Saturday, May 16, 2009

From 6/28/05

A while back I posted about the title novella in this book. (I used a different cover, too.) Ed Gorman suggested that I re-read the second novella, "Linda," so I did. After I got into it, I remembered it pretty well, and it's still a dandy story, about a stead, unimaginative guy who marries a flashy woman whom he longed for when they were in high school. After a while he finds out that maybe being married to her isn't as great as he'd thought it would be, and before long, he finds out some even worse things about her. As I read this, I found myself remembering quite a bit about it, but it was still fun, right up until the ending, which seemed draw-out and contrived to me this time. Well worth reading, though. And well worth reading again.

From 5/21/05

Every now and then I get the urge to revist something by John D. MacDonald. (So does Ed Gorman. Check out his post about The Brass Cupcake here.) I wanted something short and snappy, so I pickedBorder Town Girl, which isn't a novel but a collection of two novellas, the title one and another called LindaBorder Town Girlwas published originally in Dime Detective in 1950, and this book publication is one of the rare occasions where JDM seems to have wanted his pulp work reprinted. (The edition pictured is the first one from Popular Library; it was later reprinted by Gold Medal.) I think one reason must be that he liked the villain so much. His name is Christy, and he's the forerunner of all those really bad guys that populated the Travis McGee series. The only problem with the story is that the hero overcomes him so easily. If you've ever doubted that JDM was a fine writer even before he started writing for Gold Medal, have a look at Border Town Girl. A lot of his virtues are already on display, along with some of his typical weaknesses. I'm glad I had another look at this one. Now I need to try Linda.

Ghosts on the Loose

Friday, May 15, 2009


I don't know about anybody else, but I like Guy Ritchie's gangster films.  They're as stylized as the American gangster films of the '30s, and just as entertaining, at least to me.  

Like the others I've seen, RocknRolla has plenty of coincidence, a lot of characters, a complicated plot, some heavy violence, and quite a few laughs.  The plots have to do with robberies, Russian gangsters, a stolen painting, drug dealers, and other things.  Everybody's working on some kind of scam, and all of them intersect in ways that I find surprising and (almost) logical.  The cast is uniformly fine.

There's at least one big loose end left dangling at the end, but we're promised that most of the cast will be returning in a sequel called The Real RocknRolla.  I hope Ritchie will go ahead and make it.  I'm waiting.

Gold Medal Corner (From 1/24/08)

Back when Steve Lewis's Mystery*File was a print item, I did several columns called "Gold Medal Corner." One of them was on John Farris, aka Steve Brackeen, and a discussion on The Big Adios inspired me to reprint it here.

John Farris graduated from high school in 1955 and in 1959 he publishedHarrison High, which went on to sell a million or so copies and was made into a movie produced by and starring Dick Clark. Yes, Dick Clark, America’s Oldest Teenager. The title of the movie was Because They're Young, and about the only good thing about it is the title song, an instrumental by Duane Eddy. James Darren does a vocal of the song, too. That’s not quite so good.

Harrison High
 wasn’t a Gold Medal novel, but it was a huge influence on me. I read it in 1959 in a Dell paperback edition, and I was consumed with unseemly envy. I wanted to be John Farris. I mean, here was a guy not much older than I was, and he was already a wildly successful writer. But I didn’t know the half of it. Here’s the some more of the story:
 Farris sold his first novel the summer he graduated from high school, and it was published the next year. It’s a mystery called The Corpse Next Door, and it was a paperback original from Graphic Books. It’s not bad at all. Just don’t look at the cover when you read it, because the cover gives away the killer. 

So what? you say. What does this have to do with Gold Medal. Well, I’m coming to that. After The Corpse Next Door, Farris took a pen name and started writing for Gold Medal Books. He was Steve Brackeen, and his three GM titles are Baby Moll(Crest, 1958), Danger in my Blood (Crest, 1959), and Delfina (Gold Medal, 1962). Some of you have noticed already that two of these books are not, technically speaking, Gold Medals. They’re Crests, and Fawcett usually reserved its Crest imprint for reprints. But not always. I don’t know how they decided such things, but both Brackeen novels are originals. So is the GM title, of course.

