Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thrift Shop Book Covers: "Bring Him Back Dead" / "There was a Crooked Man"



Bring Him Back Dead and There was a Crooked Man, by Day Keene. Bring Him Back Dead and There was a Crooked Man were paperback originals published in 1954 and 1956 by Fawcett Gold Medal. The edition that caught my eye is the Lancer “2-for-1” edition published in 1963. On the front cover, in large orange type is the claim, “Revised for this edition” and I’m unsure the amount of revision made between the original books publication and this edition. Each title has its own cover in vivid yellows and blues, denoting violence and sensuality. The artist(s): Unknown (to me at least)

















The first sentence from Bring Him Back Dead:
Latour awakened, reluctantly.
The first sentence from There was a Crooked Man:
Clay Burgess was a tough, smart cop. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

The winners are in...


The winners are in for the Blaze! Spanish Gold giveaway, each chosen randomly with a number generator in MS Excel. Before I announce the winners I want to thank everyone who entered. There was a surprising number of entrants this time around, which inspired me to giveaway three copies instead of the original two. So, without further delay, here are the winners:

David G.
Justin G.
Kevin T.
Thanks again, everyone. I appreciate your interest and support.
Keep reading!


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Giveaway Fever!


Today marks the waning hours to enter the giveaway for one of two signed paperbacks of Blaze! Spanish Gold. The deadline is tonight, 11:59 PM MST. All you need to do to enter is send an email to zulu1611@yahoo.com with “BSG Giveaway” in the subject line. Your email will be used only for the giveaway.  There are a few other ways you can get your name entered more than once, including following my Goodreads Author page and Gravetapping’s Facebook page. If you do either, or both, make sure you tell me in your email so I’ll know to enter your name in the drawing multiple times.
For complete details on the contest you can go to the original post.
Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Monday, November 06, 2017

FATE OF THE UNION by Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens

Fate of the Union is the second novel—after Supreme Justice (2014)—featuring former Secret Service Agent Joe Reeder and current FBI Agent Patti Rogers written by Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens. Reeder is popularly known as an American hero—a notion he chafes from—for saving the lives of a President and a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In retirement he operates a successful investigative and security firm, and, as the story opens, Joe is concerned by a voicemail from a former Secret Service colleague named Chris Bryson—

“Call this number when you get this. Life and death, brother—don’t let me down.”
Joe returns the call with no response. He hears nothing until his wife finds him at Arlington National Cemetery and tells him Chris was found dead at a cheap motel, hanging by a belt from the shower rod. Chris’s wife doesn’t believe it is suicide, and asks Joe to investigate.  The only clues are Chris’s uncharacteristic nervousness in the days leading to his death, and a single word uttered to his wife: “sink.”

The setting is Washington, D. C. of the late 2020s, and the story, while not political, is very much a political thriller. The political landscape is much like our own—non-cooperative partisanship as the parties splinter away from each other and the moderate middle—and acts as both antagonist and battlefield. The story is larger than a simple murder as suicide, and involves a shady cast of characters, including a billionaire, a Department of Defense contractor, and a nasty psychopath. It is something of a mix between television’s Criminal Minds and a Robert Ludlum novel. But better than either because of its ability to surprise, and make the reader believe.
This review originally appeared at Ed Gorman’s blog, in slightly different form, on November 17, 2015.



Wednesday, November 01, 2017

A Giveaway State of Mind


My second Blaze! book, Spanish Gold, has been out for three weeks. The Halloween holiday is a memory, I have a handful of author copies, and so my always suspect logic tells me it’s time for a giveaway. This time around I have two signed trade paperbacks available for two very lucky readers (or unlucky, depending on perspective). Or, if you prefer the Kindle version, I can make that happen, too. See below for how to enter and a few other details about the giveaway.

