographs, and various magazines like TV Guide. I even have VHS recordings of various episodes as they originally aired on Friday nights. I've read the graphic novels, fan-fiction, and some of the books. I've had Goblins for a long time and recently decided to listen to the audio version while earning my keep performing honey do chores. It was originally published in paperback by Harper in 1994 and authored by Charles Grant, a prolific writer that specialized in horror.

In a small town in Louisiana, two retired U.S. Military officers are slashed to death. However, eyewitnesses claim a hand came from out of nowhere, as if it was nearly invisible when making the killing stroke. One of the men was to marry the cousin of a sportswriter that Mulder knows. The sportswriter comes to Mulder with the murder mystery, but he's already on it. The F.B.I. has already been called to perform the investigation quietly, thus Scully and Mulder are brought up from the basement to handle what may, or may not be, a legitimate X-Files case.

The problem that the F.B.I. agents face (and readers for that matter), is that there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Grant doesn't leave well enough alone and partners two rookie agents to accompany Scully and Mulder on the case. Thus, there's multiple investigations with different pairings of the agents. Also, the sportswriter comes to town as well to conduct his own investigation, which just complicates the narrative more.

I'm not sure if Grant had actually watched an X-Files episode when he was hired to write this sort of television tie-in literature. Mulder's characterization is off, behaving in ways that doesn't really match his television persona. In this book, Mulder isn't as sarcastic with his responses or as serious as the TV character, and does the investigation in ways that has no real purpose or flow. I also didn't sense any of the guilt ridden emotion that wrecks Mulder on screen, although Grant does include a flashback scene of Samantha disappearing (Mulder's sister and major series story arc). He's also overly happy about things beyond the paranormal, which is unusual. The idea is that Mulder only becomes enthusiastic when researching X-Files-type cases. 

My main issue with Goblins is that it's just boring. Nothing really happens, the agents spin their wheels, and I figured out the whole “goblin” mystery in the book's first few chapters. The bumpy narrative was a struggle to get through and I was left thoroughly disappointed that I've hung on to this paperback for nearly 30 years only to find out it isn't very good. 

There are numerous paperbacks available, including a couple that retcon Scully and Mulder's teen years. I'll continue reading X-Files related stories and books, but there's no reason for you to read Goblins

Get the ebook HERE.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Terminator Salvation: Cold War

I've enjoyed the entire series of Terminator films. I remember watching Terminator 2: Judgment Day on VHS back in the early 90s and was astounded by the storyline and special effects. I experienced mixed reactions on Terminator 3 but overall, I thought it served its purpose. Those two films are important for my review of Greg Cox's Terminator Salvation: Cold War (2009). This novel is set in the time period between the second and third films. This was the day Skynet started World War 3. Cox chooses the year 2003 to place the story's action.

The book's narrative includes a Russian submarine firing on Alaska in retaliation for Moscow's bombing. The submarine Commander hears an urgent message broadcast by John Connor (the series hero). The radio message explains Skynet's hostile takeover and the need for humanity to unite to combat the machines. Later, the Commander and his crew team up with the Resistance forces to fight Skynet. 

The events in the book occur over a 15 year period. Additionally, Cox's narrative also simultaneously presents events in 2015 from the perspective of a Russian resistance force in the Alaskan wilderness. They are attempting to destroy a Skynet train that is transporting uranium to Canada to improve weapons.

The book describes some awesome scenes of T-600 machines fighting the Russians in the snow and forest. I think this would have looked fantastic on film while also presenting a different look to the franchise. The book also includes the familiar Hunter-Killer machines and some really unique snowmobile Terminators - T-600 torsos mounted on snowmobile treads. 

Greg Cox is no stranger to movie and television tie-in novels. He has authored books in franchises like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, Underworld, Roswell and many others. I felt that with Cold War, Cox was able to deliver an alternative look at the Terminator machines while still creating an action-packed story. If you are a fan of these films or graphic novels, you should find this book enjoyable.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Aliens: Phalanx

The 1979 Ridley Scott film Alien spawned a superior big-budget sequel titled Aliens in 1986. Since then, the Twentieth Century Fox franchise has spawned additional films, comic books, video games, lunch boxes and around 40 media tie-in books all featuring Xenomorph monsters battling rivals for interplanetary domination.