Farris must have been all of nineteen or twenty when he wrote Baby Moll. I don’t think anybody would have known that by reading the book. There’s a maturity here way beyond Farris’ years. The kid could write: “The Neptune Court occupied two blocks of beach land on a narrow peninsula known as Fontaine Beach. It was a mushrooming resort center. Ornate motels and hotels done in bold lines sprawled along the strip of highway in a growing chain. Every day bulldozers scraped at the raw land while sun-reddened men with fat stacks of blueprints watched and planned. The street crumbled away under the impact of the ready-mix trucks.” Remind you of any other Gold Medal writers you know? I think John D. MacDonald and Mickey Spillane were two big influences on “Steve Brackeen.” 

All three of the Brackeen books I’ve read are set in Florida.
 The plot of Baby Mollis the old “the minute I get out, they keep pulling me back in” story. Pete Mallory has a good business and is engaged to a nice young woman. But he has a past. He worked for a gangster named Macy Barr, and Barr wants him back for one more job, which involves finding out who’s killing all Barr’s top men. The way Mallory sees it, he doesn’t have any choice, so he goes. And naturally gets involved with several beautiful women, mostly scantily clad, and plenty of sharply written violence. You’re going to know who the killer is long before Mallory does, but the book’s moving so fast that it doesn’t matter. 

Danger in my Blood
 is about Denver Bryant, former government agent who pays a visit to an old friend and finds him murdered. There was violence in BABY MOLL, but it’s stepped up a notch in this one. Another fast-moving, sharply written book with good first-person narration.

 is a little different. For one thing it has one of those “photo covers.” What’s unusual about it is that the model is identified. It’s Senta Berger, “Viennese motion picture star.” Some of you old guys might remember her from such classics as Major Dundee and The Ambushers. Senta never caught on in the U.S., but according to the IMDb, she’s still making movies (and getting top billing) in Germany. But I, as usual, digress. It’s the book we’re supposed to be talking about, not the cover. Anyway, Clay McKinnon (not a first-person narrator like we have in the first two books) is a private eye who gets involved with the beautiful Delfina, which leads him to involvement with Latin American dictator who wants to go home again and a beautiful, if crazy, blonde whose preferred weapon is, well, here’s the back cover blurb: “Clay McKinnon thought he’d been to every kind of hell, but one still awaited him – She was blonde, and she liked to wield a whip . . . .” You got your private eyes, your blondes, and your bullwhips. What more could you ask for? This is great stuff, and Farris is still only around twenty-five years old. I think I envy him even more now than I did when I started writing this.

Various non-Gold Medal Bonuses: If you grew up during the 1950s and if you haven’t read Harrison High, you’re in for a nostalgic treat. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Farris (or someone using his name) wrote five or six sequels to this one. I’m accumulating these slowly. My wife, Judy, read them all when they came out, along with Farris’s big mainstream novel King Windom, which looks like an Elmer Gantry riff to me. There’s a Steve Brackeen hardcover that I haven’t read,The Guardians, but I have it and plan to read it. My personal favorite of Farris's books so far is Sharp Practice, one of the best homicidal killer books ever. Or at least that’s the way I remember it. Check out the Gold Medals, but be alert for the other books. You can hardly go wrong with any of them.

Forgotten Books: THE CHILD KILLER -- Edson T. Hamill

It's probably best that some books remain forgotten.  The Child Killer is a case in point.  It's about exactly what the cover says it's about, and it's as ugly and brutal and graphic as you can imagine. When a child is found murdered, Ryker, the enlightened cop protagonist, draws this conclusion about the killer: "It had to be a man who lives alone or with another man.  Our killer is a homosexual with a fixation on small boys.  Not only does he like them, he kills them . . . ."  Since the body is found in a  secton of an apartment house that's being remodeled, Ryker says, "I want a list of all males living here alone or with other males. That doesn't mean they're all queer.  But some must be."  

