Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: THE LITTLE DEATH by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (audio)

10444630This audio book is more of a radio serial than traditional audio book. The production quality is top notch with voice actors, lead by Stacy Keach as Mike Hammer, fitting perfectly with the characters I've come to read and love over the years in print. Velda, Pat and co are all here and they all sound as you'd expect them to. 

Readers of the Mike Hammer books should note, that this audio installment is set after the revelation that Velda is more than Mike's secretary and is an experienced and deadly PI in her own right - a role she doesn't full reprise but it is mentioned throughout the book.

Mike Hammer, once again, gets involved in a case (non-paying of course, much to Velda's disdain) that instantly becomes personal. The only thing that didn't quite work with the plot was how it got started. Hammer is called to a club for a meet and greet with a prospective client - what he ends up with is a dame in trouble, on the run from a gambling boss who wants his 10 million back - 10 million presumably stolen by the fleeing dame. From there it's traditional Hammer, goons pop up and get knocked down. Hammer knows not of remorse, it's all about putting bullet holes in whoever gets in his way - just as a Hammer story should be.

Listening to THE LITTLE DEATH, got me thinking about the perfect Hammer/Velda combination for the big screen - there really is one choice that best fits the description and voice acting in THE LITTLE DEATH:

Velda - Christina Hendricks

Hammer - Mickey Rourke

Pick Up A Pulp: AS BAD AS THEY COME by Orrie Hitt

As Bad As They ComeAS BAD AS THEY COME is trademark Orrie Hitt sleaze pulp, yet by today's standards it's rather tame. The book doesn't dwell on explicit erotica or hushed sinister sexual acts, preferring to hone in on the psyche of its central character,  Art, a salesman of sorts at a mail order agency - who, on his whim - have branched out to distributing semi and full nude pictures in the post. This is written long before such images were readily accessible to the pubic.

The kindle illustrated edition I read included some of these images at the beginning of each chapter, showcasing the character of focus in a provocative pose and adding a little realism to the fiction. Orrie Hitt need not provide the visual aid to enhance the experience yet it did help to distinguish the female characters from one another as each was generally typecast in the sex pot mold.

As you'd expect, the plot is heavily centered around Art's sexual conquests and the impact that has upon him and his wife. His adulterous ways also bleed over to his day job, ultimately costing him his well paying salary and nearly wrecking his marriage. Yet, for what seems shallow on the surface, AS BAD AS THEY COME is surprisingly deep with multiple plot threads and well fleshed out and independent characters (even if all the female leads do fall hopelessly over Art). 

AS BAD AS THEY COME was a nice find - one I wish I had the physical book copy of. Pulp enthusiasts should track this one down. While not as good as UNFAITHFUL WIVES, it's still an enjoyable fast paced read.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: THE GODFATHER'S REVENGE by Mark Winegardner

The Godfather's RevengeFrom the back of the book:
It is 1963 in New York, and things have never been better for the Corleones. They've taken out their Mafia rivals, and legitimised the Family. Outside the fortified building owned by Michael Corleone, newly undisputed Boss of Bosses, a parade of people - among them former mob rivals and an emissary from the Mayor of New York - wait to ask the great man for favours.

Only one thing remains to be done. Traitorous former Corleone capo Nick Geraci has powerful friends and far too much to say, and needs to be brought in. But then everything changes. As fireworks explode over First Avenue, news arrives that Jimmy Shea, President of the United States and an old friend of the Corleone's, has been assassinated...

My Review:
The title of this book is somewhat misleading. Sure Michael Corleone has a revenge of sorts but mainly, THE GODFATHER'S REVENGE focuses on the political side of mafia life and traitor to the Corleone regime in Nick Geraci.

Reading the back of the book is more spoiler than synopsis - the events detailed don't happen until the final third of the book and by then, the reader is well aware they are coming and what the likely outcome is.  

I will say, that Tom Hagan, a crucial member and close friend of Don Corleone is well written. His part, along with Geraci's scenes make this book worth a read alone - unfortunately there isn't much more going for this book apart from that.

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey. In order to get some consistency to my posting I thought I’d jump on board this great idea. As a self-proclaimed bookaholic, I love talking about my books and finding out what others are reading. Having been a long time reader of multiple blogs where the ‘It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?’ post is prevalent, I thought it a natural progression I’d add to the mix.