Scott Sigler is a successful contemporary novelist specializing in violent and futuristic, original novels, so it’s natural that he was green-lit for an Aliens tie-in story of his own. His 2020 entry in the universe is a stand-alone action paperback called Aliens: Phalanx that has been getting high acclaim from horror fiction aficionados.

Like the film Aliens, the novel showcases a tough female protagonist driving the action. Her name is Ahiliyah Cooper and she’s the 19 year-old crew leader of a group of “runners” delivering supplies and messages among the humans on a mountainous jungle island called Ataegina. The island is home to multiple tribes of humans living in underground medieval fortresses distant from one another. There was a time in the past when there was order in this kingdom, but things have pretty much gone to seed.

Many of the novel’s opening chapters are dedicated to world-building, and the author does a great job with the all expositional stuff. The island of Ataegina reminded me of Westeros from Game of Thrones if every faction lived in hidden shelters and travel among the tribes for trade was perilous. The paperback is intentionally vague about the island’s location in the universe. Is this an Earth of the future? A colonized other planet? An alternate historical reality? Answers regarding the novel’s setting are revealed slowly, and you won’t get any spoilers here today.

Unfortunately, the island is infested with Xenomorph Aliens that the humans call demons. As we join the action, Ahiliyah’s tribe lives and survives in the safety of their fortress shelter. They are cautious about going out at night when the demons do most of their hunting. Ahiliyah’s dream is to learn enough about the demons that one day the humans can hunt the monsters instead of the other way around. The only upside is that man doesn’t fight man anymore. The fiefdoms generally get along and engage in free trade. The common enemy of the demons did the trick of ending human war.

After returning from a trading run, Ahiliyah is informed by her leaders that she’ll need to immediately depart on another run with her crew. A sickness has befallen her people and the necessary medication is only available for trade across the island with another tribe. Of course, that means covering many miles on foot without being killed - or worse - by the demons who roam and hunt the island.

From there, adventure awaits. The author was clearly influenced by otherworldly fantasy novels as well as popular young-adult fiction, including The Hunger Games. There’s plenty of gore and adult content to keep the splatter fans happy as well. Some of the dialogue was a bit wooden and juvenile, but the action-suspense scenes were top-notch. The most interesting thing is how little the novel had anything to do with the Alien universe beyond the description of the demons plaguing the island. The upside is that if you know nothing about the Alien films or their extended properties, you can still have a fun time reading Aliens: Phalanx.

Like all contemporary novels, the book is too damn long at 500+ pages, and would have been more effective at half that length. This isn’t anyone’s fault because it’s a 2020 novel, and that’s just how long books are these days. To the paperback’s credit, it was never boring. Fans of action-adventure fiction will find a lot to enjoy in Aliens: Phalanx making it an easy recommendation for Paperback Warrior readers. 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Mr. Majestyk

Born in New Orleans, Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) began writing successful western fiction in the 1950s. In 1969, Leonard started writing hard-hitting crime novels such as The Big Bounce, The Moonshine War and Fifty-Two Pickup. This is also when Leonard started writing screenplays. After working with Clint Eastwood on Joe Kidd (1972), Leonard started writing the screenplay for Mr. Majestyk. Leonard's original idea was to have Eastwood play the lead. Due to earlier commitments, Eastwood was replaced by Charles Bronson (Steve McQueen was considered) and the film was published by United Artists in July 1974. Leonard penned the film's novelization and it was published in paperback format by Dell.

The book presents Colorado melon producer Vince Majestyk to readers. He won a Silver Star for his heroic service in Vietnam as a U.S. Army Ranger and is now in his second year of farming. After losing money in his first farming year, Majestyk is now in a high pressure situation to successfully harvest his crops to keep the farm afloat. To ensure his success, Majestyk employs experienced Mexican migrants to work on the farm. His work force admires and abides by his commitment.

