Monday, November 23, 2020

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - Ed Noon and The Flower-Covered Corpse

I discovered Michael Avallone and his detective hero Ed Noon via a Writer's Digest cassette on mystery writing.  I've mentioned that often in interviews and online forums.

I began to watch for his titles, especially those about his hero Ed Noon. The sixties entries from the series were the most plentiful at the used book shops around my home town. I had to do mail order for the first book, The Tall Dolores. 

I believe this was the first I picked up, though I found one of the Spy to Mr. President Noon titles as well. 

This one, The Flower-covered Corpse is copyright 1969 and is from the Curtis Books run of Noon titles with the Gil Gerard-lookalike model as Noon. 

SEE ALSO: Biblioholic's Bookshelf - The Tall Dolores, Fifties Private Eye

Thursday, November 19, 2020

A Vintage Ad That Looks About Right in Coronavirus Pandemic Times

Not sure now where I ran across this the other day, but I snagged it because at the very least it looks like a prophetic depiction of QVC and HSN shopping if not quite Zoom meetings and Face Time calls. the gist of the message was that someday you'd be able to shop by TV. "All kinds of exciting new electric appliances are just around the corner. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: Malko No. 1

Billed at times as "The French James Bond," Prince Malko Linge starred in the SAS (French for His Serene Highness) series created by Gérard de Villiers.  

To my knowledge, only a handful have been translated into English. Those were published by Pinnacle in it's early incarnation that focused heavily on men's adventure series. 

Monday, November 09, 2020

6 of My Favorite Hardboiled Detective Tales

 I've often mentioned in online musings that I discovered the detective novel via a bit of young reader's naïveté. In the wake of Chinatown, a host of new detective films rolled out of Hollywood. I was a little young to catch them in theaters, but movie-tie-in editions or re-issues led to my dipping a toe into the water of the hardboiled reading universe, starting probably with Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely

I ran across Lew Archer around then as well in a combo of The Drowning Pool movie tie-in and the TV movie based on The Underground Man, and those books tipped the line of dominoes.

Since I'm blogging again with a little more frequency, I thought I'd throw out a few of my favorite hardboiled novels, maybe obvious or maybe not. I'm working from memory, so my fondness above all is what prevails here. This is by no means a definitive list nor is it a complete list. 

1. The Chill by Ross Macdonald

Far from my first Lew Archer, it remains a standout for me. It's post Galton Case and Macdonald's transitional period where his style and psychological themes matured as he dealt with the pain of his troubled daughter's struggles. 

As a younger reader, it struck me most for it's pace and the momentous twist that often gets a classical reading by scholars. It's the tale of a
young bride who takes a powder on her honeymoon. Lew's hired to find her and warns us early he should have walked away from the job offer. He's soon embroiled with university professors, a murder, possibly false testimony and a great deal more. All of the Archers are slim books. This one reads like lightning yet never seems rushed or condensed. 

I guess it's special too because my old man read it first and liked it a great deal. We clashed on some topics but rarely books, and he read much of my collection back in the day and liked a good detective tale himself. 


2. “The Gutting of Couffignal” by Dashiell Hammett

I found The Maltese Falcon somewhere in the mix of paperbacks at Waldenbooks when browsing other
titles. I was gaining a knowledge of the hardboiled school when I gave it a try. I didn't like Sam Spade and The Continental Op--who I met first in The Dain Curse--quite as much as I did Chandler's Marlowe as my tastes were developing. I sensed what I've come to call the romance of Chandler. Granted he had crime in the hands of criminals and all that, but the style, the humor, and elements that would shape film noir appealed to me more. Hammett seemed a little more pragmatic, at least as I thought of it. However, I found a battered used 1967 Dell paperback copy of The Big Knockover at my favorite used book shop, The Book Nook in Alexandria, LA. 

I know it's a story and not a novel, but many of Hammett's novels, like Chandler's, took shape in novellas. (Chandler, of course, called it cannibalizing.) It's kind of Die Hard on a private island. This one's an island of the very rich. The Op is on hand to guard wedding presents when the only bridge to the island's dynamited and a band of robbers with machine guns mounted on a car rush in on a raid. The Op has to take them on, and he's up for the job. It's a men's adventure tale. There's a mystery twist, of course, but I read it as action first as a kid. It took time for it to grow on me in other ways. It was really in re-reading with more mature and sophisticated eyes that I've come to see the magic Hammett had going on and to appreciate the Hammett style. 

SEE ALSO: Where Bush Street Roofed Stockton

3. The Judas Goat by Robert B. Parker  

A review of this one, the fifth book in Parker's Spenser series, popped up in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine as I was finding my way in understanding the mystery genre. 

Spenser had been around for a while by then and his friend Hawk had been introduced as a respected adversary in earlier books. Spenser doesn't take assassination cases, the review noted, but he is up for a bounty hunt. Hired to track down a group of terrorists responsible for the death of a client's loved one, Spenser does some globe hopping with Hawk helping out. The humor is powerful in this one, and the action is plentiful and brutal at times. EQMM reviews used to grouse about a lack of detection in Spenser books, but I always found them engaging with or without a puzzle, and this one was a great introduction. Everything culminates in a brutal battle with bad guys in an Olympic village.