A little about Blaze! Spanish Gold:
“The only thing Kate and J.D. Blaze had in mind when they rode into the settlement of Unity, Utah, was celebrating their wedding anniversary. But then J.D. is forced to kill a corrupt deputy in order to save a woman’s life, and suddenly the Old West’s only husband-and-wife gunfighters are plunged into a deadly mystery involving a sinister albino, missing men, and a lost treasure in Spanish gold.”
And an early review, from Western genre guru Steve Myall, at Western Fiction Review:
“Ben Boulden writes in a very readable style, never letting up on the rapid pace that leads to a gripping final gunfight that answers all the questions that have risen before this deadly confrontation. Once again I’m left looking forward to Ben Boulden’s next entry in this series.”
A few details. Blaze! Spanish Gold is the eighteenth installment of the Blaze! Adult Western series. The “adult” part means there is some mature content. In this case there is one short chapter of Rated R content, which is best explained by Steve Myall in his review:
“The Blaze! books are marketed as being an adult western series but please don’t let that put you off trying this one if you don’t like explicit sex in your reading material. There is only one short chapter that deals with this aspect of the tale and that can easily be skipped without ruining the rest of the story.”
The giveaway for the paperback version of Blaze! Spanish Gold is available only to those with a mailing address within the United States. If you want the Kindle version, all you need is an Amazon account.


How to enter. This is the easy part. All you need to do is send an email to zulu1611@yahoo.com with “BSG Giveaway” in the subject line (don't worry, you won't get junk mail from me). BUT, if you follow my Goodreads author page, or like my Gravetapping Facebook page, or share the link to this page on Facebook, a blog, or elsewhere, your name will be entered in the drawing pool one additional time for each of the above you do. As an example, if you send an email, follow my Goodreads author page, and like Gravetapping’s Facebook page, your name would be entered in the drawing three times. Here are the links to the various pages:
Ben Boulden’s Goodreads Author Page
Gravetapping’s Facebook Page
When you send your email make sure to note if you did any of the above things, other than sending the email since I'll catch that one, so I can enter your name in the drawing the appropriate number of times.
When to enter.
November 1, 2017 to 11:59 PM, MST, November 12, 2017
If you win and enjoy Blaze! Spanish Gold, please consider writing a brief review at Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Facebook, your blog, or anywhere else with exposure.

Monday, October 23, 2017

THE THIRD ILLUSION by Harrison Arnston


Harrison Arnston’s The Third Illusion, published by Harper as a paperback original in 1993, is a nicely played hybrid of the private eye and thriller genres with a tricky plot that Alfred Hitchcock would have found intriguing. It is Mr. Arnston’s eighth novel, after the legal thriller Trade-Off (1992), and his second to last published novel, preceding The Venus Diaries (1994).
David Baxter, a former CIA operative, is a hunted man. A Palestinian terrorist group has sentenced him to death for thwarting an attack and killing its leader. With the help of the Agency, David faked his own death, changed his name to Jack Slade, and lives a secluded life in a California mountain town. When a wealthy and politically ambitious businessman, who knows David’s real identity, lures him out of hiding with a hard luck story about a missing daughter, David’s carefully orchestrated life unravels.

The Third Illusion is what a thriller should be: entertaining, complex and fun. Its first person narration is smooth and provides the reader with an unobstructed view of both the action and David Baxter. Its plotting and pacing are pitch-perfect, and while the book runs 452 pages in mass market, there is plenty of story from the first page to the last. The climactic twist is achieved with what must have been a cutting edge technology in the early-1990s, and still feels a little science fiction, that stretches belief, but in Arnston’s expert hands this reader didn’t much care.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

THE VIOLATED by Bill Pronzini


Santa Rita is a small town with a big city problem: a serial rapist is working its streets. When the prime suspect, Martin Torrey, is murdered—a bullet to the back of his head and two postmortem shots to his groin—the police’s rape investigation is derailed by what appears to be a vigilante murder. Martin’s death is good news for most of Santa Rita’s residents, even his wife feels some guilty relief, and the investigation seems to be going nowhere fast as the embattled Sheriff, Griffin Kells, tries to solve the rapes—there was never enough evidence to charge Torrey—and the murder both.
With The Violated, Bill Pronzini uses a progressive, and difficult to pull off, story-telling technique; each character, both major and minor, speak in first person narration from chapter to chapter. It gives the story an emotional power, from the stress and anxiety the investigating officers feel to the raw fear and rage of the victims, that would otherwise be impossible to capture. It slows the story’s pace, which, since the novel is a character-driven police procedural, is less critical than it would be with a plot-driven, action-oriented novel. A soulless mayor with political ambitions and a meth dealer add enough intrigue to keep everything moving until the final climactic twist.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Thrift Shop Book Covers: "Desperado Doublecross" / "The Plunderers"

