Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: BREED by Chase Novak

Breed. by Chase NovakFor a wealthy couple who have everything, their lives are a constant reminder that without children they can never feel complete. Having tried and failed in many attempts at falling pregnant, the couple seek out an unorthodox doctor hidden from the world, shrouded in secrecy, and whispered upon a terrifyingly cold midnight breeze who claims a 100% success rate – only there’s a side effect which threatens to tear the family limb by limb.

Chase Novak’s New York is one brimming with night terrors and extreme love, loss, life, and death – not so different from fact yet this fiction is gory laden with a sickly sweet purpose that exemplifies the desperation of parenthood amid unearthly cravings and animalistic instincts.

BREED will pull, stretch and sever a parents heart strings through a heartfelt horror that’s bleeding cool and very readable.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: QUIVER by Jason Fischer

Quiver (Volume 1, The Tamsyn Webb Chronicles)QUIVER is a fix-up novel comprising four zombie themed novellas which detail a young woman’s fight for survival in a world long turned dead. Spanning multiple continents and exploring some unique concepts, this globetrotting tour of death places the bow and arrow wielding heroine, Tamsyn Webb, in some dire and utterly enthralling predicaments – some of which more macabre than others, yet all deadly and confronting.

Starting with GRAVESEND and finishing with BETTER RED THAN UNDEAD, QUIVER encapsulates many of the tried and true formulas common to survival horror; the building of fortifications, scavenging, zombie (or coffin-dodger) hoards and their migration, the fall of Government and the rise of independent parties, but the most important component of this zombie post apocalyptic concoction is the humans themselves who are commonly more inhumane than the walking dead. Fischer goes to great lengths to portray a dead world whose living soles are rotten and more menacing than those who threaten to end mans existence.

I enjoyed QUIVER for the most part. At times more Michael Bay than Romero, however the omnipresent sense of dread and heart pounding overriding fear experienced by the survivors remained consistent throughout. As a YA novel, QUIVER was less gritty and raw than the zombie books I’m accustomed to - that said, Fischer wrote this story well given the confines.  

A highlight for me was the place setting of each instalment. Firstly a fortified compound in Gravesend, followed by an ill-fated voyage aboard a dying ship, and subsequent visitations to a Texas gone mad and a Cuba rife with war - this helped to keep the story of decay fresh and provided a unique perspective of how the world coped with the zombie outbreak.

Overall, QUIVER is an entertaining read that starts off with a bang, morphs into more of an action book, before really hitting its straps with the fourth novella, BETTER RED THAN UNDEAD. Personally, I would’ve given this a 5 star rating had all four novellas resembled the story in the last instalment. 3.5 stars.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: LOCK & KEY: HEAD GAMES by Joe Hill

Head Games (Locke & Key, Vol. 2)HEAD GAMES expands on the magical keys first introduced in WELCOME TO LOVECRAFT with this later instalment focusing on a key which has the ability open a person’s head, exposing their memories for all to see. It also allows for knowledge to be quickly accumulated (reading a book negated by simply placing the book directly inside a person’s head). This was all a little weird (but I should’ve gathered that from the title) and a little removed from the anywhere key (which allows you to travel through time and place) and the ghost key (which turns you into a ghost) shown in WELCOME TO LOVECRAFT. Joe Hill certainly bumped up the strange in the second instalment.

Where WELCOME TO LOVECRAFT focused on a horrific and violent event, HEAD GAMES moves towards the pure horror and speculative fiction angel. This time round, a mysterious and dangerous man is the centre of the story and his impact on the recovering Locke family is sure to be bloody. His thirst for the keys unrelenting, his menace quiet and unassuming. I like the direction Joe Hill is taking this series.

