Showing posts with label Robert Colby. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Colby. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Devil's Collector

Between 1975 and 1980, Robert Colby (1916-2006) authored six stories starring a mercenary vigilante named Brock — all published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. The stories — along with a previously-unpublished installment — have been compiled into a single volume called The Devil’s Collector.

Each of the stories is titled “Paint the Town…” followed by a color. So, the first story is “Paint the Town Black” and the last one is “Paint the Town Aquamarine.” When we meet Brock in the opening story, he’s dressed as a fancy dandy walking into a roadhouse bar in a seedy part of town. After attracting all sorts of attention from the rough characters inside, Brock leaves the tavern and walks toward the city.

Of course, some hoods accost the soft target on the street, and Brock goes Charles Bronson on the punks taking their money in the process. Later in the story, he dispatches another thief while also swiping the cash and explaining, “There is a tax on evil…and I am the collector.”

Colby was clearly influenced by the men’s adventure vigilante paperback craze of the 1970s, when he crafted the first story. His innovation was making the vigilante a foppish gentleman seeking to line his own pockets with crime money rather than a ‘Nam vet with a vendetta.

In later stories, Brock graduates from street punks and begins targeting con-artists, counterfeiters, and thieves. These stories (including “Green”) are more con-man tales where Brock’s cleverness wins the day, recalling the Saint series by Leslie Charteris. In other stories (“White”), he’s more of a Travis McGee salvage consultant who recovers stolen loot for a victim while extracting his “tax” for himself.

Overall, The Devil’s Collector is an innovative short story collection with a unique lead character given room to evolve over seven stand-alone stories. You may or may not want to mainline all these short works back-to-back. I think the collection would be more satisfying as a palate cleanser between longer pieces. In any case, call it a winner. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book 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, May 10, 2022

Kim

With 17 novels and dozens of short stories to his name, Robert Colby remains one of my favorite authors of the paperback original era. Kim was a 1962 hardboiled private-eye mystery mispackaged as a sex novel by Monarch Books. It remains available today from two separate reprint publishers - Wildside Press and Prologue Books.

The narrator is Miami private detective Rod Striker whose practice involves helping wealthy clients with personal problems. His latest client is rich Aunt Martha, who is concerned about her 22 year-old niece, Kim. She’s engaged to a nice boy, but she had a fling with a local strip club pimp named Eddie Tarino who runs a sex-for-pay boat between Miami and the Bahamas. Tarino wants Kim on board as his personal escort and is threatening her fiancĂ© and aunt with physical harm if Kim doesn’t comply. Aunt Martha wants Striker to drag Tarino into a dark alley and beat him until he begs for mercy and promises to stay away from Kim. 

Rather than beginning the assignment with violence, Striker decides to visit Tarino and talk some sense to the pimp. The meeting of these two Alpha Males is really something special, and Striker discovers that there’s way more to the story than his client initially understood. He also follows up with Kim, who —as expected — is a dish to end all dishes The author’s description of her cans will stay with me forever.

Striker has a partner at his PI agency named Myra. She’s a beautiful 29 year-old ex-cop from Los Angeles. The author does a great job describing her to make every man reading the novel fall in love with her. Striker and Myra are occasionally romantically involved, although the relationship is mostly business. Much later in the novel, the first-person narration switches from Striker to Myra. I normally hate that crap, but it worked this time because they’re both awesome characters. 

A mystery arises for Striker and Myra to solve:  Who is pulling the strings behind this manipulation of Kim? There are sex scenes along the way, and they’re white-hot in a 1962 kinda way. To be clear, this is a first-class hardboiled mystery with two great leads. The paperback had some pacing problems in the second half, but the twisty conclusion was straight aces. 

Bottom Line: Another winner from Robert Colby. Go ahead and add this one to your reading queue. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

In a Vanishing Room

I took inventory, and 15 of the 17 novels written by Robert Colby between the years 1956 and 1972 are now available as ebooks for your Kindle. Based on the three Colby novels I’ve read thus far, I’m convinced that the author is an unsung hero of American crime fiction. As such, I was excited to read his lean 1961 novel, In a Vanishing Room, a book originally released as half of an Ace Double paperback.