Desperado Doublecross, by Tom West / The Plunderers, by Norman Daniels was published as a double book by Ace in 1970 (14265). The cover art for both titles is pure Western pulp bliss; flashy, vivid with more than a little implied action and violence. The artist(s): Unknown (to me at least)


The first sentence from Desperado Doublecross:
“Bill Mackay felt sorrier than a sick calf.”
The first sentence from The Plunderers:
“The street had quickly cleared of people and, except for the loudmouthed, drunken, highly dangerous man who walked down the middle of the of the road, the little town looked abandoned.”

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A few reviews...

A couple reviews went live in the ether recently for two of my stories. Kevin Tipple reviewed Blaze! Red Rock Rampage at his blog, Kevin’s Corner, with an appreciated “highly recommended.” My favorite portion of the review:
Blaze! Red Rock Rampage is a very good western. 15th in the series originally created by Stephen Mertz, the read features plenty of action and adventure in a western setting with some mystery and romantic elements thrown into the high octane mix. Well plotted and complicated, the read moves forward at a rapid pace. Blaze! Red Rock Rampage is highly recommended.
Click here to read the entire review, and check out Kevin’s other reviews and miscellany. He operates a great blog that is updated multiple times a week.
And Blaze Red Rock Rampage is in its final few days of its 99 cent sale. Get it, read it, and let me know what you think of it.
I also discovered a couple reviews for my short story Merrick, posted on two separate international Amazon websites. The first is from Aussie writer Brent Towns:
Those of you who enjoy a western with great action and NOT your average western hero should enjoy this story no end.
Read Merrick. You'll be glad you did.
Okay, now that the shameless self-promotion done, back to regular programming.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Available Now: Blaze! Spanish Gold


It is release day for my latest book, Blaze! Spanish Gold. The eighteenth installment in the always entertaining Adult Western series Blaze!—created by Stephen Mertz and published by Rough Edges Press—finds J.D. and Kate in a bunch of trouble as they attempt to celebrate their wedding anniversary in the fictional Northeastern Utah town of Unity.
The publisher’s description of Blaze! Spanish Gold is apt, and one phrase made me smile—thinking of sinister albino—and want to read the book again myself:

“The only thing Kate and J.D. Blaze had in mind when they rode into the settlement of Unity, Utah, was celebrating their wedding anniversary. But then J.D. is forced to kill a corrupt deputy in order to save a woman’s life, and suddenly the Old West’s only husband-and-wife gunfighters are plunged into a deadly mystery involving a sinister albino, missing men, and a lost treasure in Spanish gold.
“It’s action all the way as critically acclaimed author Ben Boulden returns with another exciting installment in today’s top Adult Western series!”
I’m fond of this one, as I am all my work, and if you choose to spend a little time with Kate and J.D., I hope you find it as pleasant as I did while I wrote Spanish Gold. And if you do read it, I would love to hear from you and I hope you'll leave a glowing review at Amazon, or Goodreads, or anywhere else. 
Blaze! Spanish Gold is available as an ebook exclusively through Amazon Kindle—free for Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscribers—and trade paperback pretty much everywhere: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository (for those international fans of Blaze!) and many other online markets.

And while I’m plugging myself without shame, my first Blaze! novel, Red Rock Rampage, is available for a limited at the unbeatable price of $0.99 for your Kindle device. You can get a little more information about Red Rock Rampage here, or click the link below for its Amazon listing.


Saturday, October 07, 2017

BLAZE! RED ROCK RAMPAGE: Kindle Edition On Sale for $0.99!



This is big news—for me, at least. The Kindle edition of my first book,  Blaze! Red Rock Rampage, is on sale for $0.99. A limited time sort of deal. 
The sale is anticipating the October 9 release of my second book, Blaze! Spanish Gold, and with a little luck will drum up some excitement for both books.   
I’m proud of both novels, and I hope you take the time to read one or the other, or even better, both. Maybe twice.
Thanks for your support!