Last week I posted the following reviews:

CONTROL FREAK by Christa Faust (crime/erotica) - audio edition

SEAL OF THE WORM by Adrian Tchaikovski (fantasy)

I also posted my year's best crime fiction list (those published in 2014).

This week is an eclectic mix of reads - from sci-fi to sleaze-pulp. 

The Godfather's RevengeMARIO PUZO'S THE GODFATHER'S REVENGE by Mark Winegardner ( I've almost finished this. For a book just shy of 600pgs it requires a lot of padding to get to the action which starts around page 300 - however, the slow burn is well worth it so far. A must read for Godfather fans.) 

It is 1963 in New York, and things have never been better for the Corleones. They've taken out their Mafia rivals, and legitimised the Family. Outside the fortified building owned by Michael Corleone, newly undisputed Boss of Bosses, a parade of people - among them former mob rivals and an emissary from the Mayor of New York - wait to ask the great man for favours.

Only one thing remains to be done. Traitorous former Corleone capo Nick Geraci has powerful friends and far too much to say, and needs to be brought in. But then everything changes. As fireworks explode over First Avenue, news arrives that Jimmy Shea, President of the United States and an old friend of the Corleone's, has been assassinated...

Acceptance (Southern Reach Trilogy, #3)ACCEPTANCE by Jeff VanderMeer (the third and final book in the Southern Reach trilogy. I've really enjoyed these books and can't wait to read this one.)

It is winter in Area X. A new team embarks across the border on a mission to find a member of a previous expedition who may have been left behind. As they press deeper into the unknown—navigating new terrain and new challenges—the threat to the outside world becomes more daunting. InAcceptance, the last installment of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, the mysteries of Area X may have been solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound—or terrifying.

The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little DeathTHE LITTLE DEATH (The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, Vol. 2) by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (audio)

Private eye Mike Hammer is no stranger to murder, but this time he has two to untangle: the killing of the Captain, a legless, homeless panhandler, dismissed by the police as "minor," and the slaying of gambling kingpin Marty Wellman. Marty's lady friend, Helen Venn, turns to the P.I. for help when the Mob fingers her for the next kill. Seems the new kingpin, Carmen Rich--with whom Hammer has a violent history--thinks Helen made off with ten mil in skim money courtesy of her late lover. But Mike Hammer knows a damsel in distress when he sees one and takes up Helen's cause, igniting a series of hit attempts on his life by a small army of out-of-town shooters. Such minor distractions can't prevent the toughest detective of them all from solving two murders and avenging a "little death" in a big way.

As Bad As They ComeAS BAD AS THEY COME by Orrie Hitt (I'm a big fan of sleaze pulp author Orrie Hitt and this looks to be another of his little known pulp gems)

Art is the main man at a mail order firm that peddles novelties. When the boss suggests they enter the smut trade, Art coordinates the whole affair. And most of the women he lines up as models, he’s already bedded, behind the back of his long-suffering wife, Alice. But is Alice finding satisfaction behind Art’s back? Throw in a pregnancy scare with a co-worker, and you’ve got another top-notch pulp potboiler from Orrie Hitt!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Finds (12 Dec 2014)

Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading where you share the book titles you discovered or heard about during the past week. These can be books you were told about, books you discovered while browsing blogs/bookstores (physical or online), or books that you actually purchased. I think this is a great idea and a way to share my enthusiasm of discovering new books.

This week's Friday Finds are all about crime fiction. A genre I recently posted my top reads of 2014. I was fortunate enough to receive three books for review - all from an international setting. This is great as it adds depth and diversity to the genre.

Asylum CityASYLUM CITY by Liad Shoham (many thanks to Scribe for the review copy!)

In this edgy thriller from the #1 international bestselling author of Lineup, which was described by New York Times bestselling author Joseph Finder as ‘a marvel of tight plotting, spare prose, and relentless pacing’, a young police officer’s investigation of a murder plunges her into the dark underworld of Tel Aviv.

When young social activist Michal Poleg is found dead in her Tel Aviv apartment, with her body showing signs of severe violence, officer Anat Nachmias is given the lead on her first murder investigation. Eager to find answers, the talented and sensitive cop looks to the victim’s past for clues, focussing on the last days before her death. Could one of the asylum-seekers Michal worked with be behind this crime?

Then a young African man confesses to the murder, and Anat’s commanders say the case is closed. But the cop isn’t convinced. She believes that Michal, a tiny girl with a gift for irritating people, got involved in something far too big and dangerous for her to handle.