After a short trip to town, Majestyk returns to the farm to find a low-level hood named Kopas instructing his work force. Kopas says he has hired cheaper work that will save Majestyk money and boost his profits. Majestyk, never accepting anything of this, is shocked by the audacity of the criminal. Eventually, both come to blows and Majestyk takes Kopas's shotgun and drives him away. Later, the police arrive and arrest Majestyk for assault.

Majestyk finds his greatest trouble behind bars. A mafia assassin named Renda is housed with Majestyk and both are transferred to another jail. During the bus journey, Renda's mob operatives try to free him from custody. Instead, Majestyk hijacks the bus and takes Renda to the mountains. It's here that he cuts a deal with the police: his freedom for Renda. In a surprise twist, Majestyk and Renda are both freed. Renda promises Majestyk to kill him for selling him off to the cops.

There's a lot of noble aspects of the Majestyk character. His commitment to Mexican migrants, including fair wages and a secure workplace, his military service and his general good nature regarding the treatment of others is admirable. All of thee characteristics are what attracts a Mexican union representative named Nancy. She falls in love with Majestyk and becomes a major character in the last chapters. I also really liked his relationship with foreman and friend Larry and the respect he slowly receives from law enforcement as the narration expands. Majestyk is an average Joe that readers can easily cheer on.

In terms of violence, both Renda and the mob proves to be worthy adversaries. Majestyk's financial hardships, the stress of farming, and the threats to his livelihood and life are ongoing problems in Leonard's story. The intimidation and interaction between Renda and the low-end thugs is intense and adds another layer to what is already an engaging story. 

My only complaint against Leonard's work is the extent to which the police are responding to the escalation of tension and violence. They are simply targets when the mafia easily disrupts the bus journey and they appear incompetent in the arrest of this high-profile mafia assassin in Renda. The roadblocks they structure, the tracking techniques and the weak protection they provide Majestyk are just not plausible.

Overall, Mr. Majestyk is a fine crime-fiction novel (and film) with an engrossing narrative ripe with interesting characters. Leonard's story is convincing and sometimes even draws on the heartstrings. Majestyk's heartbreaking ordeal is essentially the Everyman facing overwhelming adversity. It's this simple and compelling plot that makes Mr. Majestyk so enjoyable. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 58

On jam-packed Episode 58 of the Paperback Warrior Podcast, we discuss author Jack Pearl as well as many other topics including: Cancer perks! Ed McBain! Maltese Falcon! Len Deighton! Ace Doubles! Christmas in August! And much, much more. Listen on your favorite podcast app, stream below or download directly HERE

Listen to "Episode 58: Jack Pearl" on Spreaker.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ambush Bay

Jacques Bain Pearl (1923-1992), better known as Jack Pearl, was a talented author that thrived on writing movie and television novelizations. Along with novelizations of “Funny Girl” (1968), “Our Man Flint” (1966) and “The Yellow Rolls-Royce” (1964), Pearl also wrote a number of successful stand-alone titles and a well-received science-fiction series called “The Space Eagle” (1967). After reading his novel tie-in of the “Dirty Dozen” styled television show “Garrison's Guerrillas” (1967), I was curious about another of his film novelizations, “Ambush Bay” (1962).

The film was released by United Artists and featured a cast starring Mickey Rooney, James Mitchum and Hugh O' Brian, who accepted the role after Charleston Heston declined it. The film was directed by Ron Winston, a Michigan native who spent most of his career working on television series' like “Hawaii Five-O”, “Branded” and “The Twilight Zone”. The film was shot on location in the Philippines, an important factor considering all of the action is centralized in that region.

Pearl's book introduces us to nine battle-scarred U.S. Marines and a goofy Air Force radio-man who is vital to the narrative. The mission is to penetrate enemy lines in Mindanao, a rural landscape in the Philippines. Once there, the group must locate a U.S. intelligence officer who  has been submerged in the Japanese military as a spy. General MacArthur has scheduled a full invasion of a portion of the island, yet the U.S. has received chatter that the Japanese may already know about the invasion and have planted sophisticated mines along their heavily fortified coastal position. The secret agent has key details on where the Japanese have planned for the assault. If the men can rendezvous with the spy, they can obtain the information and then radio it to MacArthur so he can prepare an alternate strategy if needed.