The novel opens with an odd scene. While waiting to board a flight from Miami to New York, Paul Norris sees a fellow passenger in line abruptly run out of the airport and two other men in the airport pursue the runner on foot. Upon arriving in New York, a woman waiting at the gate (ah, remember when that was a thing?) is clearly waiting for the man who ran away before boarding. She says the man is her lawyer and appears perplexed that he didn’t make the flight.

Norris accepts a ride into Manhattan from the woman - her name is Eileen - and tells her about the odd circumstances surrounding her lawyer’s escape from the airport. Upon arrival into the city, she invited him up to her apartment for a drink, and it becomes a near-certainty that Norris is about to get laid - 1961 style.

Not so fast, Mr. Norris! It seems that Eileen has something else up her sleeve. The seduction routine is just a ploy to get her hands on a shipping receipt for a large crate slipped into Norris pocket before the lawyer took off running at the Miami airport. In any case, Eileen splits fast leaving Norris with the receipt and a case of epididymal hypertension (Google it). This set-up is all rather contrived and tortured but will be worth it if the mysterious crate propel Norris into an exciting and mysterious adventure, right?

Lots of people want the receipt, so they can get the contents of the crate. Some are willing to befriend Norris to get the crate. Some are willing to pay dearly for it. Some are willing to kill for it. Understandably, Norris (and the reader) is uncertain who to trust. As the story winds through additional twists and turns, he pairs up with an attractive female corporate secretary on his mission to recover the crate for a wealthy benefactor.

The second half of the book introduces a fascinating hired killer and a vexing architectural mystery - the titular Vanishing Room - making for the kind of floor-plan mystery often devised by author John Dickson Carr. Unfortunately, the solutions to the Vanishing Room Mystery and the What’s Inside the Crate Affair were both rather ho-hum.

In a Vanishing Room is a difficult book to recommend. There were definitely some cool parts, but none of them fit together nicely into a coherent or particularly enjoyable crime novel. I’m not giving up on Robert Colby because I’ve seen what he can do when he’s firing on all cylinders - check out The Captain Must Die. Unfortunately, this one just isn’t much good. Take a pass. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, March 23, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 36

In Paperback Warrior Podcast Episode 36, our field correspondent witnesses a book purge at a legendary bookstore. Who got the axe? We discuss big news regarding Max Allan Collins’ Nolan books and a vexing problem concerning John Boland’s Gentlemen series. Eric reviews a Doc Savage book by Philip Jose Farmer, and Tom covers The Captain Must Die by Robert Colby. Stream below on your favorite podcast app. Direct downloads HERE:

Listen to "Episode 36: Max Allan Collins' Nolan" on Spreaker.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Captain Must Die

Of the 20-or-so crime novels written by Robert Colby in the 1950s and 1960s, the overall consensus is that “The Captain Must Die” is his masterpiece. The book began as a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback original from 1959 and has been reprinted several times thereafter, so you should have no problem landing yourself a copy - particularly if you open your heart to reading vintage fiction on a Kindle.

Fawcett packaged the paperback as a WW2 novel, but that’s not the case at all. The story takes place in the 1950s - at least a dozen years after the main characters left the war behind. Three former platoon-mates meet in Louisville, Kentucky with a load of guns to deal with some unfinished business from the war. The title of the paperback betrays their plan to murder a former U.S. Army captain, but it’s way more involved than you’d think.

The former captain is named Gregory Driscoll, and he’s a successful local businessman in Louisville. Most of his wealth was inherited, but he’s made the most of his head start by living with servants and a trophy wife on a sizable estate. As we meet Driscoll, he is being harassed with 3am phone calls, vandalism to his car, and the shutting off of his utilities. He’s also got a secret in his basement that he keeps from his the world. The three ex-soldiers’ awareness of the basement’s secret - coupled with seething hate and a lust for revenge - drive the action forward towards a violent confrontation.

The author dishes out the revelations of “The Captain Must Die” in drips and drabs. Why do the guys want to kill Driscoll after all these years? What’s the captain hiding in his basement? How does his lusty wife fit into all this? Revealing too much would spoil many satisfying surprises, and the “The Captain Must Die” is a treasure trove of twists and turns worth experiencing without too much foreknowledge. It’s a vendetta story, a heist novel, and a tough-guy story of graphic violence rolled into 180 pages of 1959 paperback perfection.

