The Hour Of The Oxrun Dead (Charles L Grant)

Those staples of horror–the rundown graveyard, the sinister shape in the fog, the strange noises in the night–they’re all here in spades, but rather than feeling clichéd, the late Charles L. Grant (who wrote under 5 other names as well) has fashioned them into an engaging little novel of 1970s paranoia. And his style is very moody and languid. He makes you wait, and if you enjoy the journey, that seemed to be his goal. Grant was a leading proponent of the quiet horror movement. Other than the odd quirk that might annoy the reader, like his heroine repeatedly fainting, if you like misdirection and mystery this just might be your cup of tea.
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Noble House (James Clavell)

Ignore the “New York Times Bestseller” blurb on the cover. That is like an Oscar. Very annoying and no guarantee of quality. (But this is a good novel, despite the New York Times endorsing it) It’s rare for a book of this size to maintain its pace, but this one manages it. A great business novel with a large cast of larger than life characters from governors to coolies in the cauldron that is Hong Kong. The plot twists and turns with many unexpected turns and stories within stories. The characters themselves are far removed from anyone I have ever met and operate in a moral framework that is utterly alien. Yet one can’t help but sympathize with them as every one of them goes about achieving their own aims with ruthless rationality. [Read more…]

The Dog Of The South (Charles Portis)

This is one of those books that will make you shake your head in wonder at how much contemporary fiction is dull, lifeless trash, just because it’s so subtle and hilarious that to admire its virtues is to bring the flaws of others into sharp contrast by implication. The Dog of the South provides a sprawling panoramic view of a particular strain of American culture, with its mix of simple, uncomplicated religious belief and modern economics that seems to winnow the very life and meaning out of the country.  The prose style is very artful and the character of the doctor is an American type very reminiscent of the traveling hucksters and other marginal types found in Mark Twain’ or in O’ Tooles “Confederacy of Dunces”. [Read more…]

The World Of Suzy Wong (Richard Mason)

(This post is for the guy who discovers that Miss Right has turned out to be Miss Wong)

I will own up to finding many Oriental names amusing: Ping, Pong, Wing, Wang etc. So, Ms Wong’s name cracks me up. What a classic title, whether for book or film, or stage play. Her infamous moniker conjours up images of seedy red light districts and STD clinics. Here its the novel I’m focusing on. Some 21st century snowflakes are horrified by this book, screeching how wacist it is because a western man wrote it. These SJW’s desperately search for evidence of ‘stereotypying’ ‘Yellow Fever’ ‘misogyny’ or ‘colonial attitudes’ – all wrapped up in Trotsky’s r word. These types of reviewers are the ‘hateful’ ones, not the author. They probably even object to the name of the friggin hotel much of the action takes place in. [Read more…]

Calvin & Hobbes (Bill Watterson)

(I’m not reviewing a particular C & H book, as there’s so many. I recommend the Complete Collection. Unfortunately, some may need to mortgage their grandmother to afford that) It is amazing that comics can be so rich in content. We all know that the world is ‘unfair’, but Calvin and Hobbes makes it more evident than anyone else. As social critiques they may be rated on a par with many ‘serious’ writers. Calvin is a whiny, uncooperative 6-year-old kid who thinks the whole world revolves around him. The boy has a lot of imagination too, and he often uses them as a metaphor in real life, but he thinks that it really happened. Hobbes is the only one who believes him, but he’s a stuffed tiger, so he can make him believe everything. [Read more…]

The Butterfly Garden (Dot Hutchison)

This is a psychological/mystery/horror thriller – that won’t be to everyone’s liking; due to the subject matter. (And there’s bound to be a big screen version) It starts off with two FBI agents, Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison, interviewing a young woman, Maya/Inara, who was rescued with other girls that were being held captive by a person only known as ‘The Gardener.’ The garden is a New York–set paradise complete with beautiful trees and flowers, streams and ponds, a cliff and a waterfall. But in reality it is a prison, fully enclosed by walls and glass within a larger garden from which there is no escape. [Read more…]

Infinite Tuesday

So what made Nesmith stand apart from his three fellow cast/bandmates? How did he manage not to allow the two years he spent on a TV show about a fake rock band define the 48 years that followed? How did he become the one Monkee it was acceptable to dig? Musician. Actor. Businessman. Producer. Novelist. Philanthropist. Inventor of MTV. Composer. Old Dude. How did he find the time? I was put off by the book cover initially, thinking the normal thing for an autobiography would be an author’s selfie. One would think it would generate more sales and be more eye catching for Monkees/Nesmith fans. [Read more…]

The Mask Of Cthulu (August Derleth)

One thing you can say about this August Derleth fellow is that he enjoys the frequent use of the word ‘conterminous’; and for that, I found his work rather endearing! ‘The Mask of Cthulhu’ is probably best enjoyed in small doses, since reading the whole collection in one voluminous bite reveals a distinct lack of variety in each fiendish tale of slumberous batrachian maleficence. These eldritch narratives, while stolid and well-written, do lack invention, and a modicum of dry wit would have added much to the murky proceedings. [Read more…]

The Ax ( Donald E Westlake)

Wanted: Middle management for the oversight of an assembly line in an industrial paper factory. College degree and experience a must. Homicidal maniacs welcome to apply. Burke Devore is a typical middle-aged guy with a steady job, a wife and two kids. When he gets laid off he spends 2 years looking for new employment and realizes that there are too many people with more education and experience looking for similar work. Donald Westlake wrote this in 1997, but his publishers missed an opportunity during the last economic bust to reissue this book with great fanfare because it’s even more poignant now. There is not a single dull moment in the entire novel and to top it all off, the ending is even more brilliant.
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The Forbidden Territory (Dennis Wheatley)

This was a smash hit in 1933 for its first time author. And he never looked back. By the 1960s he was selling a million books a year. He was never ‘big’ in America though, and with his elitist views and prudish characters, Wheatley’s name has faded into near obscurity now. As well as being well written from a technical perspective—plot, story, dialogue, exposition, The Forbidden Territory is also an interesting window on the late British Empire. For this reason, if no other, the books of Dennis Wheatley are worth reading. If you have a warm fire and a comfortable reading chair, this slim novel should provide a top-hole evening of very British entertainment: wealthy debonair characters (resolutely heterosexual) tanning the hide of uppity foreigners. It almost makes one wish for the return of the British Empire. [Read more…]

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