Forgotten Book: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey (2017)

River of Teeth is a fast-moving alternate history novella about a hippos run amok.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 209th in my series of Forgotten Books.

Recently, I attended my 39th ArmadilloCon. Coincidentally, this was ArmadilloCon 39. This show is the highlight of my convention-going year. Over the years, I have gotten to meet many fine newer writers. Past guests of Honor have included George Alec Effinger, Gardner Dozois, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Scott Lynch, and more. This year’s GOH was Nisi Shawl.

I got a lot of books signed at the convention. It is one of the main reasons I go. Another main reason is the panel “What Books You Should Have Read This Year.” My book-selling partner, the amazing Willie Siros, loves to tempt me with many of the items from the list. On this list for 2017 were such wonderful books as Tropic of Kansas by Chris Brown, The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden, and River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey. Brown and Drayden were local writers and at the convention this year so I got both of them signed. I am currently reading Tropic of Kansas and enjoying it a lot. But River of Teeth was the one I chose first. The subject matter is the same that inspired my friend Keith West’s story The Assassination of President Broussardfrom Tales of the Otherverse.

Both tales deal with the historical story of Robert Broussard, who wanted to help solve a meat crisis in America by raising hippopotami in Louisiana to be the new beef. But as it turns out. the hippos were not very docile and they developed a taste for human flesh.

West and Gailey both took this obscure incident and worked their magic on it. West created a memorable short story, Gailey gives us a fascinating novella published in book form by Tor.com.

In River of Teeth, we have a great cast of characters, led by Winslow Houndstooth, a former hippo farmer from Atlanta. He has a deal with the US government to take care of the rogue hippos trapped in an area called the Harriet. The Mississippi has been dammed up and the hippos are roaming at will. Houndstooth wants to blow the dam up and send the hippos out of the swamp. To do this, he assembles a team of odd professionals.

The crew includes his gold tusked hippo Ruby, whom he raised from birth. There is also Regina Archambault, or Archie, an accomplished con artist. The explosives experts are Hero, who is always referred to as “they” though no explanation is given for this. Cal Hotchkiss has the contacts in the Harriet and he used to work for Houndstooth on his hippo farm, up until the night the farm burned down and Cal disappeared. And then there is Adelia Reyes, perhaps the most dangerous woman in the USA.

Up against them is the Gate, which controls the dam and the access to the Mississippi, and Travers, who controls the Harriet and the riverboats— and who knows more about the destruction of Houndstooth’s ranch.

The novella is a fast, action-packed adventure with a sequel due out in September 2017. I liked this book a lot and would write more but my computer is sticking on the keys “e” and “w,” which would make that very difficult.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Book: The Vinyl Detective: The Run-Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel (2017)

The Vinyl Detective’s latest adventure is a quick-moving read with lots of eccentric characters.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 208th in my series of Forgotten Books.

Last year, when I was in the process of moving I spent several months living by myself in a college dorm that was closed for the summer, except for me. My television did not work and Sandi was away in San Antonio, so I did a lot of reading.

Among the books I read was the first volume of the Vinyl Detective, called Written in Hot Wax. The novel is a fast-moving, first-person account of a man with his obsessions, odd friends and the ability to find the things people want.

The unnamed detective lives in the UK and has remarkable luck finding rare records for people. In Hot Wax, he was looking for a rare blues record for a large fee. He found the record, murder and a girlfriend in the process. This time out, he is looking into a rock record, All the Cats Love Valerian. The record was the final release for legendary rock star Valerian who committed suicide when it was released some 30 years earlier. The Vinyl Detective is contacted by Valerian’s brother, known as the Colonel, like his father, to find what happened to Valerian’s young son, who vanished shortly after her death. Her sister Cecilia died not long thereafter.

Valerian, the stage name of Valerie Anne Drummond, was a revered figure in British rock, and the detective is not really sure he wants to look into the case. But the Colonel has a clue. Supposedly, a single from the album was set to be released and was pulled at the time of her suicide. Additionally, there may be a hidden message in the record. Both the album and the single are impossibly hard to find. But the Colonel seems to have money and is willing to spend it.