5. When the Sacred Ginmill Closes by Lawrence Block
I discovered Matthew Scudder by way of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and the fabulous story

"A Candle for the Bag Lady." He's an ex-cop, driven to "serious drinking" by the accidental death of a child as he stopped a holdup and one of his bullets ricocheted. Via the gateway of that story and Block's column in Writer's Digest, I moved on to the early Scudder novels, and back to the novella "Out the Window" via a second hadn AHMM. After a significant character arc culminated in Eight Million Ways to Die (1982), the series paused until the prequel, Ginmill (1986that grew out of the novella "By the Dawn's Early Light" in the collection The Eyes Have It edited by Bob Randisi. 

It's set in Scudder's serious drinking days. There's a holdup at an after hours club, and Scudder's pressed into tracking down the perpetrators while simultaneously working on other cases. Dave Van Ronk's song "Last Call" that provides the book's title, is a core element as Scudder contemplates his existence and his drinking life. Happily that's readily found online these days. You can listen along with Matt as he experiences the song's spiritual resonance.

6. S is for Silence by Sue Grafton
When I was teaching horror, mystery and suspense in the classroom, I could never get through a lecture slide about Sue Grafton without tearing up as I read her daughter Jamie Clark's remark upon her mom's death and the culmination of the alphabet detective series about female P.I. Kinsey Millhone: 

“...out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”

Z is for Zero was never to be, but the twenty-five book series documenting Kinsey's adventures is quite substantial. For me, S, No. 19, is a standout. 

It's a character study with Kinsey's 1987 case harkening back, via alternating chapters, to the 1953 disappearance of a woman named Violet Sullivan. Flashbacks paint a picture of the fifties world and a snapshot of Violet's rebellious nature with a new car a pivotal element. It's a little different and definitely a great glimpse of Kinsey at work. 

Again, those are just a few, but they, for me, are great excursions into the hardboiled world. 

For more hardboiled fiction thoughts, visit my guest post over at Charles Gramlich's Razored Zen

Saturday, October 31, 2020

In the Vicinity


Biblioholic's Bookshelf Special - Diamonds are Forever RIP Sean Connery

Very sad to read this morning of Sean Connery's passing. I'd thought of him recently, perhaps because of  the not-much-loved League of Extraordinary Gentlemen cropping up on Amazon Prime. 

My first Bond in the theater was The Man With the Golden Gun, for my friend and I, a fun, glossy action extravaganza despite how it's viewed these days, or by critics then.

My first Bond book however was the tie-in edition of Diamonds Are Forever, Connery's return to the role. Ads on TV and even on the radio made it sound thrilling. 

My old man bought me the novel off the drug store paperback rack when it cropped up and that introduced me to Ian Fleming's world. Combined with the radio ads, the cover helped me understand the disparity between spelling and pronunciation of Sean. 

RIP, Mr. Connery. You and Bond are forever. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Goodreads Giveaway - Three Fool's Run Signed Print Editions!


Just a brief note here. It's less than a month until the release of Fool's Run, my new detective thriller. 

Leading up to the release from Crossroad Press's Gordian Knot imprint, a Fool's Run Giveaway is underway through November 21, 2020 on Goodreads. 

SEE ALSO: Fool's Run Cover Reveal on YouTube

You can enter to win one of three signed print copies. 

Publisher's Weekly said: "This thriller-cum-caper will keep readers eagerly turning the pages."

A NetGalley reviewer just gave it five stars saying: "I like this book because it's well written in a tough language, the pace is very good, there are twists and thrills, and it's fast and easy to read."

Another NetGalley reviewer said: "Fool's Run by Sidney Williams is a superb read! It is an engrossing page turner of a read well worth the time spent."

Read all the NetGalley Reviews!


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Pandemic - The Walks Part 2


My wife Christine and I moved to Williamsburg in 2019. We'd planned to travel more in the state this year. Those plans got a little upended. 


But since outdoor activities reduce stress and are reduced-risk, we've been trying to do a little more in that vein. 

The other morning we put on our hiking shoes and headed out to York River State Park. It's not too far, temps are dropping just a tad, and it was a road not yet taken. 

It's a road with a great deal of variety, especially since it borders the York River, as the name suggests. 

The river's history is ancient and fossils, shells and shark teeth can be found on the beaches, along with other interesting fare including periwinkle snails amid the marsh grass.

It brings that sense of awe that comes with the brush of an ecosystem that's alive yet linked to thousands of years of befores.

In the autumn it makes you think of the cycle of decay and renewal. 

And the memories of things lost and yet alive within us. 

And a reminder that as winters approach, there is something beyond the cold, something to wait for and reach toward. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Pandemic - The Walks

When my wife, Christine, visited Williamsburg in the fall of 2018 for a job interview, she found the area bathed in an array of colors we hadn't seen for a while in Florida. It was an array we actually seldom saw in Louisiana or Texas. 

My point of comparison, at least from what she described, was a view of the area around Nashville in the late '80s when I flew in there for what was then the World Horror Convention. The view as the plane dipped toward the airport was amazing. 

A late summer dry spell and a few other factors delayed the change of leaves last fall, so we saw some color change but not as much as either of us had hoped for.

Late summer 2020 proved rainy. I guess the year has that going for it at least, and in these pandemic times, outdoor activities, at least, can be enjoyed without as much risk or worry as a trip to the grocer.

In just a few paces from our place in the New Town area, I've been a bit amazed by the display, even on a foggy morning.  

It's a mix of red's golds and oranges I wasn't expecting. 

Did I mention the orange?

Reds were actually the first change I noticed driving by. They are reds so red. 

And the gold and brown...

It's been pretty astounding to step out the door and walk a few paces. 

It's soul-restoring in a bleak year. We've been through a lot. Am I optimistic yet of a time beyond this moment? Maybe not yet optimistic, but hopeful. 
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