Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Review: BLOOD SUGAR by Daniel Kraus

Publisher Titan
Length 221 pages
Format paperback
Published 2019
Series Standalone
My Copy I brought it


My Review
From the start you know this isn't going to be any ordinary book; seeped in slang, the story set among squalor, Blood Sugar is at once creative and consuming. It absorbs the reader in a heartfelt story hiding behind the curtains of  malicious intent and a twisted form of vengeance.  


The narrative is insightful innocence spoken through a veil of ignorance that's all too real and scary as hell - more as a result of the plot's initial intent as apposed to the outcome.

While misleading, the cover is true to the book; make no mistake Halloween is the centerpiece but you won't find witches, monsters, or ghosts here. Just four down-on-their-luck characters who bond to form an unconventional family unit.

I loved every page.The unique style and over indulgent use of ebonics provided the characters with a voice that's honest and full complimentary to the story's place-setting; a perfect fit for the tone of the book. I give this a solid 5 stars. Blood Sugar will no doubt be on my 'Best of 2019' list come years end. 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Pick Up A Pulp [55]: SHANGHAI FLAME by A.S. Fleischman

Published in 1951, Shanghai Flame by A.S. Fleischman is a book I'd never heard of but had to have, in part due to that delicious pulp cover and my need to snap up as many Gold Medal books as possible. This one was a lucky dollar pick-up at a rural bookstore and, early on, seemed to have a lot of promise; back alley noir with a twist of hardboiled fiction thrown in to put some hair on your chest. 

Unfortunately, the gripping opening stanza wasn't a sign of things to come with the story largely tapering off from a pulp perspective; this despite the stock-standard wanton woman (or women) and male chauvinist with a whole lot to hide and more to gain; a wrong man front with little in the back. 

The plot revolves around a journalist, Alex Cloud, on a mission to find the love of his life (a women called Flame), also a journalist who currently resides in Shanghai. Cloud, seemingly known to everyone he encounters in the city steadily tracks down Flame but finds himself in a world of pain, thanks in large part to 1) having in his possession a list of Communist spies, 2) the fact he's a notorious ladies man and said Flame isn't keen on rekindling their relationship, and lastly 3) well, lots of people want him dead...for you know, reasons....

Despite not being one of the better pulps, there are still some pretty memorable moments, most occurring in the first couple of chapters which are worth the price of admission alone, even if the rest of the book doesn't stack up. 

I rate this a solid 2 stars (out of 5). If you see Shanghai Flame in a used bookstore and pulps (or collecting Gold Medal books) is your thing, grab a copy, if not, give it a miss. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

Pick Up A Pulp [54]: THE WIND-UP DOLL by Carter Brown

The Wind-up Doll pits Carter Brown's resident Hollywood fixer against a conglomerate of mobsters, shysters, movie stars, and greedy mothers as he delves into the past of a singer who has his sights set on a young and upcoming movie starlet. 

Hired by the starlet's studio bosses to check out the singer,Holman gets a whole lot more than he bargained for; expecting mystery, he soon becomes embroiled in murder!  

The case, if it can be called that, is one of the more sloppy ones written by Carter Brown; usually his pulps have a distinct style and voice which mirrors his protagonists (Holman - the Hollywood fixer, Al Wheeler - the hardboiled cop, Danny Body - the debonair private eye, Mavis Seidlitz - the dizzy blonde bombshell who moonlights as a private eye, etc.) but The Wind-up Doll lacks any real identity. Holman is equal parts Boyd, Wheeler, and Seidlitz which doesn't make this read like the standard Holman story. 

As with many other Carter Brown pulps, the dialogue can be hit or miss and this one is largely miss. Holman reads like a child out for candy and frequently throws tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants (in this case, said candy happens to be the prominent bust of a blonde beauty). 

Despite the obvious flaws, The Wind-up Doll is an 'OK' read. Clocking in at the standard 127/8 pages it's a quick form of escapism, which, if you know what you're getting into, can be some fun humorous time-off from other forms of literature. I give this 2 (out of 5) stars. 

My edition: second edition, published by Horwitz Publications, 1965. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Pick Up A Pulp [53]: CAMP BLOOD by John Slater

Camp Blood is a wartime pulp set in the jungles of Timor where a troop of Aussie fighters are pinned down by a Japanese contingent, hellbent on eliminating the Australians in order to strengthen their hold on the jungle and its surrounds. 

I'm not one for reading wartime fiction but took a chance mostly due to the delicious pulp cover and I wasn't disappointed. Camp Blood reads more like a men's adventure story rather than a classic war novel; largely centered around 'Big Ben', an Aussie soldier who gets separated from his comrades during a heated battle only to find his way into the waiting arms of a Eurasian beauty who'd been hiding in a hut with her father deep in the jungle.  

From there things get pretty interesting when the couple are captured and by the Japanese and sent to the notorious Camp Blood for interrogation. 

While light on description, the implied torture of the couple at the hands of the vicious bad guys adds a dark element to the narrative and exemplifies the good verses evil tone of the book. 

I'd given Camp Blood a solid 3 (out of 5) stars. Published by renowned Australian pulp published, Horwitz Publishers in 1963, the story holds up pretty well and is just the thing to spice up your pulp collection. I'll be on the look out for more John Slater books in the secondhand bookstores. 
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