There's not much of a plot.  Ryker catches his man early on but then beats him to a pulp in front of a crowd.   He neglects to read his Miranda rights, too, so the killer is released on "a technicality," which infuriates Ryker.  The killer eventually gets it, though, because Ryker makes sure of it.  And it's very lovingly described.

So why did I even mention this one?  Well, because it's the 5th book in a series, and the first ones were published under the name of Nelson DeMille.  Before he became the mega-seller that he is today, DeMille wrote a lot of tough-cop paperbacks for the low-end paperback houses (this one's from Leisure Books), including the Keller series for Manor Books.  DeMille revised the first two Ryker books and the Keller books and reprinted them with Pocket Books in 1989 under the name Jack Cannon, but with Keller's name changed to Ryker.  So most likely he didn't write The Child Killer.  I don't know who did.  Maybe someone named Edson T. Hamill, or maybe that's a pseudonym.  One thing's for sure: DeMille's bibliography is still a little cloudy.

The Child Killer is the kind of book that seems unlikely ever to find a publisher today.  Not just because of the crude writing and the political incorrectness and the heavy-handed violence but because there's just no audience for it.  There were dozens of these series in the '70s.  Now they're all gone.

I wouldn't recommend reading The Child Killer, but it's an interesting curiosity.

Night Hunger

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Greetings, blog fans. I'm writing this on the computer in the lobby of the Amethyst Lodge in Jasper, Alberta, where we spent last night. I hope the blog posts I scheduled for the week have been appearing when they were supposed to and that they've been of some interest. Judy and I have been seeing the sights, having a high old time, and taking zillions of photos of the spectacular scenery, which isn't so spectacular today. There's a heavy fog over the mountains, and I hope it burns off soon. We're driving back to Banff later this morning, but we'd hoped to tour some of the mountain roads around Jasper first.

We'll be back in Alvin late Sunday evening, and maybe I can get some live updates on the computer on Monday. I wasn't sure I could survive being away from the computer for a week, but after the first day or so the shakes went away, and I've adjusted surprisingly well.

There are others waiting to get at this computer, so I'd better sign off and see about breakfast.

From 1/5/08

I may have mentioned before that I sometimes like to do some comfort reading when I'm in hospitals. Here's another example. It was originally published in 1961, a few years before MacDonald published the first of the Travis McGee novels, but this one could have been a warm-up for those. 

Sam Brice is a former pro football player who's returned to his small hometown (this is a bit likeDeadly Welcome, come to think of it) in disgrace, though of course he's actually a noble knight in slightly tarnished armor. A young woman named Janice Gantry disappears, along with an escaped convict to whom Brice has given aid and comfort. So Brice decides he'll dig into things and find out what's happened. He does, and while what happens won't surprise you, it's typical fine MacDonald storytelling, with some comments even 47 years ago about what the developers are doing to Florida.

MacDonald has his flaws, the irritating male/female dialog exchanges chief among them, but when it came to getting down the details of his time (he seemed to know everything about everything) and creating memorable characters, situations, and stories, he was hard to beat. I know some younger readers find him slow. I can't imagine that, but maybe the attention to detail, character, and description has something to do with it. Times and tastes (not mine, though) have changed.