While HEAD GAMES was an enjoyable and extremely well paced read (even the back-story sequences well executed), this wasn’t as good as WELCOME TO LOVECRAFT, then again, I don’t suspect many graphic novels will be. 3 stars.
My review of WELCOME TO LOVECRAFT can be found here:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Reivew: DIAL M FOR MAN by Orrie Hitt

Dial M for ManA TV repairman is lured into the world of adultery and false promises by a heavenly blonde with a perfect shape and healthy bedroom appetite. Hob Sampson, is trying to make ends meet when he’s shunned by the bank when asking for a loan to further his business. Slowly, the reasons unravel with his father’s past the reason for his financial difficulties. If ever Hob needed to settle a score, this was it. The blonde just happens to be the bankers wife and the set-up too convenient to ignore.

DIAL M FOR MAN portrays the small town hardships and community run by few, with the balance of power far from equitable. Hob is an average Joe who succumbs to irrrestible curves and the promise of a once in a lifetime payoff.

The early stages of the novel felt comparable to Gil Brewer’s THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN where a TV repairman (Jack Ruxton) is lured into the arms of a wanton woman only to be embroiled in a murder scheme. DIAL M FOR MAN is very much the same in premise but delivered with more emotional and holistic plot depth.

I enjoyed DIAL M FOR MAN – it’s a thinly plotted pulp that doesn’t miss a beat without being overly memorable. Recommended for Orrie Hitt fans and pulp enthusiasts.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: THE CHEATERS by Orrie Hitt

The CheatersA Goodis-like noir full of lust, desperation, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. For Orrie Hitt’s characters, there is no way out of the slums he so deftly portrays in THE CHEATERS, only a less painful way to make ends.

Cheating is commonplace, an accepted pastime in The Dell, one that has kept young woman off the streets and in beds on their backs, and hapless men without coin to feed their families for favouring sins of the flesh. Clint, a bartender who also runs a small prostitution business on the side takes full advantage of this, much to the dislike of his pregnant girlfriend.

Wanting to live as straight and narrow as able given his occupation, Clint easily succumbs to the curves and pretty face of his bosses wife, before long he’s paying off cops, contemplating murder, and leaving his girlfriend.

THE CHEATERS is a highly addictive novel that emphasises all that is noir through a whisky stained glass. It’s brimming with bad people in a bad place with little or no redeeming qualities. Much like Goodis, Orrie Hitt is fast becoming one of my favourite noir/pulp authors.

This review is from THE CHEATERS as appears in the Starkhouse double feature THE CHEATERS/DIAL M FOR MAN:

See my 5 star review of UNFAITHFUL WIVES here:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: THIS GIRL FOR HIRE (Honey West #1) by G. G. Fickling

This Girl for Hire (Honey West, #1)Innocence, naivety, ignorance – the PI with the body to moonlight as a bikini model and the face to go along with it conforms to all three. ‘The nerviest, curviest, PI in Los Angeles’ is a blonde bombshell following in her murdered father’s footsteps. H West was once a well known gumshoe, now with Honey West taking over the family business she faces difficulty in re-establishing the brand, having to overcome male perception and era stereotypes.

THE GIRL FOR HIRE is a fun, pulpy murder mystery fully of cheesy dialogue and little realism (there is a scene where Honey is nearly raped only to then end up playing strip poker with the man and his friends). The first installment in the Honey West PI series is to be taken lightly. G.G. Fickling goes to great lengths to embellish the unbelievable (the killer once unveiled was someone I didn't imagine – it also makes a mockery of the police involved in the case).

There are plot holes by virtue of real life contrasts simply not being plausible (an inability to recognise a murdered person for instance) yet this doesn't come off as a bad thing. In fact, it adds to the pulpy fun feel of Honey West. Her charisma and care-free attitude is refreshing, her ignorance, almost enough to get her out of many tight situations (and not just her bathing suit – of which there are many references).

The case is simple and linear – a Hollywood type hires Honey West fearing for his life. Soon he’s found murdered proving his fears correct. Shortly thereafter Honey is once again hired by her former clients friend (also in the business) to track down the killer. Suspects drop quicker than shoddy scripts as the conclusion draws near – the mystery certainly kept me guessing.