                    --Ben Boulden



Sunday, October 01, 2017

THE MOSES DECEPTION by Stephen Mertz


The Moses Deception, the latest from Stephen Mertz, is a high energy, entertaining chase novel with a unique premise. An eleventh commandment—from a fragment of the original tablets shattered by Moses when he descended Mount Sinai—is discovered on the war-torn border between Turkey and Syria. The discovery threatens the status quo and more than a few powerful individuals and groups are willing to kill to keep the discovery hidden since the new commandment has broad implications for the three major world religions; Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. 
Adam Chase and Lara Newton are leading an archaeological dig on the arid desert site of what they believe is “an ancient proto-Israelite settlement” from “the second millennium BCE,” which could offer evidence that the Biblical story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt is historically accurate. When the Turkish military security detail attached to the dig is ordered away, the archaeologists are forced to abandon the site. As the rest of the dig team decamps, Adam and Lara are enticed to a cave where an ancient box is hidden. Inside the box are stone fragments containing God’s eleventh commandment and the discovery sets in motion a violent and harrowing journey for the two archaeologists.

The Moses Deception is an absorbing, action-oriented thriller. Its prose is cinematic: crisp and clear without distortion. The storyline, especially its impetus, is unique and the action moves across Europe—from Turkey to the Vatican to Berlin to the Swiss Alps—with a well-paced shimmer. The characters are heroic and evil with enough in the middle to keep things interesting. A billionaire, Buckeye Calhoun, who is bankrolling the expedition, is exactly what I imagine Ross Perot to be. Eccentric as hell, but likable in a good ole’ boy manner. A few big ideas are discussed without stalling the story and a nicely executed climax left this reader smiling and wishing for more.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Deja Vu, Ron Lesser Style

A pair of covers across four decades by Ron Lesser. The Decoy, by Edward S. Aarons, Fawcett Gold Medal. Honey in His Mouth, by Lester Dent, Hard Case Crime. 


Sunday, September 24, 2017

BROTHERS OF THE GUN by B. S. Dunn


Brothers of the Gun is an entertaining traditional western written by B. S. Dunn and published by Robert Hale’s Black Horse Western line. B. S. Dunn is a pseudonym for the prolific and very talented Australian scribe Brent Towns. 
A war is brewing in the Cottonwood Creek range between the largest cattle outfit, B-L connected ranch, and the incoming homesteaders. The B-L is owned by Buford Lance who first settled the area “at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo range,” decades earlier with nothing more than a dream and the determination to build an empire. He fought outlaws, Indians and anyone else who came wanting what he righteously believed to be his. 
Now, the homesteaders are coming in waves, fencing and planting the grasslands. To stop the interloping farmers, Buford hires two gunmen. The estranged brothers known as The Gun King, Lucas Kane, and The Prince, Jordan Kane. Lucas has the biggest reputation in the territory, and his younger brother, Jordan, has plans to unseat The King. When the brothers arrive, Lucas turns down Buford’s offer and rides away, but Jordan happily takes Lance’s money. A simple job, it seems, to run off a few dirt farmers, but when Lucas joins the homesteaders it becomes both more difficult and the opportunity Jordan has been waiting for.
Brothers of the Gun is as fast as it is entertaining. The action is brisk, and believable. A traditional range war western with a cast of both good and bad. Buford Lance is the angry, unscrupulous rancher with more money and power than sense. Jordan is a badman with seething rage and something more, while Lucas is a nice take on the moral gunfighter. It reads similar to many of the books packaged as Ace Doubles back in the day—a good thing—and it is both appealing and entertaining.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mystery Scene: Issue No. 151


The latest issue of Mystery Scene Magazine—No. 151—is at a newsstand near you. As usual, it is packed. It features interviews with Attica Locke and Paul Cleave, a Jake Hinkson article about the Robert Mitchum film “Out of the Past” and many others.
It also features my short story review column, “Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered.” Two of the four books / magazine covered are available at MS’s website. In the column I discuss:

