Now in paperback! A combination of Le Carré spycraft with Stephenson techno-philosophy, Charlie Huston delivers a new kind of thriller for a new kind of world.
Public Service Announcement: These two incredible books, originally published last spring, are now available as perfectly portable paperbacks.
Paul Denver was one of the pseudonyms used by the British writer Douglas Enefer. He has no Wikipedia entry, but there's always Goodreads. I've read some of his books starring private eye Michael Power, they are mildly ok, mediocre but still entertaining enough. (Actually I first thought, over ten years ago when I was writing my first book, Pulpografia, that Denver was American.) Enefer also wrote some Cannon novelizations as by Paul Denver, and the titular The Deadly Chance is one of them. I believe the story went like this: when the bona fide American Cannon novelizations (written by Richard Gallagher) ran out, the British publisher World Distributors asked Denver to write more of them. And that's just what he did. I don't know whether Denver wrote on an outline or a screenplay of an episode or whether he just made it all up. I'll have to check that out.
The first problem is that Denver/Enefer can't write like an American. There's always a feeling someone's cheating. Denver/Enefer is clever enough though to keep descriptions at minimum. The dialogue also gives the Britishness of the author away, but that doesn't happen all that often in the Finnish translation (though it at times adds layers of its own). The story is a bit silly with its depiction of a small town drug scene, but there's a twist that might keep the reader interested. I say "might", because I skipped lots that went on interim. There's something tired about the book.
There are good British paperback crime novels out there, but this doesn't seem to be one of them. Included is the Finnish edition from 1976, published in a series that consisted only of TV novelizations.
Edit: I changed the publisher from Consul to World Distributors. They put out the Cannon novelizations written by Paul Denver. Consul published earlier paperbacks by Denver.
Sorry, didn't mean to vent. Gil Brewer's The Brat (1957) is a prime example of Brewer's mix of white-collar noir and backwoods exoticism: "the brat" of the title is a sultry babe living somewhere in the Florida swamps whom the lead man takes away to the civilization to live with her - only to notice that "the brat" has something in her mind.
I'm sure The Brat was the publisher's title, since this babe sure is no brat, she's an evil liar and a scumbag. You might call Brewer - or at least his books - misogynistic and you'd well be right. But there's no denying the simple, yet forceful narrative drive in the best of his works. An important issue is also his handling of the bourgeoisie despair: there's not much living beyond the boundaries of the family and work. And when these boundaries break, the nightmare awaits.
I don't really like the cover of the book. It looks like the femme fatale of the book is wearing diapers.
The book is readily available from Prologue Books as an e-book. (I read this from my Kindle and I'm not complaining any about it.)
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The Captain Must Die (Gold Medal 1959) is one of those late fifties to early sixties noir paperbacks that tell about paranoia, broken dreams and people's hatred towards each other. This is firmly set in the world of well-being suburbs and tells about what's going behind the happy facade. This is also about the effects of war and the frustration that it breeds. Colby weaves his plot smoothly, albeit he has also fragmented it in a way that seems way ahead of its time - at least for a 50-year old crime paperback! Some scenes are very exciting and suspenseful. The ending may a be a bit too happy, though. (The cover lets us suppose it's a war novel. It's not - the war is in the background all the time.)
Here's Cullen Callagher on Colby's novel, and here's Ed Gorman, calling it a masterpiece. Here's Peter Enfantino's essay on Colby. Load the novel here. (And congrats to Prologue Books for doing this. There were some formatting and scanning errors in the Kindle version, but not so many that I'd actually complain.)
More Forgotten Books here.
Axel Kilgore was really Jerry Ahern, who's better known for his science fiction series called The Survivalist. I've pretty much avoided them, but The Terror Contract seemed so well-built that I might try one or two Survivalists one day. The hero of The Terror Contract and the whole Mercenary series is Hank Frost, one-eyed freelance spy, a tough guy who really knows his way in a battle. The book is about helping a Leftist terrorist to elope the Eastern Europe - there are lots of complications, though, and plenty of shoot-outs. The book is very fast, with no empty holes in it, and the action scenes are crisp and not overtly long, though they can go on for pages. Seems like this type of thing was something I missed.
There are many differences between The Terror Contract and Mofina's Six Seconds, even though they are aimed at similar markets (of course in totally different times). Mofina tries very hard to be convincing and make his people feel personal to the reader whereas Jerry Ahern couldn't care less, but with this gesture I care more about Hank Frost than anybody in Six Seconds. There's a longer story arc in The Mercenary books in which Frost seeks his girlfriend who was killed in a terrorist bombing, which makes for some melodramatic reading, but then again it's pretty nice compared to the lukewarm and forced emotionalism of Mofina. The Terror Contract is honest in its crudeness and simplicity, while Six Seconds is a mediocre attempt to bring depth into a simple spy thriller.
Having said all that I must add that I'd never share Ahern's political views. But then again he doesn't go on and on about them in The Terror Contract. There's also lots of gun porn, which seems like Ahern's trademark, but I can live with that. At least the action usually starts from the next page after Frost has described his weaponry.