Paperback Warrior Reviews James O. Causey’s The Baby Doll Murders / Killer Take All! / Frenzy

The Baby Doll Murders / Killer Take All! / Frenzy by James O. Causey

“James O. Causey got his start in the 1940s writing short stories for “Weird Tales” and “Detective Story Magazine.” As the pulps died off, he became a highly-regarded, if not well-known, author of short, hardboiled crime novels. Stark House has compiled three of Causey’s classics into one volume for 21st Century audiences. The new trade paperback includes “The Baby Doll Murders,” “Killer Take All,” and “Frenzy” as well as an introduction by Nicholas Litchfield.

Despite problems of plot and pacing, Causey’s hardboiled, first-person prose is among the best. For example, His descriptions of acts of violence are vivid while also being matter-of-fact. Taking a professional beating in the groin, ribs, and kidneys is just an occupational hazard in this world, and those scenes were vivid as hell.”

Paperback Warrior is a review and discussion blog that takes a humorous look at the Men’s Action-Adventure book genre. From barrel chests to bullet belts Paperback Warrior doesn’t pull any punches. You can read their review of this new reprint of James O. Causey’s trio of novels on their website.

Read the full book review here.

Lancashire Post Reviews Bill S. Ballinger’s Portrait in Smoke and The Longest Second

LEP.CO.UK - Portrait in Smoke and The Longest Second by Bill S. Ballinger

“[Bill S.] Ballinger, who died in 1980 at the age of 68, wrote scripts for eight feature films, more than 150 teleplays, 30 books, and in 1961, he won an Edgar Award for one of his teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His novels, several of which were made into films, have sold more than ten million copies in the States and been reprinted in 30 countries and translated into more than 13 languages. A book critic for The New York Times called him ‘a major virtuoso of the mystery technique,’ and yet Ballinger remains an overlooked writer, with much of his work long out of print.

Fortunately, the gap has now been plugged by the publication of a two-in-one volume from Stark House Press featuring two of the author’s personal favourites, Portrait in Smoke, and the Edgar-nominated The Longest Second, two unique mystery classics that shocked the literary world when they first came out in the 1950s.

In his introduction to this new volume, Nicholas Litchfield, editor of the Lowestoft Chronicle, a quarterly online literary magazine, revels in the republication of these two noir masterpieces, writing: ‘These two powerful, provocative tales from the Fifties are as fresh and impressive today as when they first startled and enthralled the world and earned their place as mystery classics.’

The Longest Second, says Litchfield, is ‘neither gimmicky nor contrived’ but ‘a cunningly deceptive work that is full of twists and shocks, and has a storyline intended to continually keep you guessing about the past and the present.’

Abnormal and packed full of surprises because of the two seemingly unconnected storylines, an unreliable narrator, and the author’s wily weaving between first-person and third-person narration, The Longest Second is ingenious, suspenseful, and memorably intriguing.

Perfectly paired with Portrait in Smoke, these two exceptional novels are as fascinating and entertaining today as they were 60 years ago.”

Pam Norfolk’s review of this new reprint of Bill S. Ballinger’s novels is published today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 newspapers in the UK.

Read the full, in-depth book review here.

Litchfield Reviews Never Say No to a Killer by Clifton Adams for the Lancashire Post

LEP.CO.UK - Never Say No to a Killer by Clifton Adams

“In a violent and fast-paced crime noir tale, a wily, dangerous criminal escapes from prison and vows to avenge the murder of his former cellmate and continue the man’s extensive blackmail operation.

Never Say No to a Killer, reprinted from 1956 by Black Gat Books, an imprint of Stark House Press, is the first of two gritty Adams’ novels under the pen name Jonathan Gant. It tells the story of ruthless and clever Roy Surrat, an unrepentant prison convict determined to break out of jail and resume his life of crime.”

My review of Never Say No to a Killer by Clifton Adams is published today in the Lancashire Evening Post, and syndicated to 25 newspapers across the UK.

Read the full review here

BOOK REVIEW OF ‘THE DESPERADO’ & ‘A NOOSE FOR THE DESPERADO’ BY CLIFTON ADAMS FOR THE LANCASHIRE POST

LEP.CO.UK - The Desperado / A Noose for the Desperado by Clifton Adams

In two masterfully written, fast-paced Westerns reprinted from the 1950s, a hot-headed teenager on the run from the law becomes a bandit… and the fastest gunman ever to come out of Texas.

The Desperado and the follow-up, A Noose for the Desperado, penned the following year, are two thrilling tales by Clifton Adams, a two-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award.

A short story writer for pulp magazines in the late 1940s, Adams began his literary career as a novelist in 1950 with the first of two adventures featuring Talbert ‘Tall’ Cameron, the young tearaway turned hard-bitten gunslinger.

Published by Gold Medal Books, The Desperado became a popular novel on its release and legendary crime writer Donald E. Westlake would later cite it as having an influence on his writing. It was also made into a hit B-movie by Allied Artists.

Bud Elmer, in his entertaining introduction to this fine Stark House reprint which comprises both novels, dryly remarks of the movie version: “For an act or two the plot streamlines the book pretty well. Then things go to heck in a hand-basket and any similarities with the book ride out of town.”

My review of The DesperadoA Noose for the Desperado by Clifton Adams is published today in the Lancashire Evening Post, and syndicated to 25 newspapers across the UK.

Read the full review here.

Litchfield Reviews Angel’s Flight by Lou Cameron for the Lancashire Post

LEP.CO.UK - Angel's Flight by Lou Cameron

Reprinted for the first time in 57 years comes a hard-hitting crime noir tour de force charting a gutsy musician’s bruising journey through the cut-throat American music business during the Dirty Thirties to the Fabulous Fifties.

Angel’s Flight, first published in 1960, is the long-forgotten debut by prolific American author Lou Cameron who died in 2010 having written more than 300 novels.

Although his extensive body of work consists of scores of movie and TV novelisations, comic books, spy thrillers, and war and crime novels, Cameron is best remembered as an accomplished author of Westerns. He won the WWA Spur Award for Best Western Novel and penned a number of popular Western series, including the long-running Longarm series which he wrote using the pseudonym Tabor Evans

Angel’s Flight, his first novel-length foray into crime writing – described by Gary Lovisi in his enlightening introduction as ‘an underrated and unacknowledged noir masterpiece’ set to ‘a jazz and a be-bop beat’ – showcases Cameron’s exceptional versatility and boldness as a writer.

Rich with jive-talking, colourful characters and vivid details about the sounds and trends of east and west coast America during the 40s and 50s, this engrossing, action-packed novel centres on the jazz music scene, from the days of swing and ‘birth pangs of bop’ to the ‘Afro-Cuban kick’ and the beginnings of the cool jazz era.

The hard-boiled narrator is musician-turned-producer Ben Parker, a tough, ‘honest’ and upright insider, ‘the lone wolf’ in a corrupt and ruthless industry. Reliably droll, Parker is a salt-of-the-earth type, able to maintain a brave face and wisecrack in the most hellish of circumstances. Unlike everyone around him, he doesn’t ask for payola and isn’t afraid to take on the mob or powerful, dangerous competitors in order to keep his company afloat.

Enthralling, memorable, and with a large ensemble of authentic, intriguing characters, Angel’s Flight comes across as a music lovers’ tribute to the changing landscape of jazz. Put simply, it’s a piano pounding, brass blaring, pitch-perfect extravaganza that will ‘knock you dead.’

My review of the Stark House Press reprint of Angel’s Flight by Lou Cameron is published today in the Lancashire Evening Post, and syndicated to 25 newspapers across the UK.

Read the full review here.