Sunday, May 19, 2019

Pick Up A Pulp: Two for One Gil Brew novels

Publisher Stark House
Length 286 pages
Format paperback
Published 2008
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
A DEVIL FOR O'SHAUGNESSY

An okay pulp which lacks any real punch to the plot. 

The reader is dropped knee deep in a con, with Tolbert O'Shaugnessy lured into a desperate game of deception by the lovely Miriam who has murder and money on her mind. With her elderly Grandmother still going strong and steady, the chances of inheriting a cool quarter of a mill any time soon are slim, that is, if Miriam is willing to wait and let nature take its course - which she isn't. Enter Tolbert and a scheme which tests his conviction for the con. 

This was just okay. There are some nice characters and minor complementary story-lines which were fun but overall, the plot was dull and failed to deliver much by way of mystery or entertainment. 

In a desperate pitch to change things up, author Gil Brewer added a dose of the supernatural which, if anything, contributed to the books downfall in my opinion. 

My rating: 2.5/5 stars. 

THE THREE WAY SPLIT

Buried treasure done the pulp way. 

The Three Way Split was a treasure trove of fun, containing a small cast which made a big impact. 

Jack Holland lives on the sea, his work sustains his oceanic lifestyle and his beautiful girlfriend warms his bed at night. He's carved a niche existence which, minor cash flow problems aside, generally keeps him content. However, a visit from his estranged father soon sees Jack wading through deeper waters than he'd imagined, ones where blood mixes with salt water, and dangerous currents threaten to pull him under for a long slept among the fishes. 

The linear plot is breezy and free flowing while the pacing reflects situation; manic. This is a great example of a pitch perfect pulp in holiday mode. 

My rating: 4.5/5 stars. Definitely the better of the two novels in the collection. 

DIG THAT CRAZY CORPSE

Hard boiled PI story complete with all the genre staples. Nothing especially memorable about it but the narrative did have a nice clear flow and the linear plot made for easy reading. I wouldn’t mind reading more of this PI who hints at the unconventional bordering on atypical. 


3/5 stars.

LOVE... AND LUCK


Short sexy noir about a (presumably) promiscuous married woman and her former flame who’s in town to wreck her marriage and boy does he! 


4/5 stars

INDISCRETION 


A sexy housewife who loves to cheat on her husband with strange men. Abused and misused she craves more, her husband unsuspecting all the whole. Erotic noir. 


5/5 stars

Overall this is a solid collection which fans of Gil Brewer and pulp in general will not want to miss. I'd give this collection 4/5 stars. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Review: BOXED by Richard Anderson

Publisher Scribe
Length 275 pages
Format paperback
Published 2019
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher


My Review
Richard Anderson is fast becoming one of the best crime fiction writers to take on the Aussie Outback and conquer it with cleverly crafted tales about hard working average Joe's (or Dave's, as is the case here) who find themselves involved in situations they've only seen on the television during prime time viewing; murder, mayhem, mobsters, and... accidental heroes. 

Dave Martin is a farmer struggling to overcome the breakdown of his marriage following the untimely and accidental death of his teenage son. The farm is on the steady decline and his drink is on the steep incline, the only thing he has to look forward to is the mail delivery. However, it's this one highlight in his week that introduces him to lowlifes and dangers not typically seen outside the big city.

Boxed is a lot of fun; the characters are great and distinctly Australian, while the place-setting envelopes the reader in a unique rural Australian farming community, complete with cattle, dust, utes, and local firemen. I loved the unassuming hero angle and found myself eagerly turning the pages hoping for light at the end of the darkness for Dave. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

You can read my thoughts on Richard Anderson's other novel I reviewed last year, Retribution by clicking on the link below:


Sunday, May 5, 2019

Review: VULTURES by Chuck Wendig

Publisher Saga Press
Length 416 pages
Format paperback
Published 2019
Series Miriam Black #6
My Copy I bought it


My Review
"Everyone dies around me". Her very presence is like a taste of slow poison. She's radioactive; a walking, talking, singing, dancing slice of Chernobyl.

Chuck Wendig sure knows how to mess with his readers emotions. The conclusion of the Miriam Black series is satisfying and loaded with tantalizingly tasty twists, especially as the curtain closes on Miriam Blacks' continually dark chapter.


The Trespasser, Gabby, Louis/Not-Louis, Wren, Miriam's curse; it all comes to a close here as Miriam confronts her arch nemesis (sounds a little superhero like but this is much too macabre for Marvel). Along for the ride is on-again, off-again lover Gabby and some suits from the FBI who just can't let go of Miriam as they continue the push to recruit her to help them crack cases - but Miriam's more Suicide Squad than Shield so things aren't exactly going to be easy for the Feds. 