I struggled in the book's opening chapter with the number of characters. However, my confusion quickly subsided as most of the team is killed in furious jungle firefights. The book's main character is Private First Class Air Crewman radio specialist Jim Grenier, a young soldier who is taunted by the hardened Marines. Grenier is just six-months into his military career having spent his entire life on a chicken farm. Grenier's sole purpose is to stay clear of the fighting and protect the radio at all costs. Unfortunately, with the team's ranks thinning, the inexperienced rookie is forced into the fight.

Pearl is a great storyteller and despite working from a script, I imagine he's adding dynamic details to make the two-dimensional characters come alive for the reader. The unbalanced relationship between Grenier and the iron-fisted Sergeant Corey is the novel's first half focus, yet as the novel progresses, the two men become closer allies. While Pearl spends a great deal of time on gunplay, the book's second half presents an entirely different mission. I won't spoil the fun, but I was surprised when the spy was eventually revealed. It's this change of pace that elevated the entertainment factor for me.

Despite the film's lukewarm reviews, Jack Pearl's novel was an entertaining blend of action, adventure and humanity that should please genre fans. As a Signet paperback, hopefully you can locate a used copy somewhere.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Bad Day at Black Rock

The genesis of this paperback is a bit confusing, so do your best to follow along. In 1946, “The American Magazine” published a short story called “Bad Time at Honda” by Howard Breslin (1912-1964). The story must have been well-received because it was adapted into a screenplay by Don McGuire and Millard Kaufman for a 1955 movie starring Spencer Tracy called “Bad Day at Black Rock.” Before the movie was released, the screenplay was then adapted into a Fawcett Gold Medal novelization by Michael Niall released in December 1954. Here’s the catch: Michael Niall is a pseudonym for Howard Breslin, the guy who wrote the original short story in the first place. The good news is that the novel “Bad Day at Black Rock” is nowhere near as confusing as the paperback’s origin story.

It’s the Summer of 1945 and a passenger train stops in the small, Western desert town of Black Rock. The only passenger to disembark is John Macreedy, and you can be forgiven if you picture him to look a lot like Spencer Tracy. The mere fact that the streamliner stopped in the dust-plagued and shabby town is a big deal because no passenger train has stopped in Black Rock for four years. Suffice to say, this isn’t a place accustomed to strangers.

Macreedy is greeted with hostility and distrust from Black Rock’s permanent residents. This is a story of dueling secrets. The people of Black Rock clearly have something to hide. Conversely, Macreedy’s real purpose in town is initially a mystery to both the guarded townies and the reader. I’m not going to spoil it here, but Macreedy has travelled to Black Rock to solve a mystery and right a wrong that never should have happened. But is he a private detective? A government agent? A lone vigilante?

The town’s boss is named Reno Smith, a vividly-drawn character filled with menace and power beneath a veneer of charm and reasonableness. Although this was basically a contemporary story of the 1940s, the paperback has the vibe and structure of a novel set in the Old West - a stranger blowing through a dusty town with a secret headed for a violent confrontation with the existing power structure among the tumbleweeds.

A book like “Bad Day at Black Rock” succeeds or fails based on the strength of the secrets the characters eventually reveal, and the solutions here are pretty satisfying. Although the paperback is only 143 pages, there was quite a bit of filler added to create some bulk to what was probably a perfectly lean short story. The final confrontation was solid and also recalled the explosion of violence found at the end of most Western novels.

Overall, “Bad Day at Black Rock” was a decent, if unremarkable, diversion. I predict that it won’t be your favorite book, but you also won’t regret the couple hours it takes you to finish it. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Garrison's Gorillas

The success of 1967's “The Dirty Dozen” led to countless imitators in fiction and on screen. The formula of “team-based” adventure thrived throughout the men's action-adventure genres of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Specifically, the film's use of criminals as American soldiers was often utilized. That premise was the basis for the 1967 ABC television show “Garrison's Gorillas”.