The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From 8/7/06

One of my particular enthusiasms in the paperback field has been the novels of Harry Whittington. I have a lot of them. There are 152 images in this slide show, for example. I know I don't have all of them. As Donald Rumsfeld would say, there are "known knowns" and there are "known unknowns." The ones I know I don't have include a couple of the Black Lizard reprints (just never picked them up, for some reason), the novel Golden Stud(published as by "Lance Horner," another one I just never picked up; it's easily available), several slave/plantation novels published in hardback only in England, the novel published as by "Howard Winslow" (never seen a copy), and the two novels as by Henry (or Henri) Whitter (never seen copies, but have seen a photo of one). The known unknowns would include various soft porn novels from the period when Whittington was supposedly writing one a month. I have two books by Shep Sheppard, but I have no real evidence that Whittington used that name other than the fact that on the title page of one, he's credited as the author. I also have one book (Love Cult) that was published under Whittington's name but which is known to have been written not by Whittington but by William Vaneer. That cover is included in the show because it's such a good one. I also threw in some Australian Phantom Books, some pirated editions, one Scandinavian paperback, and one British paperback. Some hardcovers are included as well.

This is probably the last slide show I'll be doing. It was a lot of fun, but it takes too much time. I wanted to do this one, though, because I think it's great. I hope you enjoy looking at it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

From 4/7/05

Both Ed Gorman and Vince Keenan have posts today about the Errol Flynn documentary on TCM. I watched the documentary, too, and it reminded me of how many of Flynn's movies I saw as a kid, and how much I enjoyed them. In those days, they "re-released" movies fairly often, so I was able to see them on the "big" screen, though it wasn't really so big.

The Adventures of Robin Hood is probably my favorite, but I'll always have a soft spot for Adventures of Don Juan, the first movie I ever saw at a drive-in, while visiting my aunt in San Antonio, probably around 1950. And The Charge of the Light Brigade is another big one on my list of favorites. Not to mention They Died with their Boots On.

Flynn made acting look so easy that people didn't take him seriously. I think he was a much better actor than he's often given credit for, and I know that his movies gave me as much pleasure as just about any I saw when I was growing up. It's too bad he had such a weakness for booze and drugs and came to such an early and sad ending.

I've had a copy of one of Flynn's novels, Beam Ends, for years and never read it. Now maybe I will.

Update: So far, I haven't.

From 12/06/06

I bought the first Flashman book off a paperback rack more than 30 years ago, attracted probably by the fine Frazetta cover. I read the blurbs and a couple of pages and was hooked. Flashman seemed like my kind of guy.

And he was. I've read most of the novels since, maybe missing one or two, and I've also read a couple of other Fraser novels, The Pyratesand Mr. American. The former is still my favorite pirate book of all time.

As you all no doubt know, Flashman is the author of "the Flashman papers," which have been edited for publication by Fraser. They've been presented not in chronological order but in whatever order struck Fraser's fancy. 

Flashman, as it happens, was involved in nearly every military encounter of the 19th century. He was in the Charge of the Light Brigade. He was at Harper's Ferry. He was at the Little Big Horn. And that's just for starters. He's also a no hero, however. He's a bounder, a sniveling coward, and a liar, but he never lies to his readers. As far as I know, nobody's ever questioned the accuracy of the history in any of the books.

Flashman on the March is, I think, the twelfth of Flashy's memoirs to be made public. There are many more, and the one I'd really like to read is the one that tells of his Civil War experiences. He's referred to them often, and we know that he fought on both sides, but we don't know the details. I, for one, would welcome them.

This time he gets reluctantly involved in the Abyssinian War, a very short one, indeed, but with plenty of room for typical Flashy adventures, both in and out of the bedroom. There's plenty of action, and there are a number of battle scenes. Fraser, or Flashy, has the ability to show these so clearly that it's like looking at a painting of watching a movie. Great descriptive power at work. As usual, Flashy becomes quite the hero while doing his best to avoid doing anything heroic; and, as usual, he's pleased to take the credit. 

If you've never read any of the Flashman books, you've missed some real reading pleasure. Check 'em out.