Readers familiar with the series will welcome to continued nod towards continuity with characters once again appearing/being referenced from previous books. I really picked up on this in The Raptor & The Wren and it was great to see it here again. The overall series plotting is pretty tight and Chuck Wendig does a great job at making everything flow seamlessly from one book to the next. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Great series with a fitting ending. I know it's unlikely but I'd love to see this character (and some of the bit players) in some form fiction post Vultures. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Review: PET SEMATARY by Stephen King

Publisher Hodden & Stoughton
Length 15hrs 41mins
Format audiobook
Published 2018 (originally published 1983)
Series standalone 
My Copy I bought it


My Review

Spooky, suspenseful, and brutally emotional, Pet Sematary is classic Stephen King.

I won't recap the plot outline as many readers will already be familiar with the concept of this book (and revised film), hey, the title kind of gives it away anyway, but will say that this book is more than just a scare-fest with the stock standard horror elements.

There's a deeper darkness lurking within the pages of Pet Sematary which casts a swollen storm cloud over the reader throughout; an omnipresent force leading to consistent apprehension, knowing full well something is coming, some turn about to break bad, but feverishly reading anyway.

One of the things that really impressed me with Pet Sematary is the subtle and slow build. Stephen Kind is known for horror infused tomes but I particularly liked the way this story evolved. The characters were key and that's where King focused the bulk of the book. Plot and gore were secondary, and that's fine by me. 

My rating: 3/5 stats. The rating sounds low, even to me writing this, but I think it's a true reflection of how the book connected with me. I loved the concept and slow build but would've relished some more action.     

Review: SECOND LIVES BY P.D. Cacek

Publisher Flame Tree Press
Length 253 pages
Format ebook
Published 2019
Series Standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher


My Review
Second Lives takes the reader down an emotional and heart-wrenching journey through 8 characters, all of which have dedicated chapters written about them, detailing key events in their lives as well as their eventual deaths, and for some, reincarnation.

Whilst the early portion of the book read like a literary short story collection, introducing 8 characters with seemingly no relation nor connection to one another, the pay-off is in the perseverance, because once the you come out of the dark place of death and into the supernatural elements associated with spiritual displacement, things get very interesting. 

By no means for the faint of heart, Second Lives is the epitome of the 'tear-jerker'. 

Choc full of interesting and well defined characters who read as real as the people you know, all with their own unique voice and story to tell, once the characters align, the story really takes shape. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. Not the book I was expecting but a very entertaining read. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Review: THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT by Graham Masterton

Publisher Leisure
Length 385 pages
Format paperback
Published 1995 (this edition, 2000)
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review


The House That Jack Built goes beyond the typical haunted house horror formula, sure its pages are seeped in the blood of horror staples (ghost-like figures, sex, violence, cults, the supernatural) but it's the plot on the peripheral which gives this novel it's meaty feel, coupled with characters which are both deep and interesting.

The House That Jack Built captures the readers attention and maintains it in a vice-like grip through to the murderous end. 

The long abandoned, secluded and notorious mansion that is Valhalla is as much as a character as Craig and Effie Bellman, the two unfortunate souls caught in Valhalla's curse. Its carpeted halls, hidden rooms, and shadowy figures glimpsed from the corners of eyes instill an omnipresent sense of dread which kept the hair raised on the back of my neck and the goosebumps on my arms standing at attention.

My rating: 5/5 stars. Tailor-made for haunted house readers who like their horror gory and loaded with interesting characters and equally interesting backstories.  

Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Paperback From Hell! MANTIS by K.W. Jeter

Publisher TOR
Length 281 pages
Format paperback
Published 1987
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
Mantis is not the kind of 1980's horror book you'd expect, certainly not from the synopsis, nor the sample at the beginning of book which invokes horrifying images of a female mantis devouring her mate shortly after copulation. 

Rather, Mantis, is an intense psychological horror derived from madness and a warped sense of reality, thanks to a schizophrenic subtext and an unreliable narrator. 

Michael Turner is a graphic designer of sorts who seems to have over capitalized on his business venture, with clients slowly departing for his competitors and his estranged wife making things difficult with their son, Michael turns to the red-light district for some escapism from the daily grind. 

It's among the street walkers, pimps, and thugs who own the night that he becomes obsessed with a couple of bar hoping regulars; his namesake, Michael (a tough guy with a penchant for killing women), and Rae (a boyish woman on the night who likes to live on the knife edge between life and death). It's this obsession which leads him into oblivion.

I liked Mantis but did find the reading tough going in the earlier stages of the book. It takes some time getting used to the writing style and then to understand that the book's narrator isn't to be relied upon. However, once everything clicked into place, Mantis didn't disappoint.

My rating: 3/5 stars. Mantis won't appeal to everyone, however I enjoyed the different aspect to 1980's horror this book brought.