If you’re looking for the type of war story depicted on the cover, look elsewhere. However, if you want a brilliantly-layered novel of crime and revenge, you can’t do much better than “The Captain Must Die.” Highly recommended essential reading. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Run for the Money

Robert Colby authored about 20 novels during his career - mostly in the 1950s and 1960s - but he never achieved the fame of his paperback original colleagues of the same era. As far as I can tell, his last published paperback was a 1973 ‘Nick Carter: Killmaster’ installment titled “The Death’s Head Conspiracy” co-authored with Gary Brandner. Thanks to the miracle of Kindle, many of his vintage paperbacks have been preserved as affordable eBooks, including his 1960 release, “Run for the Money.”

The novel opens with the daring and violent heist of an armored car from Jacksonville, Florida (coincidentally, home of Paperback Warrior Headquarters) delivering cash from the Federal Reserve to banks along the route. The crew successfully makes off with nearly a million in cash while leaving the bodies of the armored car guards behind.

We then meet our protagonist, Barry Lunsford, a sad sack living in a Florida rooming house while working a low-paying job at a department store. One day Barry finds a satchel discarded by the side of the road. Upon opening the bag, he learns that it is filled to the brim with $320,000 in cash. The reader figures that this is the stolen loot from the Chapter One heist, but neither the reader nor Barry knows why it was lying by the side of a road along the train tracks. With no real friends or family ties to Florida, Barry buys a plane ticket to Los Angeles and brings the cash with him to start a new life.

As you suspected, it’s never that easy. The robbers catch up to Barry as he’s living large with the cash in Hollywood. By this point, he has a girl, and she can be used as leverage by the bad guys to make Barry give up the dough. There’s plenty of blood and sadism to cement the idea that the bad guys are really bad guys. Can Barry figure out a way to keep the money and save the girl?

In “Run for the Money,” the author has taken a basic concept - something we’ve all fantasized about - and turned it into a compelling suspense story with some tidy twists and turns. Colby’s writing is solid, and the story is without fat or filler. The short novel flies by, and while it won’t be the best crime novel you’ve ever read, I can’t imagine anyone failing to enjoy every page of this cautionary tale. Recommended.

Postscript:

Prolific multi-genre author James Reasoner shares this story: “Robert Colby and I shared an agent during the 80s, and she got us together to work on a screenplay based on ‘Run for the Money.’ Colby was a very dignified guy, kind of reserved, but I liked him and thought this was a very good book. The agent tried to sell the screenplay but nothing ever came of it. He also wrote a series of stories in ‘Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine’ that I liked very much."

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Star Trap

Although he never rose to the commercial success of his contemporaries, Robert Colby was a productive author of paperback original novels for Fawcett Gold Medal and Ace during the 1950s and 1960s. Meanwhile, he was also a regular contributor of short stories to ‘Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine’ and ‘Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.’ “The Star Trap” was Colby’s 1960 release for Fawcett Gold Medal. The book was also reprinted by Manor Books in 1974, and it exists as an affordable eBook today.

Our narrator is Hollywood B-list actor Glenn Harley who is awakened by a 3 a.m. hysterical phone call from starlet Nancy Rhymer - a mere acquaintance - needing help. Glenn rushes to Nancy’s home to find her in a revealing nightgown with a fellow actor lying dead on the floor with a knife wound in his chest. For reasons not fully revealed at first, Nancy wants Glenn’s help in concealing the murder.

The act of stashing a body to get in good with a beautiful girl inevitably involves complications, and it wouldn’t be a femme fatale noir story without them. I won’t give away the store in this review, but suffice to say I found myself muttering, “Oh man, this is getting good,” several times throughout the short novel. At points, there is a disappearing corpse, a missing bundle of cash, some crooked cops, and an honest-to-goodness nymphomaniac. Fun for everyone.

“The Star Trap” isn’t a masterpiece of the genre by any means, but it’s a pretty enjoyable - and very short - paperback to kill a few hours. I’ve heard that Colby’s best work was his 1959 thriller, “The Captain Must Die,” and I intend to check that one out in the near future. Stay tuned.

Buy a copy of this book HERE