Bibliomysteries, edited by Otto Penzler, collects 15 mystery tales featuring books and most are very surprising.
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July / August 2017, includes stories by James Lincoln Warren, Loren D. Estleman, and Susan Koefod. This is exclusive to the print magazine.
New Haven Noir, edited by Amy Bloom, is a tepid on noir, but long on good storytelling. It features terrific stories from Stephen L. Carter, and Chris Knopf.
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, July / August 2017, features excellent stories from Steve Liskow, Robert Mageot, and O’Neil De Noux. This is exclusive to the print magazine.
It also includes two of my book reviews. The titles: Path Into Darkness by Lisa Alber, and Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller. The book reviews are all available at MS’s website:
Path Into Darkness by Lisa Alber is a whodunit set in County Clare, Ireland.
Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller is a slow paced procedural featuring dozens of heroin overdoses in a 24-hour period.
The reviews are available online at Mystery Scene’s website—click the titles above.
Mystery Scene is available at many newsstands, including Barnes & Noble, and available for order at MS’s website.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Merrick" by Ben Boulden



My story “Merrick” is live and ready for consumption. It’s a 25-page action Western short story that I’m fond of, and one that I think most readers will enjoy. It is exclusive to Amazon Kindle; available to purchase for a measly $0.99, or, for the lucky readers with Kindle Unlimited, it can be borrowed for free.
If you read and enjoy “Merrick” please consider leaving a brief review at Amazon or Goodreads, or even better, tell your friends about it. Your enemies, too, if you have any.
Here is the description:
Merrick is hard, tough, and when he needs to be, mean as hell.
When Merrick is called in as a late-replacement for a payroll heist his first inclination is greed. His second is hesitation, since anyone who says a job will be easy is a liar, but this job has been planned by an old partner, Clarence Tilley, who has masterminded more than a few successful heists.
It’s a four man job with a payout worth $15,000 and Merrick’s share would keep him in whiskey and satin for a year. But it may also get him killed.
And if you've read this far, keep reading for an itty bitty preview. You can also get a preview at Amazon.

Sweat beaded on Merrick’s brow. 
Slow moving horses beat a tepid rhythm on the road above. A wagon squeaked, its wheels rumbling across dry clay and shale.
A man laughed. 
Another clicked his tongue at the laboring beasts before saying, “You should have seen it, me and Janie Frain as naked as God made us…”
Merrick drew a breath, held it. He listened to the sound his heart made. The Remington cool and steady in his right hand.
“…and in comes Janie’s—”
A crash and thud bounced on the road above as the armored wagon slammed into the four-foot rectangular trench dug for the purpose. The double tree hitch busted with an ear-shattering crack.
Merrick moved up the incline. His boots slippery on the shoulder’s pale rocks and paler dirt. The road’s flat surface a comfort beneath his Texas boots. The Remington raised to shoulder height, its barrel pointed at the rear of the wagon.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

PROJECT JAEL by Aaron Fletcher


Aaron Fletcher is a writer I know nothing about. My internet searching determined he is an unknown quantity in the ether-sphere, too. I know his name is on the cover of the successful Outback historical series and he wrote a few suspense novels in the 1960s and 1970s, but otherwise…nothing.
Frank Keeler is a British MI-6 agent, cast in a broken mold of James Bond, with a history of getting the job done. Fresh on the heels of a successful mission in Cairo, Keeler is tasked with disposing of a Nazi plot to kill Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin at a secret summit set for Tehran in 1943. An assignment that is anything but easy since Keeler has to deal with the German spy apparatus, Abwehr, the Soviets, a German Brandenburg detachment led by a hate-filled and industrious Polish officer, and at least two beautiful women. One married, the other a former prisoner in a Russian gulag. It isn’t easy, but Keeler makes it look like another day at the office.
Project Jael is an enjoyable, overly long World War Two thriller, with a smoothly executed and easy to read style without many surprises or anything to raise it above the standard. An original paperback published by Leisure Books in 1985, it is a comfortable yarn that blends Jack Higgins’ The Eagle Has Landed and Ken Follett’s The Key to Rebecca without the originality of either. The Tehran setting is nicely rendered and the competitive nature of the intelligence services, especially between the British / American and the Soviets, is neatly detailed. An entertaining diversion, but not one that you should spend much effort seeking out.

