The Travelling Vampire Show (Richard Laymon)

It is hot, the summer of 1963, and three teenagers, Dwight, Rusty, and Slim, are anxious to see the one-night-only performance of The Traveling Vampire Show, which claims to have the only living vampire in captivity, Valeria, at the legendary Janks Field. OK, this novel sounds like a typical coming-of-age story Stephen King likes to indulge in. This is no surprise because the late Richard Laymon (like King, he was also born in 1947) could be King’s perverted twin. [Read more…]

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Maze Of Death (Philip K Dick)

14 people end up in a settlement called Delmak-O. They don’t know why they are there, but the first arrivals are told to wait for the rest to appear before starting a tape that will contain the answers they so desperately desire. However, once everyone (save one member) has arrived, they find that the tape has been programmed to erase itself as it is played. So begins a tale of death, murder, and insanity. Slowly, surely, each member is murdered somehow… [Read more…]

Ride The River (Louis L’Amour)

A quick yet enjoyable read. Somewhere in the Tennessee hills in 1840, there is a young gal named Echo Sackett and she never wastes a bullet. Whatever this feisty girl aims at – she hits – and can ride and hunt as well as any man. One day a traveling peddler comes across her family name in a newspaper. Upon reading it, Echo decides to travel to Philadelphia because the newspaper reveals there is an inheritance waiting for the youngest living Sackett. Arriving in Philadelphia, however, Echo discovers that a greedy lawyer never intended the article to reach Tennessee, let alone hand the rightful heir the money. A kindly, old lawyer becomes involved and after attaining about three grand and a ruby in a box, Echo undertakes a perilous journey home with thieves and murderers constantly shooting at her or stealing her bag. But these legal shysters and evil doers do not know who they are dealing with…

Amid all the horse riding, stagecoach hopping, stream rolling, canoeing, and in between shooting off bad guys’ ears, Echo develops a crush on the kindly lawyer’s nephew, who has come along attempting to help her reach home safely. Echo shows us all that she is certainly capable of making it on her own, and with her sense of humour intact too. The only thing I didn’t like was the prose. Whereas I understand the use of uneducated prose when people are actually speaking, I found it unnecessary when Echo was simply narrating. This is a refreshing adventure that pits a small Sackett female against a bunch of big men a couple of decades before the Civil War. Neither city slickers nor run-of-the-mill woodsmen are going to steal from this mountain girl! Old fashioned fun but the two page ending is pretty abrupt. 🙂

The Great Pursuit (Tom Sharpe)

The story of a publisher, Frensic, who convinces an unimaginative would-be author, Peter Piper, to pretend authorship of a wildly successful, pornographic novel. It’s a funny book, though not riotously so. Its plot is devious and twisted, but though there’s sex and a riot and some explosions, it seems restrained compared to other Sharpe books. The story twists and turns its way to a delicious conclusion. The book’s closing sections are hilarious. Heartily recommended to anyone who likes a laugh and enjoys seeing pomposity punctured.
[Read more…]

The Wonderful World Of Henry Sugar (Roald Dahl)

Roald Dahl had that galvanic ability to emotionally penetrate the reader, giving his tales a unique intimacy. We feel as if we’ve gone through the experience inside his characters bodies. Even when he’s writing about dark subject matter there is always a sense of wonder. His stories are grounded in a real compassion, whether his target audience are children or adults. This collection of six are for teens and adults, not children. And they are not all fiction! So, without further ado, here is a basic list of what you get for your library card: [Read more…]

The Outsiders (S. E. Hinton)

This is for any reader who goes weak at the knees for a group of tragic boys with tragic pasts who are outwardly dangerous and feared, but are actually soft marshmallows underneath and love each other more than life–and would die for each other. Yes, its another book about sensitive teenage boys who alternately get into gang fights, hug one another and burst into tears. Then there’s the tight T shirts and lots of muscle admiring. Even though they’re always complimenting each other’s pretty hair and doing gymnastics, it’s not gay at all because it takes place in 1965, shortly after James Dean had made crying and homoerotic tension cool. [Read more…]

The End of Eternity (Isaac Asimov)

I’ve never had much time for Asimov, partly because of the media hype that surrounds his name. The problem I have with his writing here is that emotional situations seem to be taken to extremes: going from dry clinical detachment to wildly-in-love, blackmailing, murderous and suicidal, without any sort of in-between. Also, for a supposedly thoughtful and incredibly precise guy, his ability to jump to extreme conclusions based on minimal evidence is very jarring. His style is immature and his characters are flat. They are people who are so superficial and tedious that it is hard to care about any of them. So, lets turn to the plot… [Read more…]

The Secret Of Terror Castle ( The Three Investigators #1) by Robert Arthur

First published in the mid 1960’s, this mystery/adventure series of approximately forty books were written for 8-15 years olds and would be hard to beat if you want to find thrilling and original tales that don’t talk down to kids. Some of the plots pertain to ghosts, whispering mummies, talking skulls and other spooky or eerie themes although the stories always climax in some scheme in which a band of thieves, rustlers, con men or other non-supernatural element are attempting to snatch a lost or hidden treasure. I loved reading them as a child, and find that after all these years, they are still entertaining and packed with adventure.  [Read more…]

Salems Lot (Stephen King)

This novel brought up my lapsed Catholicism. About one third of the way in I had taken to wearing a crucifix. I was so absorbed that I only put the paperback down to sprinkle drops of holy water around my bedroom. Hell, why stop there. I even asked the dog and cat to help me out with a few Hail Marys. Back to the book: this is a busy tour de force of how evil small towns can be. Of course that’s total BS but it works for a fictional setting. There is a wonderful intimacy on display with so many characters we can relate to. From the paranoid bus driver aghast at how unpatriotic kids are in 1975… to a Peeping Tom old bag, Mabel Werts, and her binoculars… to the slut-shaming of a teenage girl because she has big boobies. Magic stuff.
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Our Man In Havana (Graham Greene)

Havana, frozen as it is in time since 1959, is a special, exciting and fascinating place to be. The Havana described by Greene from this 1950s slice of fiction is still very much there to see, albeit in its 21st Century version. Anyway, this light hearted novel is uncannily reminiscent of The Tailor of Panama. A spymaster and an expat on the ground in Cuba manage to concoct between them, but entirely without each other’s knowledge, a fantasy international plot, which allows the “source” to receive generous ex-gratis payments, and the spy to convince his masters in the UK that he is doing something useful, thus worthy of a generous budget. The joke wears off when people start to get killed; but they’ve started so they have to finish.
[Read more…]

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