Feb 272015

LA PaperbacksAlthough PulpFest 2015 is still over six months off, do not despair. There are other collectors conventions fast approaching. For instance, on Sunday, March 22nd, the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show will take place in the Glendale Civic Auditorium at 1401 North Verdugo Road in Glendale, California from 9 AM to 4 PM. It’s still the best bargain in town, featuring an admission price of five bucks!

Now in its 36th year, this convention was started by Tom Lesser, who invited dealers, fellow collectors and paperback enthusiasts to his home in Chatworth, California in 1980. Since then, it has grown to be the world’s largest vintage paperback gathering. This year’s show will feature more than 80 dealer tables with tens of thousands of vintage paperbacks for sale, from inexpensive filler copies to the most elusive and rare collectibles in the hobby. In addition to collectible paperbacks, you’ll also find pulp magazines, original illustration art, hardbound science fiction and mystery books, and more. There is no telling what might show up!

Over the years, an important attraction of the show has been its exciting roster of guest authors and artists. It has included such notables as Robert Bloch (18 years); A. E. Van Vogt , Ray Bradbury, Poul Anderson, and Fredrik Pohl (all for over 10 years); and the show’s champ, William F. Nolan (with over 30 years of appearances). This year the show will feature approximately fifty guests who will be available to meet the attendees and sign their works for free! Click here for a schedule of this year’s guest writers and artists.

For additional information on this great collectors gathering, click here to visit the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show website or call Tom Lesser at 818-349-3844. And while you’re at the show, be sure to pick up a PulpFest 2015 post card to learn more about this summer’s tremendous pulp con, taking place from August 13th through the 16th at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio.

(The show’s characteristic poster images were originally designed by the late Glenn Souza, starting in the early 1990s and continued by him through 2007, when he handed on his legacy to Tony Gleeson.)

 Posted by at 12:00 am

Frank Castle: Lovely and Lethal

 Fawcett Gold Medal, Frank Castle, Lovely and Lethal, paperbacks  Comments Off on Frank Castle: Lovely and Lethal
Dec 312014

After Brian Evenson’s weird and effective The Open Curtain I thought I’d be in the mood for something lighter, maybe something old, maybe something pulpy (or paperbacky). I have tons of old paperbacks in my shelves, but not enough to time for them. So I thought I’d read one.

I read two or three westerns by Frank Castle when I was doing my book on American westerns paperbackers called Kuudestilaukeavat (“Six Guns” in English) and liked them well enough to try one of his crime novels. I picked up Lovely and Lethal, a Gold Medal paperback from 1957, and started it – and pretty soon dropped it and moved on to something else.

Lovely and Lethal is a bit like a private eye novel, but the hero of the book, one Jeff Normand, is actually a lawyer moving to a small town and getting acquainted with both the high society and the low-life of the place pretty quickly. He meets a beautiful dame, whose sister had possibly killed herself, but in odd circumstances. Normand starts to unravel the mystery behind the sister’s death.

Castle’s prose style is flat and not very interesting, not even very hardboiled, though I remember his westerns were pretty tough. The characters in Lovely and Lethal are pretty much stock. There’s too much talk, not enough action. So Lovely and Lethal proved a bit boring and thought I’d read something else instead. And the book has a boring cover. Where’s Robert McGinnis when you need him? There are enough sultry babies in the book to warrant a nice GGA cover!

Here’s my earlier post on Frank Castle and his later crime novel “Sowers of the Doom” that seems to have been published only in Finland, and here’s Castle on Steve Lewis’s MysteryFile blog. I’m beginning to think that the book published in Finland only was the last one on Castle’s career, unless he moved on to markets where he used only pseudonyms, writing porn or some such, and the pseudonyms have never come to light.

I’m now reading Michael Marshall’s The Straw Men and enjoying it more.

Dec 042013

Okay, I’m cheating here a bit. This is one of the books I’m including in my forth-coming book on British paperback crime fiction. I only browsed through the book while cycling at the gym. I think that’s enough for this book, which isn’t exactly quality stuff.

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.

Gil Brewer: The Brat

 Fawcett Gold Medal, Gil Brewer, noir, paperbacks  Comments Off on Gil Brewer: The Brat
Dec 022012

I meant to do this for the Friday’s Forgotten Book series, but I didn’t have enough time on my hands. I’ve been rather tired lately – frustrated even – and am already on some sort of a Christmas vacation (which the tax refund, paid to me by the state of Finland, makes possible). I’ve been doing too much work for the past couple of years and it’s starting to show.

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.)

 Posted by at 5:46 pm

Friday’s Forgotten Book: Robert Colby: The Captain Must Die

 Fawcett Gold Medal, Friday's Forgotten Books, noir, paperbacks, robert Colby  Comments Off on Friday’s Forgotten Book: Robert Colby: The Captain Must Die
Oct 192012

Thanks to Kindle and Prologue Books, I was finally able to read this magnificent crime paperback by Robert Colby that has been getting praise from the likes of Ed Gorman for some years now. I’ve earlier read some very good short stories by Colby and his paperback novel Beautiful but Bad (Monarch 1962), but this one has eluded me. Not anymore, of which I’m very glad.

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.

 Posted by at 1:35 pm

Axel Kilgore: The Terror Contract

 Jerry Ahern, men's adventure, paperbacks  Comments Off on Axel Kilgore: The Terror Contract
Jan 062012

For some days now I’ve been reading Six Seconds by Rick Mofina which is only remotely interesting, though it got off to a good start. After a while I got bored with Mofina’s over-anxious way to make his humans alive and four-dimensional and his a bit too obvious story about Muslim terrorists, and as I was going through some boxes here at my study I came across a copy of  men’s adventure paperback from 1987: The Terror Contract as by “Axel Kilgore”. (The Finnish title of the paperback is Tappava enkeli that means “The Deadly Angel”. The series title was translated literally as “Palkkasoturi”.) I thought: “What the heck!”, and as there was some leisurely time at my hands at the moment I started to read the book. It was way better than Mofina’s.

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.

 Posted by at 7:39 pm