The Curse of the Werewolf

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mr. Monk Is Miserable -- Lee Goldberg

If Monk is miserable, you can be sure I'll be happy reading about it.  This book picks up just after the ending of the previous novel in the series, in which Natalie Teeger has blackmailed Monk into going to France, and one reason I liked this book so much is that I'm a big fan of stories that feature sewers and/or catacombs.  I think this all started when I read Thomas Pynchon's V., with Benny Profane hunting alligators in the NY sewers with a shotgun.  But I digress.  Goldberg gives me the sewers of Paris and the catacombs as well, but that's not all.  Since the city is undermined by limestone caverns, we also get a nice tour of a fantastical world populated by all kinds of people living off the grid.

There's murder, too, of course, including murder in a completely dark restaurant where the servers are blind and no one can see a thing.  The killing is connected to a skull that Monk finds in the catacombs, not that there aren't thousands of other skulls there.  You'll have to read the book to find out more.

And of course there's plenty of Monk's quirkiness, which I continue to find amusing.  This is where the title of the book is somewhat misleading because before it's over, Monk has found something approaching pure happiness driving a motocrotte.  Again, you'll have to read it for yourself, which is something I recommend the next time you need a good laugh, an entertaining mystery, and a tour of the Paris underground all for the same price.

From March 2007

Those of you familiar with my sordid past know that I was practically required by law to see this movie. It was twenty-five years ago, in fact, that I published an article about backwoods books in The Journal of Popular Culture, illustrated with b&w photos of some wonderful titles. Although the writer and director of Black Snake Moan probably never saw any of those novels, his movie would fit right in. Allow me to quote a few blurbs from the books, all by Harry Whittington under a couple of names. 

Cracker Girl (Harry Whittington): "Yet in the end this proved her salvation, her only escape from the angry passions and degrading emotions which enslaved her." 

Backwoods Shack (Hallam Whitney): "There was Lora, beautiful, vibrant and desirable, but trash."

From Shack Road (Hallam Whitney): "Callie May . . . just couldn't help being friendly to strangers . . . a warm friendliness that was forever attracting strangers to her. . . ." 

Backwoods Hussy (Hallam Whitney): "Her woman's instinct had made her suspect what she could do to a man -- now she knew what men could do to her. . . And she was lost -- lost in the grip of desire . . . ." 

Those books were published around 55 years ago, so we all know promised a lot more than they ever delivered. 
Black Snake Moandelivers, and of course it's completely ridiculous. A black man, former blues singer, chains up a young white woman in his backwoods shack to save her from "the angry passions and degrading emotions which enslaved her," as the blurb writer put it back in 1952. Throw in a boyfriend who has serious problems of his own, have the blues singer in a real snit because his wife's run off with his younger brother, and you pretty much have the plot. 

Could anybody but Samuel L. Jackson have pulled off the role of the blues singer? I can't think of anybody, but he makes it believable. It's a towering performance. Christina Ricci plays the young woman, and she's Jackson's equal. John Cothan, Jr., is fine as a preacher who's Jackson's friend, and S. Epatha Merkerson is also very good. Justin Timberlake plays the boyfriend. I'm less enthusiastic about his performance, but he's adequate.

This is a movie that absolutely shouldn't have worked. That it does is a credit to the performers, not to mention the soundtrack, which is the best of the year. Best of several years, if you ask me. The movie might not be for everyone (lots of sex, violence, and cussing), but the soundtrack is. Check 'em both out.

Terror Creatures from the Grave

Monday, May 11, 2009

From 4/14/07

Errol Flynn was a notorious Don Juan, so it must have seemed only natural to cast him in that role. I’m glad someone decided to do it because this movie’s right up there with The Adventures of Robin Hood. Not quite as good, but certainly close enough, filmed in glorious Technicolor, with great costumes and a fine cast, including Alan Hale as the sidekick, Viveca Linfors as the queen of Spain, Robert Douglas as a villainous duke, Jerry Austin as the King’s dwarf, and Raymond Burr (one of his early roles) as a minor villain.