Despite its shortcomings, THIS GIRL FOR HIRE (pub 1956) is very much the guilty pleasure – it doesn't do much for the literary senses but does satisfy the craving for simple pulp entertainment, easily consumed and equally enjoyed.

Side note: There were murmurs online some time ago that Reese Witherspoon had been mentioned to play Honey in a feature film, however, it looks like this didn't eventuate. 

Other books in the series:
  • This Girl for Hire (1957)
  • Girl on the Loose (1958)
  • A Gun for Honey (1958)
  • Honey in the Flesh (1959)
  • Girl on the Prowl (1959)
  • Kiss for a Killer (1960)
  • Dig a Dead Doll (1960)
  • Blood and Honey (1961)
  • Bombshell (1964)
  • Honey on her Tail (1971)
  • Stiff as a Board (1972)

You may also like:

 Dance of Death  Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick - Double D Double Cross


Friday, April 5, 2013

Review: FALSE NEGATIVE by Joseph Koenig

False NegativeAdam Jordan is a newspaperman renowned for his ability to report the facts and pump out print in quick fashion. His job revolves around crime as a spectator after the event until a beauty queen is found murdered followed by a succession of others. Retiring the pen and pad for a slice of the detective life, Jordan soon learns that crime is everywhere and can be committed anyone – even those close to you.

FALSE NEGATIVE is a delicious pulp. It’s got the PI angle wrapped up without actually being about a hardboiled sleuth as Jordan falls into the investigation by virtue of a seemingly lacking commitment by the authorities to uncover the killer.

I liked the unconventional approach author Joseph Koenig took to FALSE NEGATIVE. At its core, it’s a murder mystery in traditional pulp vein, yet Jordan’s everyday life and day job are paramount throughout the course of events. The protagonist wasn’t painted in such a manner as to be the hero, rather, his drive for good print and a beautiful front page for Real Detective magazine threw him into a violent and confronting world.

FALSE NEGATIVE delivers in spades; gory killings, beautiful victims, unconventional hero, sinister suspects, and some truly memorable characters.

FALSE NEGATIVE was Joseph Koenig’s first novel in 20yrs and by all account different from his previous efforts (I haven’t read his others) – I sure hope he continues to write these stories. Adam Jordan is a character that has got a few more escapades left in him at Real Detective magazine.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Delayed Gratification [3] - Books doing 'time' on the shelf

This series of blog posts examines books I’ve acquired which have spend considerable time on the shelf for one reason or another (in some cases many years). In an attempt to rediscover what attracted me to these books in the first place, each fortnight I plan on revisiting a handful with the aim to push them up the TBR pile and rekindle my interest.

This third post is more reflection of my genre of choice with books by Elmore Leonard and Anthony Neil Smith featuring. The books featured as a mix of kindle and print which I had fully intended to read shortly after acquiring yet have neglected to get to them for some time.
DjiboutiFirst up is DJIBOUTI by none other than Elmore Leonard. I’m a huge fan of Leonard (and his son) and have read many of his highly enjoyable novels over the years. DJIBOUTI was a must have as soon as I could, I preordered a copy and had intended to read as soon as it arrived on my doorstep. Yet my reading didn’t turn out as I had planned and it’s been overlooked until now.
What attracted me to DJIBOUTI in the first instance (apart from being written by Elmore Leonard) was the very cool cover; the story seems a lot of fun too.
Read more about DJIBOUTI on Goodreads:
The Loneliest THE LONELIEST by Stacy Cochran is a psychological thriller about an author who has had to endure the loss of his wife and come to terms with loneliness. There’s a bit of crazy to this one as the blurb indicates the protagonist struggles with voices real or otherwise and a blending of reality and fiction which threatens to overcome his sense of self. This is a book that I’ve been wanting to read for about a year or so. Very long overdue.