The show featured Lt. Garrison reforming four hardened criminals into an elite fighting force during WW2. The incentive for the prisoners was a complete parole from their remaining sentence...if they survived. While only lasting one season, the show gained a cult following. In 1967, military fiction writer Jack Pearl authored two spin-off novels, one as a young adult title called “Garrison's Gorillas and the Fear Formula” and the other as a mass market adult paperback simply titled “Garrison's Gorillas” (Dell). My only experience with the show is the “Garrison's Gorillas” novel.

The author assumes you are already familiar with the team and premise so the action begins immediately without much back-story. Lt. Garrison's orders are to locate a secret German base that is manufacturing the Messerschmitt ME 262 fighter jets. In order to do so, Garrison and his team disguise themselves as German officers and infiltrate a hotel meeting among the top German brass. Things immediately go awry when Garrison's disguise doesn't satisfy one of the German generals. Further, after locating the airstrip, Garrison's Gorillas learn that a second airstrip contains 60 of the jets. The team, while not breaking character, must stay ahead of Germany's inquiring leaders while also relaying intelligence back to the Allies.

At 160 pages, this was a swift and easy read. Some may find it lacking in heightened action or any sense of urgency to produce gunplay. But, overall it was enough to satisfy my WW2 craving despite the slow-burn narrative style. The characters of Casino, Goniff, The Actor and Chief were enjoyable but never overindulgent or distracting from the overall team concept. After reading the book, I sampled a few YouTube episodes and quickly realized I preferred these characters on paper instead of the screen.

The bottom line, “Garrison's Gorillas” should cater to fans of military fiction or to the old-timers that remember watching the television show when it premiered. This was my first Jack Pearl novel and I have two others I hope to read this year - “Stockade” and “Ambush Bay”.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Dirty Harry #01 - Duel for Cannons

I’d put off reading this for nearly a year because I had a premonition that it wouldn’t be very good. I was right.

A vacationing Texas lawman gets gunned down in California, and “Dirty Harry” Callahan of the San Francisco Police Department thinks it was an assassination. It was indeed, and as Harry investigates further, a big conspiracy emerges involving an evil Texas businessman who’s got the whole San Antonio police department on his payroll, including its crooked chief. Those who don’t go along get killed by the businessman’s favorite assassin. Harry goes after them all, and you can guess how things end up.

The story has potential, and Dirty Harry is a terrific character, but somehow this book never got in gear for me. I didn’t care for the style of author Ric Meyers (using the name Dane Hartman), who writes as if he’s reading a screenplay and adapting it shot-by-shot into a novel. The result is that action sequences go on way too long, with lengthy descriptions of the physical landscape and details of each participant’s every motion. It’s always way more information than you need. For example, the book opens with the assassin killing that vacationing lawman. That simple sequence takes fourteen pages to describe.

Most of the story takes place in San Antonio, where Harry tries to rescue its last remaining honest lawman, who’s been kidnapped by the villains. This leads to a series of drawn-out gun battles in which nothing gets resolved. It also leads to Harry sleeping with the lawman’s worried wife (huh?), which I guess gives him something to do between gunfights. 

Weirdly, Harry then teams up with the assassin to invade the businessman’s mansion and kill him. After that battle, there’s a brief layover until the book’s final shoot-out, in which Harry and the assassin try to kill each other. This occurs at the Alamo, apparently after the tourists have gone home but before anyone locks up for the night, as Harry walks right through the front door for his gunfight appointment.

What follows is a lot of shooting until the ammo runs low, and then we come to the one scene in the book that I loved. It’s a reversal of the famous scene in the original movie, in which Harry levels his Magnum at a cringing low-life and gives that little speech ending with “You have to ask yourself a question: do I feel lucky?” This time it’s Harry who’s looking up at that lethal barrel, and it’s a terrific scene. Unfortunately we have to slog through 98.5% of an uninspired book to get there, but at least there’s that.