Flynn plays the lead with a panache unmatched in swashbucklers of the era (I’m a fan of both Stewart Granger and Burt Lancaster’s work as well), and though he was already looking somewhat too old for the part at 38, if any man was born to play Don Juan, it must have been Flynn. It’s not hard to imagine that Flynn used some of Juan’s lines for his own conquests. Flynn can deliver those lines and make them believable, and he can be quite witty when the occasion calls for it. He might not have been a great dramatic actor, but in this kind of role he excelled.

There’s a lot of humor throughout the film, but for my money the opening scene is the best. The bit with the grouse is hilarious. And the action scenes are clear and easy to follow. None of that MTV quick-cutting that (for me) ruins so many current action thrillers. The fencing is athletic and exciting, especially the climactic duel on a wonderful staircase. There’s a leap that only one man in Hollywood could have done, or so the commentary track tells us. They called in Jock Mahoney, and he pulled it off.

I have a powerful personal connection to The Adventures of Don Juan. When I was seven or eight years old, I visited my aunt in San Antonio, Texas. She took me to the drive-in to see this movie. Even at that age, I was under the spell of the movies, and San Antonio holds some wonderful memories for me. On other trips, my aunt took me to the Aztec Theater and to the Josephine (where we saw Kon Tiki). But I digress. When we went to see The Adventures of Don Juan, I had a fever, a fact I concealed from my aunt. She found out, however, and we left right after the opening scene, which was burned into my memory. I’ve never forgotten it, and I was thrilled when I finally got to see the rest of the movie years later. I was thrilled again by this newly remastered version on DVD. Check it out.

Update. Harry Whittington scholar David Laurence Wilson has provided the following information: 

Yes, that absolutely was Jock Mahoney doubling for Flynn.
Mahoney didn't spend much time at the trade, moving on to
acting, but he was well respected by the pros. At the
time the studio was having trouble finding someone to
make the jump. Production was held up for three days.
Flynn's regular doubles, Don Turner and Saul Gorss,
weren't up to the jump and Mahoney, who had set records
as a long jumper, was suggested. He was working at
Columbia, where he'd been doubling and playing parts
on the Durango Kid series. He was allowed over to Warner
Brothers during his lunch hour.

It was a great stunt, a featured stunt, but the hardest
part, according to stuntman Paul Baxley, was to be the
man on the bottom. Baxley saw the stunt close up ..
he was doubling the villain, Robert Douglas.

"I'd watch these guys come in and try it and I'd wince,"
Baxley recalled. "I wasn't going to let them dive on me.
They might have killed me.

"It wasn't dangerous but it was really a very spectacular
physical feat," Baxley said. "Most guys would try to do
a jump like that upright. Jock realized that he had to go
head first, in a dive to keep his feet up. When he hit me
I didn't even feel it. He was like a bird, he was that
good. The funny part is that I made more money on it
than he did. He said he'd do it for $350. I said, 'I
don't care what he gets, I want $50O. Get somebody
else if you don't want me!"

From October 2004

Yesterday I visited The Dollar Tree ("Everything's a Dollar") and checked out the DVDs. I wound up with a stack that included mostly old TV shows: "The Jack Benny Show," "Topper," "Mr. and Mrs. North," "Ozzie and Harriet," and "Flash Gordon," which starred Steve Holland. It was filmed in Europe and syndicated in the U.S. in the mid-1950s. The episode I watched ("Flash Gordon and the Planet of Death") is so bad that it makes PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE look like CITIZEN KANE. The climactic fight scene is truly pathetic. The costumes worn by the Evil Invaders are hilarious (one of the E.I. looks exactly like Old Weird Harold from the FAT ALBERT cartoons; Bill Cosby must have seen this Flash Gordon episode). The pseudo-science in the story is even funnier than the costumes. Naturally I can't wait to see the other two episodes.