Monday, September 04, 2017

"It Happened Tomorrow" by Robert Bloch


I’m a sucker for two things: 1) apocalyptic stories; and 2) Robert Bloch. When I find something that marries both, a Robert Bloch written apocalyptic story, I drop everything and read it immediately. A situation I found earlier this week when I turned to the table of contents of an old anthology, Futures Unlimited, edited by Alden Norton, and saw the Robert Bloch novelette, “It Happened Tomorrow”.
Dick Sheldon’s morning started in the usual way. Daylight. His alarm’s tattooing brutality. But then things go bad. The alarm won’t stop its ringing until he smashes it to pieces. The lights in his apartment won’t turn off. His bathroom water tap is stuck on. The street car door won’t open, and then the entire car refuses to stop. As does the elevator in his office building. The world’s machines have gone mad. Everything is running, out-of-control, and their human creators are scared, looking for somewhere to hide.

“It Happened Tomorrow” is vintage science fiction. It has big ideas presented in a simple, entertaining package. Originally published in Super Science Stories in June 1951, it is as prescient today—think about the recent talk of artificial intelligence’s peril to humanity from such luminaries as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk—as when it first appeared. It’s as entertaining today, as it must have been seventy years ago, too. 
A small story about a big subject. It follows the human world’s destruction as it happens from the viewpoint of Dick Sheldon, in a single city over a short period of time. A top-notch example of both classic science fiction and Robert Bloch. A writer who is unjustly forgotten and whose work seems ripe for a revival.

Futures Unlimited was published by Pyramid books as a mass market paperback in June 1969. It features an impressive list of contributors, including A. Merrit, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Arthur Conan Doyle and others.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Thrift Shop Book Covers: "The Potsdam Bluff"

The Potsdam Bluff was published as a hardcover by Tor in 1991, but the edition that caught my eye is the mass market published in 1992 (also by Tor). The cover is a nice montage that fits its release era perfectly and reminds me a little of Pocket’s Jack Higgins novels with the two main characters pictured across a background of war and destruction. The artist: Don Gonzalez


The first sentence:
“The American news correspondents had been authorized to visit one of the fighter squadrons that were supposed to protect Moscow from Nazi bombers, which, as everybody knew, no longer represented any kind of threat to anybody anywhere, especially here in Russia.”
Jack D. Hunter made a career of the news business, working as a reporter and columnist, and wrote fifteen novels centered around World War Two and the spy game. His 1964 novel, The Blue Max, was made into the 1966 film starring George Peppard and James Mason, and directed by John Guillerman. His writing tends to be descriptive and detailed, but at times, can be bogged down by those same qualities.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

CHAIN OF EVIDENCE by Garry Disher


Chain of Evidence is Australian crime writer Garry Disher’s fourth novel to feature Inspector Hal Challis and Sergeant Ellen Destry. A police procedural set in the rural, but booming Mornington Peninsula area south of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. A place where poverty and wealth live side-by-side and crime is as deadly and ugly as it is in any large city. 

While visiting his dying father in his childhood home in the dusty, hardscrabble South Australia town of Mawson’s Bluff, Challis unofficially investigates the mysterious disappearance of his sister’s husband, Gavin Hurst, from eight years earlier. Hurst is a man not readily missed by many of Mawson’s Bluff’s residents and his disappearance is truly a mystery. His truck abandoned at the desert’s edge, his body never found.

Back home at the Waterloo Station, Ellen Destry is filling in for Challis during his absence, a girl is kidnapped on her way home from school. She is found imprisoned in an uninhabited house. Abused by what Destry believes is a pedophile ring operating in the Peninsula. Her investigation hits roadblocks from within the police service and the only person she can trust is Hal Challis, more than 1,000 kilometers away.

Chain of Evidence is a powerful and disturbing procedural. The two major mysteries are intriguing and executed with the sure hand of an absolute professional. It is Ellen Destry’s coming out as an equal partner with Challis. The setting, both the Peninsula and Mawson’s Bluff, is rendered with a muted artistry and adds immeasurably to the novel’s power. There is nothing gory or exploitative about either storyline and Mr. Disher has a way of mixing character stereotypes to develop tension between the characters, the plot, and the reader. It may be the best book in the series. If you are new to Garry Disher, Chain of Evidence is a very good place to get acquainted.

