Sunday, February 10, 2019

THE KNIFE SLIPPED


THE KNIFE SLIPPED
The Lost Cool & Lam Mystery
By Erle Stanley Gardner
Writing as A.A. Fair
Had Case Crime
218 pgs

There is no specific reason we’ve never read an Erle Stanley Gardner book before. Truth be told, we were never impressed with the highly popular Perry Mason TV series starring Raymond Burr; though Mom and Dad watched it faithfully. Most likely that particular disdain was behind our lack of interest in Mr. Gardner. Oh, we were well aware that he was one of the few writers who began his career in the pulps and successfully achieved the goal of becoming a bestselling author. 

At the same time Gardner, himself a lawyer, was pumping out his Perry Mason cases, he was also writing detective yarns featuring a really odd pair, overweight private investigator Bertha Cool and her operative, Donal Lam. These he penned under the pseudonym of A.A. Fair. Thus you can imagine the excitement when Hard Case Crime, a stellar publishing house devoted to classic mysteries, uncovered this lost Cool & Lam novel. In his wonderful afterword, writer Russell Atwood explains the history of the book which was originally intended to be the second in the series. There’s no need to repeat his essay except to say it’s a nice bonus to this first ever printing.

The plot is convoluted. A woman, and her overbearing mother, hire Bertha Cool to follow her husband who she suspects of cheating. Bertha assigns Lam to shadow the supposed cheating spouse and learn the truth. Her main concern established immediately in the first chapter is earning a generous fee from their client. Lam, a disbarred lawyer, is still new to the private eye game and Bertha sees it as her responsibility to tutor him properly. When Lam discovers the wayward husband is involved with a lucrative government scandal, things start to get very delicate. Bertha’s survival instincts kick in fast. Any further involvement could see them entangled not only with corrupt cops, but some rather deadly local mobsters. She warns Lam to be wary.

Alas that warning comes hours too late when the subject of their surveillance is murdered. Soon various parties begin pointing to Lam as their patsy. “The Knife Slipped” is a solid mystery with two of the most intriguing characters you’ll ever encounter. Gardner plays fair, pun intended, in setting out the clues and by the book’s final we were both applauding the big reveal and laughing out loud. We may never desire to pick up a Perry Mason title, but we’re open to encountering Bertha and Donal again. Thanks Hard Case Crime.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

TOMMY ONE and the APOCALYPSE GUN


TOMMY ONE and the APOCOLYPSE GUN
By John Simcoe
Pre Se Press
205 pgs

Comics and pulps, they are literary cousins. They have been from the 20s and 30s on to today’s paperbacks and Marvel & DC offerings. As long as it has colorful heroes, dastardly villains and tons of action and adventure, we readers can rely on a jolly fun ride. Nothing enhances that experience more then a new subgenre created in the past thirty years; that of the prose superhero novel. In other words a pulp tale about a superhero.

That’s what “Tommy One and the Apocalypse Gun” is in it’s the purest form. It is jam packed with everything that makes pulps so much fun. Set in Norfolk, VA shortly after Second World War, Tommy One is the town’s superhero protector. Whenever a threat arises, the blonde haired, affable teenager is on the scene battling to save his fair city. What the citizens of Norfolk do not realize is that Tommy One is a clone created by a German born scientist named Weitmurch. Prior to the war, Hitler charged the professor with finding a way to build a super soldier. Happily for mankind, the good professor despised the Nazis and fled his homeland to settle in America; offering the USA the fruits of his amazing research.

Though not in time to be employed during the war, Weitmurch eventually perfected cloning through immersion in a miraculous pool of his invention called the Cistern. When floating in this pool, the subject’s consciousness is able assimilate the thoughts of people around the world. Thus when activated, the clone becomes the primary called Tommy One. At the same time, dozens of other “Tommies” were made and were kept busy as a support team for the primary. The real genius of Weitmurch work is that all his clones are mentally connected and the second one dies in action, the next in line immediately becomes aware of all the knowledge his predecessor possessed. Thus the next Tommy One simply went into action without any delay.

Since only government officials are aware of the Tommy One Infinity Project, the public at large believes he is only one person. This has echoes of Lee Falks’ classic strip hero, The Phantom. And the way new Tommy Ones pop-up throughout the story, it was easy to recall Wally Wood’s own No-Man from the comic Thunder Agents. Simcoe has taken his inspiration from some very good sources and shaped them into his own unique and original hero.

The crux of the book’s plot is the villain, Captain Blackeye, attack on the city using his powerful Apocalypse Gun at the same time his legion of Blood Pirates loot and rob. Complicating Tommy One’s attempts to stop him are two new elements to their long fought history.  One, seeing Tommy One die time and time again only to supposedly return resurrected has begun to affect Blackeye’s mental stability. Secondly, a lovely teenage girl name Imogene Throne has stumbled on Tommy One’s home and managed to cajole her way into accompanying him on his mission. Thus, for the first time in Tommy One’s long chain of experiences, he finds himself hampered with having to protect someone else, other than himself. It is a new feeling and one that confuses the young man coming at a most inopportune time.

“Tommy One and the Apocalypse Gun,” is well written and Simcoe’s prose flows across the page effortlessly. The story itself is intriguing and this reader found himself quickly turning pages. This is a terrific read with likeable characters we very much would love to see lots more of. Till then, comics and pulps lovers, find this book and enjoy.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

THE FURTHER ADV OF SHERLOCK HOLMES - THE RIPPER LEGACY


HE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
THE RIPPER LEGACY
By David Stuart Davies
Titan Books
234 pgs

As someone who publishes Sherlock Holmes anthologies, we are obviously fans of Conan Doyle’s wonderful characters. We are also naturally curious as to what other publishers have done or are presently doing with them. Thus we decided to look at the Titan Books series, “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” that have been released in the past few years. Titan is an excellent outfit with a stellar track record of producing some of the finest genre titles on the market today. We hoped this quality would extend to the Holmes books when picking up “The Ripper Legacy” by David Stuart Davies.

We needn’t have worried.

In “The Ripper Legacy,” Holmes and Watson are called upon by a distraught young couple whose eight year old son has been kidnapped. As the family is not wealthy, there appears to be no logical reason for the abduction, which perplexes Holmes. Ultimately he uncovers a lie which then sets him on a course that will connect with the earlier crimes of the infamous Jack the Ripper. Who is this child that he important to a criminal genius and what possible threat could the boy pose to the British Crown? Saying any more would be spoiling the fun of this twisting mystery that unravels at a quick pace one Holmes discovers that one loose thread. Then he and Watson are on the hunt.

The book has plenty of suspence and action as our heroes are never at rest, though the murderous villain they battle has the uncanny ability to stay one step ahead of them throughtout the entire adventure. Another vital aspect of any Sherlock Holmes tale is how well the writer captures the essences of these beloved figures. Again, Davies is truly wonderful in his portrayals. These are Doyle’s character as we’ve all come to know and love them.  “The Ripper Legacy” is a damn good read. Don’t miss it.