Nightmare Castle

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Personal Stuff

By the time you read this, and assuming all goes as planned, Judy and I will be on our way Banff, Canada.  A couple of friends have some kind of timeshare deal, and they invited us to stay with them for a week there.  We used our air miles for the plane tickets, so it was too good a deal to pass up, even though I think it's going to be very cold in Banff.  I have a few posts scheduled for the week.  The movie trailers will continue, and you'll see some repeats of older posts.  Even a few new things now and then.

Not all is good news around here, though.  We found out that the clinical trial Judy entered in January wasn't doing much for the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, so she dropped out of the trial.  She'll have to begin a different treatment regimen as soon as we get back, but the doctor was okay with our taking the trip because treatment wasn't "urgent."  We're hoping this third try will be the charm because we're both tired of all the trips to Houston, not to mention the treatments themselves.  Judy says all the testing is even worse than the treatments.

Our friends say there's no Internet access at the timeshare, so I'll be unplugged from May 10 - May 17.  That's fine.  As all of you know,  I'm not addicted to the Internet.  I can take it or leave it.  At any rate, I won't be able to respond to comments or answer e-mail until the 18th, and it'll probably take me days, if not weeks, to catch up.  Plus Judy has to start those razza-fratzin treatments.

We're looking forward to seeing the sights in Banff and the surrounding area, and I'll be back here again in a few days.

Palos Verdes Blue -- John Shannon

In spite of having written 1o previous novels about child-finder Jack Liffey, John Shannon hasn't attained the huge sales his novels would seem to warrant.  Liffey's a great protagonist who's gone through a lot of changes over the course the series.  So have the other continuing character.  In fact, keeping up with Liffey's ex-wife; his live-in friend, Gloria, a burned-out cop; and his daughter is part of the pleasure of reading Shannon's work.

Another pleasure is the caring, compassionate Liffey, a committed, well-read man who's as interested in helping people as he is in making money.  He reminds me a little of the protagonists created by Dennis Lynds in his crime novels under various names, and like those Lynds characters,  Liffey has a definite point of view and doesn't care who knows it.

This time out he's hired to find a wandering daughter, a girl sometimes known as Blue because she cares so much for the Palos Verdes Blue butterfly.  That's two meanings for the blue of the title, and third one is obvious from the tone of the novel.  Palos Verdes isn't what it once was, and Liffey's saddened by the changes as he encounters territorial sufers, skinheads, and others.  While he's looking for Blue, he befriends a young illegal, Jaime, who becomes as much a part of the plot as Blue.  Meanwhile, Liffey's daughter, Maeve, who's going through an identity crisis of her own, wants to help Jack out.  That leads to some serious complications.  And if that's not enough Jack's dog, Loco, has cancer.  Oh, and Gloria's having problems, too.  

All this leads to a slam-bang climax.  So what's not to like?  Why isn't everyone jumping on the Shannon/Liffey bandwagon?  It's not too late.  Read this book.  You won't be sorry.

From 7/13/05

The other day Lee Goldberg asked me which of Harry Whittington's novels was my favorite. That's an impossible question for me to answer, since I like so many of them. Certainly A Night for Screaming is right up there, so I decided to re-read it. It's the story of Mitch Walker, ex-cop, on the run from a murder he didn't commit, who winds up in Kansas, working on a huge farm that's run like the prison camp in Cool Hand Luke. The complications include Walker's relentless pursuer, the beautiful but nutjob wife of the farm's owner, the owner himself, the brutal overseers, and more. 

One thing Whittington can do about as well as anybody ever could is begin the book with a tense situation and then dial up the tension on every succeeding page. He can put his protagonist into a situation that seems as bad as it can get, and then he can make it worse. And after that, he can make it worse still. In this book he takes a seemingly simple situation and complicates it more with every chapter, throwing in a few reversals and surprises along the way. If you ever run across a copy of A Night for Screaming, don't pass it up. You'll be sorry if you do. It's a dandy story, and it has a great cover, besides.

Horror Hotel