The detective and Nevada, his girlfriend, enlist Tinkler (a truly rabid collector with no social skills or filters), Agnes DuBois-Kanes (a taxi driver and friend, generally known as Clean Head) and Stink Stanmer (a less-than-friend but convenient ally who has connections in the record business and is in recovery at a nearby treatment center).

They devise a cover story that Stink is bankrolling a documentary on the life of Valerian with Nevada as the producer. They get names and addresses and begin their investigation, but they find the album and the single a little too easily. Then things start to happen around them. There are break-ins, assaults, thefts and “accidents.” Everyone is interested in Valerian but someone certainly does not want them delving deeper into her story.

I really liked last year’s book and this year’s too. I love the smell of vinyl and the esoteric knowledge the author imparts through the various conversations the characters have. You can learn a lot about post-WWII jazz from the first book. This one does not get that deep into the rock scene, but there is still a lot of information here. It is also a great fast, easy read; Cartmel has a way with dialogue.

The plot and action move fast, even with a lot of deception going on. There’s a grave robbing sequence and an encounter with an attack goose. And an LSD doping and burn-the-house-down bit. The supporting cast is wonderfully bizarre and interesting, including the Shrink who is constantly trying to push his self-published book!

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Book: Isle of the Dead by Roger Zelazny (1969)

Roger Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead takes me back to my golden age.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 207th in my series of Forgotten Books.

They say the golden age for reading science fiction is 15. I think the same is true for discovering rock-n-roll. Whatever you are listening to when you are 15 is permanently ingrained in your genes. My golden age was the Summer of Love, with the dawn of the psychedelic era. Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, the Electric Prunes —these were my rock gods.

In the science fiction field, that period also heralded the arrival of the New Wave. We had Harlan Ellison screaming in the wind and both new and established writers breaking the molds. Around that time, I also began to have income, and suddenly there was great science fiction out there and I was loving it! Amazing writers were everywhere! Samuel R. Delany was blowing my mind. J. G. Ballard was writing condensed novels that I wasn’t sure I understood but were interesting and provocative as Hell. Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. LeGuin, Phil Dick – they were all there. Fritz Leiber reinvented himself. The books were plentiful and they were cheap — 60 or 70 cents got you paperbacks from the Ace Science Fiction Specials or any of the other publishers who were taking my money.

Chief among these writers, to me, was Roger Zelazny. When I read “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” my mind exploded!!!! Four For Tomorrow also had some great novelettes. When I read “The Door of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” what little brain I had left was gone.

Soon I had also read Lord of Light, This Immortal and The Dream Master. Zelazny may not have been my favorite writer (that was PKD), but he was in the top five! So, in 1969 when Isle of the Dead came out, I bought it at the PX on Ft. Sam Houston and went home to read it. It became my favorite RZ novel. Somewhere in the mid 1970’s I read it again, I felt the same. Others go gaga over Nine Princes in Amber. I read that too, but Isle stayed in the top position. I liked Amber, but it was not my number one.

So much for back story. Reading Isle of the Dead for the first time in 45 years or so, I discovered that I could not remember anything about it other than the main character’s name. This time, it was like reading a new book for the very first time.

Francis (Frank) Sandow is a human, over 500 years old. He is also Shimbo of Darktree, the Shrugger of Thunders, one of the Named Gods, a world shaper, the only non-Pei’an (i.e. the only human) member of the Named. He is incredibly wealthy and reclusive. The arrival of three messages simultaneously shake his world. One is from his mentor, Marling, who is in the process of dying and wants Frank to come perform various rites used in the passing of the Named. Frank has time. The second message is from Earth, where the Central Intelligence Bureau wants to talk with him. The third is from an old lover, Ruth, and it says “Come now” and includes a recent photo of Frank’s dead wife.

He decides to visit Ruth, but her house is empty and for sale, but she has left a note for him. He visits Marking and helps ease him on to the next level. From him, Frank learns about Green Green, a Pei’an who had not been selected for a Named avatar even though he successfully completed all the required tasks and tests. Green Green also bears a grudge against Frank even though they have never met or interacted.

Green Green’s real name is Gringrin and, among other things, he has stolen the life tapes of several of Frank’s lovers, friends and enemies. He has gone to one of the worlds Frank constructed, Illyria, reconstituted Frank’s friends and enemies and placed them on the Isle of the Dead. This pisses Frank off, since this is his world – he designed it and built it. These are his friends and enemies.