Read more about THE LONELIEST on Goodreads:

PsychosomaticPSYCHOSOMATIC is the only book by the very awesome Anthony Neil Smith that I’m yet to read. I’ve loved everything he’s written and am very much looking forward to delving into this one. PSYCHOSOMATIC is Antony Neil Smith’s debut novel and judging by the online reviews I’ve read it’s just as good as his later books.
Read more about PSYCHOSOMATIC on Goodreads:
If anyone’s interested, feel free to share your delayed gratification and post a link in the comments to this post. Hopefully a gem or two will be unearthed.
Previous Delayed Gratification posts can be found here:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review: THE DANCE OF DEATH by Carter Brown

Dance of Death“Lieutenant,” he said, and shook his head sorrowfully. “I been on a lot of cases with you and this one started out the same as the others.” A bashful look spread across his repulsive face for a moment. “Three gorgeous dames and all! But look how you let it wind up.” Stunned shock replaced the bliss. “The real cute bally-dancer is a corpse; you booked the big bouncy blonde for complicity in murder and a whole string of minor charges and then – “ he shook his head in mute despair “- you go book the stringy brunette with them bedroom eyes for attempted murder and all! I mean,” he gargled incoherently, “this is the first time ever I saw you wind up a case without a dame, Lieutenant!”

Lieutenant Al Wheeler, while a member of the broader police force has a tendency to act as a lone PI in the Mike Hammer mould. He’s ruthless in his pursuit of justice and equally devoted to the finer sex. In THE DANCE OF DEATH Wheeler is called out to an apparent suicide where a male ballerina is found swinging from a tree on a wealthy secluded estate. True to form, the list of suspects is confined to the premises, those within the deceased immediate vicinity. It’s a matter of Wheeler going through the motions to determine the killer.

There’s not a lot that distinguishes THE DANCE OF DEATH from other Al Wheeler investigations. The plot follows a tried and true formula, the dames as descriptive and deceptive as the other books. Yet I still can’t get enough of Carter Brown’s Aussie pulp goodness.

The redeeming quality of THE DANCE OF DEATH is that is does finish in a flurry of layered twists with the murderer and their intentions chopping and changing as new facts and players come to light.

Fans of pulp will eat this up in a single sitting (as I did) and feel immediately satisfied. THE DANCE OF DEATH is very much a McDonalds for the mind – it’s easy to read, follows a single plot thread; it personifies all the simplicity of a pulp written in the golden age.  

Review: SATAN'S LAMBS by Lynn S. Hightower

Satan's LambsSATAN’S LAMBS is more police procedural than PI yet this off balance of investigation and blind luck leads to an interesting array of characters, leads, and unfortunate events. Lena Padget, is a smart and sassy PI who has a somewhat undefined relationship with the law by virtue of her romantic encounters with Detective Mendez. Like any PI novel, the hardnosed dick has some form of interaction with the boys in blue, and in this case is more between sheets than competing for justice.

SATAN’S LAMBS is driven by the kidnapping of a 4yr old boy presumably to be used in a sacrifice as part of an offering to the devil by a satanic cult. What makes this horrific tale even more sinister is the link between Lena’s brother in-law (and murderer of her sister and nephew) and the case of the missing boy. I got the feeling there was much more to Lena’s back story with this event mentioned but not elaborated to any great depth. There are also a number of characters with whom Lena has built a relationship which feels as though this were a second or third in a series rather than book 1.

Books in the Lena Padget series:

While there are a number of tension brimming moments and intoxicating chases (the ending was pretty well constructed), I felt SATAN’S LAMBS was a little two dimensional with all those characters on the prophetical needing more fleshing out. I just didn’t find myself caring for much other than the core plot element surrounding the missing boy.

Despite its shortcomings, the first boy in the Lena Padget mysteries is well worth the read. It’s thrilling, fast paced and a tad menacing. The cult aspects and lone wolf actions of Lena are worth the price of admission.
SATAN’S LAMBS originally featured on my blog via the Delayed Gratification series of posts. This was a book I’m glad that didn’t continue to sit on my shelves. View the post HERE