Monday, August 07, 2017

A Trio of Mack Bolan


A few months ago I read the trilogy that killed Colonel John Phoenix and brought Mack Bolan back to the world. I had meant to write a detailed review when I read these, but time (a lack of it) conspired against me. The trilogy includes two Executioner novels, 62, Day of Mourning and 64, Dead Man Running, both written by Stephen Mertz and the Super Bolan title, Terminal Velocity written by Alan Bomack. Alan Bomack is a pseudonym and a snazzy anagram (with a little cheating) of Mack Bolan. The books were published between February and April 1984.
Day of Mourning is the best non-Don Pendleton Mack Bolan books I’ve read. It is a straight ahead thriller with a terse, hard-boiled style, matching the originals very well. It chronicles the murder of April Rose and a grave threat to Stony Man Farm.
The story continues with Terminal Velocity, which has the feeling of two separate novels smashed together. Its purpose in the story arc is to introduce Greb Strakhov, and the reason for Strakhov's grudge against Bolan. Its style is less hard-boiled than DOM, but in its own right an entertaining and very readable thriller. 
The trilogy finds its conclusion with Dead Man Running, which is a fine finale. It is a slight step down from DOM, but it admirably chronicles Mack’s journey from Colonel Phoenix back to Mack Bolan. All done while hunting the mole who gave up Stony Man to the Soviets and indirectly caused the death of April Rose.
These, especially the two written by Stephen Mertz, are really terrific action thrillers.

This review, in slightly different form, originally appeared on Gravetapping’s Facebook page. If you don’t follow Gravetapping on FB, you should, and here is the link.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Covers of Travis McGee

I’ve been running a series of posts at Gravetapping’s Facebook page featuring four covers, from the first to the latest, of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels. And since I have the cover scans, meaning the hardest part is done, I decided to do an all-inclusive blog post. Here they are, from the first novel, Deep Blue Good-by, to the last, The Lonely Silver Rain.

The Deep Blue Good-by (1964).

“Home is where the privacy is. Draw all the opaque curtains, button the hatches, and with the whispering drone of the air conditioning masking all the sounds of the outside world, you are no longer cheek to jowl with the random activities aboard the neighbor craft. You could be in a rocket beyond Venus, or under the icecap.”





Nightmare in Pink (1964).

“She worked on the twentieth floor, for one of those self-important little companies which design packages for things. I arrived at five, as arranged, and sent my name in, and she came out into the little reception area, wearing a smock to prove that she did her stint at the old drawing board.”


A Purple Place for Dying (1964).

“She took the corner too fast, and it was definitely not much of a road. She drifted it through the corner on the gravel, with one hell of a drop at our left, and then there was a big rock slide where the road should have been. She stomped hard and the drift turned into a rough sideways skid, and I hunched low expecting the white Alpine to trip and roll. But we skidded all the way to the rock and stopped with inches to spare and a great big three feet between the rear end and the drop-off. The skid had killed the engine.

The Quick Red Fox (1964).

“A big noisy wind out of the northeast, full of a February chill, herded the tourists off the afternoon beach, driving them to cover, complaining bitterly. It picked up gray slabs of the Atlantic and smacked them down on the public beach across the windshields of the traffic, came into the cramped acres of docks and boat basin, snapped the burgees and hoooo in the spider-webs of rigging and tuna towers. Fort Lauderdale was a dead loss for the tourists that Saturday afternoon. They would have been more comfortable back in Scranton.”

A Deadly Shade of Gold (1965).

“A smear of fresh blood has a metallic smell. It smells like freshly sheared copper. It is a clean and impersonal smell, quite astonishing the first time you smell it. It changes quickly, to a fetid, fudgier smell, as the cells die and thicken.”

Bright Orange for the Shroud (1965).