So Frank heads to the Isle of the Dead ready for a confrontation, then everything shifts and the story we were expecting is derailed into another one totally.

This is great short novel that I thoroughly enjoyed again. It brought back all the reasons I loved Zelazny’s work. Just not quite as much, since my tastes have changed some over the years. Still, early Zelazny is still worthwhile no matter what you get.

I interacted with RZ several times over the years. I met him at conventions and got many books and magazines signed. Most of them are gone now, sadly. I was called out in the dedication to If At Faust You Don’t Succeed for helping suggest the title. I gave him that one and its corrupted one, If As Faust You Don’t Succeed. I will keep that happiness with me forever. My bookselling partner Willie suggested A Fistful of Thalers, which RZ also called out in the dedication.

As always, your mileage may vary with this book. But I don’t think so. This is quality stuff.

Who are the writers of your golden age?

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Red Shadows by Robert E. Howard, 1968 (Stories originally published 1928–1932 and 1968 for fragments)

Red Shadows contains Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane stories.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 206th in my series of Forgotten Books.

It has been a hectic year! As I write this, tomorrow will mark one year since my wife and I will have been in our new home for 12 months. Yowza! Books are still not totally organized, but I am getting ready for ArmadilloCon and the upcoming World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio. So many books to look through, so many to locate and get ready.

I recently went to Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains. I know I write too much about that event, but it is one of my favorite things to do each year. I have been four times now and had a great trip each time.

This year, I managed to acquire Skullface and Others by Howard. This wonderful Arkham House book with its legendary cover by Hannes Bok has been on my want list ever since I saw it listed in the copyrights of the Lancer Conans. So, I only waited 50 years to get this one. But I have it now thanks to the amazing Jeffrey Shanks and a fabulous trade. It sits on my bookshelf about eight feet from where I am typing.

But what I have not mentioned as much is that at the same show I found a first edition of Red Shadows, the collection of Howard’s Solomon Kane stories published by Donald M. Grant in 1968 with a cover and interior picture by Jeff Jones. I have only wanted this one since 1973 or so.

My first encounter with Howard’s Puritan swordsman/adventurer was in the three Centaur Press paperbacks that I bought in 1971 while taking a bus from Amarillo to San Antonio after the wedding of my friend Henry Melton and his charming bride Mary Ann. I have had multiple copies of the book since then, but Henry and Mary Ann are still together some 46 years later. (I should mention Henry is a very good writer I have reviewed in my Forgotten Books column on several occasions. You should check him out!)

Anyway, I started reading the adventures of Kane on that bus ride home. They were memorable stories. Kane is a Puritan who has had an exciting life. He has been a privateer captain and explored much of the world. In these stories, he goes through Europe, England and Africa. The title piece, “Red Shadows,” in which Kane vows to avenge a woman’s death by finding her kidnapped sister, set up his trip to Africa. The African stories are my favorite. “Moon of Skulls” and “Hills of the Dead” feature Kane and his blood brother, the ancient witch doctor N’Longa.

A Puritan as blood brother to a pagan witch doctor seems hard to pull off, but Howard makes it work quite well. Kane is an honorable man and so is N’Longa. He has gifted Kane with an ancient engraved staff which can be used to bring N’Longa to wherever Kane needs help with supernatural problems. Oddly enough, a vampire city does not appear to be supernatural. But the staff still taxes his abilities.

I also enjoyed the pirate story “Blades of the Brotherhood,” where Kane challenges the Fishhawk, a notorious pirate and slaver. There is not a supernatural twist to the story, but Howard makes the action move along quite well.

The Kane stories are longer pieces with some good character development and I was sorry there were not more of them in this collection. Still, it was good to experience them all again. In the intervening 46 years, I had read the occasional story, comic book adaptation and watched the 2009 film. The stories are, by far, the best.

Give this one a shot in whatever form you find it. There are multiple sets out there, including the very nice Wandering Star hardcover (be prepared to take out a good sized loan for this one) or the Del Rey paperback of The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane. Both feature fabulous art from Gary Gianni that is worth the price of admission. Of course, there are other reprint editions. Solomon Kane is, behind Conan, one of Howard’s most popular characters. Check out his stories.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Book: Mexican Pulp Art Introduction by Maria Cristina Tavera, 2007

The cover image from Mexican Pulp Art.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 205th in my series of Forgotten Books.