Joined by Michal’s clumsy yet charming boss, Anat is pulled deep into a perplexing shadow world where war victims and criminals, angels and demons, idealists and cynics, aid organisations and criminal syndicates intersect. But the truth may be more than Anat can handle, bringing her face to face with an evil she’s never before experienced.

Butterfly Skin
BUTTERFLY SKIN by Sergey Kuznetsov (many thanks to New South Books/Titan Books for the review copy!)

A new psychological thriller that will take you into the dark depths of contemporary Russia.

Moscow is plagued with a series of gruesome murders. Ksenia, an ambitious young editor in the news department of a small but influential online journal decides to track down the serial killer, devising an elaborate website to entrap him and thereby boost her company's profile. She soon realises, however, that her obsession with the psychopath reflects something more deeply disturbing: her own unconscious mixture of horror and fascination with the sexual savagery of the murders.

Through his riveting plot and singular characters, Kuznetsov explores the sometimes pathological fallout resulting from our instant connectivity in the emerging world of emails, facebook, twitter, and other forms of electronic “intimacy.” The novel has enjoyed a cult following in Russia.  

Berlin BurningBERLIN BURNING by Damien Seaman (many thanks to Blasted Heath for the arc!)

Berlin, 1932…

Roving gangs of Nazi thugs terrorise the streets.

A weak government looks the other way.

A divided police force struggles against a rising tide of crime.

It's a powder keg waiting to explode. And when the slaying of a young Nazi provides the spark, Berlin detectives Trautmann and Roth must put aside their political differences to solve the murder.

Before the city they love succumbs to the flames of brutal retribution…

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: CONTROL FREAK by Christa Faust (audio edition)

Control FreakCONTROL FREAK was my second audiobook (the first being THE COLD COLD GROUND by Adrian McKinty) and I'm pleased to report that I'm two-for-two; great stories with complimentary narrators.

Narrators can greatly enhance a book or completely derail it. Luckily narrator Ann Carver's performance is a good fit for the semi erotic crime novel by Christa Faust - her debut written in the 1990's. 

Christa Faust's smooth poetic prose is akin to Megan Abbott and Daniel Woodrell at the top of their game.

Fans of Christa Faust's well known and acclaimed Hard Case Crime novels (MONEY SHOT, and CHOKE HOLD) will recognize some that of trademark toughness in her female protagonists, yet CONTROL FREAK goes beyond the hard woman facade delivering an in-depth tale of self discovery. 

Caitlin, the journalist turn Dominant grows into a largely independent woman  more in control of her life than she was in her pre-dominant days. Her journey into the violent erotic underworld unearths a self preservation that rivals veteran cops. 

I found CONTROL FREAK to be a gripping read (listen) that showcases a slice of life many would not be accustom to, doing so in a tasteful and compelling manner that simply demands the reader's attention.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: SEAL OF THE WORM by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Seal of the Worm (Shadows of the Apt, #10)From the back of the book:
The Empire stands victorious over its enemies at last. With her chief rival cast into the abyss, Empress Seda now faces the truth of what she has cost the world in order to win the war. The Seal has been shattered, and the Worm stirs towards the light for the first time in a thousand years. Already it is striking at the surface, voraciously consuming everything its questing tendrils touch. Faced with this threat, Seda knows that only the most extreme of solutions can lock the Worm back in the dark once again. But if she will go to such appalling lengths to save the world from the Worm, then who will save the world from her? The last book in the epic critically acclaimed Shadows of the Apt series.

My Review:
The Shadows of the Apt series as a whole has been one of the most inventive and utterly unique series I've had the pleasure of reading - and - despite SEAL OF THE WORM being book 10 (and the final) there was well enough content and stories to warrant further installments. This is both a sign of quality writing, engaging plotting, and conceptually brilliant world building. 

Unlike my reviews for other books in the series I won't focus on the plot as I'm likely to give something away but I will say that SEAL OF THE WORM concludes The Shadows of the Apt in the best way possible. All the plot threads converge and seamlessly intertwine culminating in a tense and action packed conclusion. 

There is capacity for author Adrian Tchaikovsky to explore events such as the Twelve Year war and numerous threads post SEAL OF THE WORM which could lead to a new chapter in the epic saga that is Shadows of the Apt - here's hoping. 

In a word: Exceptional, I can't recommend SEAL OF THE WORM and the 9 books preceding enough - they are simply a must read for fans of fantasy fiction.