“Another season was ending. The mid-May sun had a tropic sting against my bare shoulders. Sweat ran into my eyes. I had discovered an ugly little pocket of dry rot in the windshield corner of the panel of the topside controls on my houseboat, and after trying not to think about it for a week, I had dug out the tools, picked up some pieces of prime mahogany, and excised the area of infection with a saber saw.”






Darker than Amber (1966).

“We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge.”

One Fearful Yellow Eye (1966).

“Around and around we went, like circling through wads of lint in a dirty pocket. We’d been in that high blue up yonder where it was a bright cold clear December afternoon, and then we had to go down into that guck, as it was the intention of the airline and the airplane driver to put down at O’Hare.”

Pale Gray for Guilt (1968).

“The next to last time I saw Tush Bannon alive was the very same day I had that new little boat running the way I wanted it to run, after about six weeks of fitzing around with it.”


The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper (1968).

“After I heard that Helena Pearson had died on Thursday, the third day of October, I had no trouble reconstructing the immediate past.”

Dress Her in Indigo (1969).

“On that early afternoon in late August, Meyer and I walked through the canvas tunnel at Miami International and boarded a big bird belonging to Aeronaves de Mexico for the straight shot to Mexico City. We were going first class because it was all a private and personal and saddening mission at the behest of a very sick and fairly rich man.”

The Long Lavender Look (1970).

“Late April. Ten o’clock at night. Hustling south on Florida 112 through the eastern section of Cypress County, about twenty miles from the intersection of 112 and the Tamiami Trail.”

A Tan and Sandy Silence (1971).

“The socket wrench slipped, and I skinned yet another knuckle. Meyer stood blocking out a sizable piece of the deep blue sky. He stared down into the bilge and said, ‘Very inventive and very fluent. Nice mental images, Travis. Imagine one frail little bilge pump performing such an extraordinary act upon itself! But you began to repeat yourself toward the end.’”

The Scarlet Ruse (1972).


“After seven years of bickering and fussing, the Fort Lauderdamndale city fathers, on a hot Tuesday in late August, killed off a life style and turned me into a vagrant.”




The Turquoise Lament (1973).


“The place Pidge had borrowed was a studio apartment on the eleventh floor of the Kaiulani Towers on Hobron Lane, about a hundred yards to the left off Ala Moana Boulevard on the way toward downtown Honolulu.



The Dreadful Lemon Sky (1974).

“I was in deep sleep, alone aboard my houseboat, alone in the half acre of bed, alone in a sweaty dream chase, fear, and monstrous predators. A shot rang off steel bars. Another. I came bursting up out of sleep to hear the secretive sound of the little bell which rings at my bedside when anyone steps aboard the Busted Flush. It was almost four in the morning.”

The Empty Copper Sea (1978).

“Suddenly everything starts to snap, rip, and fall out, to leak and squeal and give final gasps. Then you bend to it, or you go live ashore like a sane person.”

The Green Ripper (1979).


“Meyer came aboard the Busted Flush on a dark, wet, windy Friday afternoon in early December. I had not seen him in nearly two months. He looked worn and tired, and he had faded to an indoor pallor. He shucked his rain jacket and sat heavily in the biggest chair and said he wouldn’t mind at all if I offered him maybe a little bourbon, one rock, a dollop of water.”





Free Fall in Crimson (1981).

“We talked past midnight, sat in the deck chairs on the sun deck of the Busted Flush with the starry April sky overhead, talked quietly, and listened to the night. Creak and sigh of hulls, slap of small waves against pilings, muted motor noises of the fans and generators and pumps aboard the work boats and the play toys.”



Cinnamon Skin (1982).
“Every man can be broken when things happen to him in a certain order, with a momentum and an intensity that awaken ancient fears in the back of his mind. He knows what he must do, but suddenly the body will not obey the mind. Panic becomes like and unbearably shrill sound.”

The Lonely Silver Rain (1984).
“Once upon a time I was very lucky and located a sixty-five-foot hijacked motor sailer in a matter of days, after the authorities had been looking for months. When I heard through the grapevine that Billy Ingraham wanted to see me, it was easy to guess he hoped I could work the same miracle with his stolen Sundowner, a custom cruiser he’d had built in a Jacksonville yard. It had been missing for three months.”