This will be a relatively short review because the book is short by itself. This volume collects cover illustrations from a variety of Mexican pulp magazines over 134 pages. Some are one page or smaller, though there are several double page spreads. The pictures are from the collections of Bobbette Axelrod and Ted Frankel.

The introduction contains a little on the history of Mexican pulp magazines. According to the introduction, at their peak the Mexican pulps were being printed in amounts of 50 to 80 million per month!

The photos are from the 1960’s through the 1970’s.  Not a lot is known about the artists since, as in the US, these were disposable items, meant for momentary amusement and then the ashcan.

Dinosaurs attack in Mexican Pulp Art.

The artists are primarily known by the last names shown on the paintings. There does not appear to be anyone equivalent to J. Allen St. John, Rafael deSoto, Norman Saunders, Margaret Brundage or Hannes Bok, among the many others who graced the American pulps, but there are some gems here, including the lovely bee woman cover featured on the cover.

I have included some random shots I took from the interior of the volume. My only complaints are the size of the book and just nine pages of text,. It is barely larger than a mass market paperback. I would have loved to have seen a large trade paperback or art book to revel in. I would have loved more on the Mexican pulp industry, perhaps something about recurring characters or about how the two collections were acquired and evolved over the years. I will take what I got, though.

Check out these photos and let me know your thoughts.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Strange things are afoot (and aneyeball) in Mexican Pulp Art.

Another of the ghastly images from Mexican Pulp Art.

Forgotten Book: Sherlock Holmes: Zombies Over London by Stephen Mertz (2015)

Sherlock Holmes: Zombies Over London delivers fast-paced action over its 135 pages.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 204th in my series of Forgotten Books.

To be upfront, I will need to point out that I have known Steve Mertz for a long time. Not a close friend, but a friend none the less. And the publisher of this volume, Rough Edges Press, is owned by my friends James and Livia Washburn Reasoner, who have published at least one of my stories in the past.

Last year at ArmadilloCon 38, James Reasoner and Steve Mertz, along with Joe Lansdale, were on a panel I moderated on writing men’s adventure fiction. Steve had apprenticed with Don Pendelton for several years and had written and created a variety of men’s adventure series. For his part, James had written a number of Mike Shayne stories for Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. And Joe had written three MIA Hunter novels for Steve in his early days. Bill Crider had also been scheduled for the panel but he missed due to health issues. Bill had written MIA Hunter, Nick Carter, and a number of western series. Between them, the participants had probably written over 600 novels.

After the panel, I purchased several of Steve’s novels including this week’s Forgotten Book, Sherlock Holmes: Zombies Over London. It’s not exactly so much forgotten as it is unseen or underappreciated. Everything about this book appealed to me. The writer, the cover, the subject matter – everything! Sherlock Holmes, Zombies! Zeppelins! Oh my!

The novel begins with Holmes and Watson aboard the zeppelin Blackhawk about to parachute into Castle Moriarty to rescue Mary Watson who has been taken captive. Upon arriving, they find Moriarty has a group of supremely powerful men that do not react well to any actions directed their way. In fact, they are nearly unstoppable.

Watson and Holmes rescue Mary but Moriarty escapes. They try to track him down but with no success. Back at 221B Baker Street, a new client arrives. He is a tutor and writer, a Mr. Herbert Wells. Watson is familiar with his work, stating that he has loved The Invisible Man. Wells reveals that his next book will be The Time Machine, and he is working on perfecting a model of the device. Holmes is familiar with Wells’ social writings, but ddoes not waste his time on fiction.

Wells is concerned that a young German student he knows appears to be missing. The 16-year-old Albert Einstein is a member of some of Wells’ mathematical circles and has been staying with Wells and his new wife.

A search of Einstein’s room discloses a flyer to a sleazy burlesque house signed by “Danielle” as well as a handkerchief with Mrs. Wells’ monogram. Things may not be all rosy at the Wells’ household.

A trip to the Leicester Square burlesque square finds the mysterious Danielle is a performer with Andre, a knife thrower. During the performance a knife narrowly misses Holmes and mayhem ensues. Danielle and Andre try to flee. A zeppelin shows up with some zombies aboard. Holmes and Watson escape.

Steve Mertz is known for writing good plots with fast action. This volume does not disappoint in those regards. At 135 pages, it is a little short for my taste, but the action never flags. There is conflict with Holmes and Moriarty and zombies and dirigibles. Einstein and Wells are involved in more than is originally thought. Danielle works her wiles. Mrs. Wells has secrets.

During this same period, I read Bill Crider’s Eight Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, an e-book of Crider’s occasional forays into the Holmes canon. I liked Crider’s just as much, even though it was more traditional than the Mertz adventure. I can easily recommend both.

I do have one minor quibble with this book. As mentioned above, Wells is working on The Time Machine and has already published The Invisible Man. The Time Machine was Wells’ first novel. But, in a world of zombies and dirigibles in 1895 London I guess I can allow that transposition.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Book: Libriomancer by Jim Hines (2012)

By Scott A. Cupp

Jim Hines’ Libriomancer is packed with fast-moving fantasy fun.

This is the 203rd in my series of Forgotten Books.

My good friend/book pusher Willie Siros suggested Jim Hines’ Libriomancer to me several years ago. In deference to his wisdom in such matters I bought a paperback copy. It stayed in my “to be read” room. Yes, others have a stack. I have a room full of titles that are in my near-future plans to read. Of course, those thoughts and ideas change frequently as I buy new books and things appear and disappear. So, time passed.

Eventually, I acquired all four volumes in the series. In hardback. I had met the author, Jim Hines at a convention in Houston. He was very nice and I enjoyed talking to him. I had him sign some bookplates to put into my copies because I did not have them with me. I managed to acquire first editions of all but the first. The one I’m reviewing now.

So, I was searching for the right book to read and glanced at this one. Serendipity happened.

With 300 or so pages, I only needed to average 50 per day to complete Libriomancer in time to write this review. As a credit to Hines’ story, I finished a day early.

Isaac Vainio is a librarian in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is having a quiet day when vampires show up and attack him. Now, most librarians would have some trouble fending off vampires (and I am not talking about you Bill Page, Peggy Hailey, April Aultman Becker, Jeremy Brett or Jess Nevins, all of whom would kick butt). But Isaac is not your ordinary librarian. He was once one of a select group known as the Libriomancers. That means he can literally reach into a book and pull out a weapon.

The power of the Libriomancer comes from the collective belief of readers who want the activities in their favorite books to be real. Isaac had discovered this as a teen when he found his hands slipping into a novel he as enjoying. He was found and trained to be a part of Die Zwelf Portenaere (The Twelve Doorkeepers, or the Porters).

There are limitations to this power, of course. The withdrawn weapon must be able to fit through the physical dimensions of the book, so tanks or flame throwers are generally out of the question. Certain incredibly powerful items, like the One Ring, have been proscribed by the Authorities and are “locked.” Still, Isaac knows how to work with these limitations, and vampires dispatched, soon is at home wondering what is going on.

There, he meets Lena Greenwood, a dryad who is attached to his analyst/libromancer shrink Dr. Nidhi Shah. He learns that Dr. Shah has been kidnapped and the peace with the vampires has been broken. Also, Isaac’s best friend among the libromancers has been murdered. On top of this, Dr. Shah had recommended that he be taken off of field work, essentially confining him to his library with no magic involved.

But there are other problems. The creator of the Porters, Johannes Gutenberg, has disappeared, along with his 12 undefeatable automatons. There are traitors within the Porters. Some of the Porters’ libraries have been attacked, including the one at Michigan State University, which has been leveled. And someone, a very powerful someone, wants Isaac dead. Oh, and the dryad needs to form a relationship with someone or die. And that someone is Isaac, based on his interviews with the good doctor. And Ponce d Leon makes an appearance too.

I’m not going to reveal much more of the plot. But a lot happens in these pages.

Libriomancer was a blast. No one will confuse it for William Faulkner or John Steinbeck. But if you want to read good, fun action and adventure, this one is for you.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Films: They Met in Bombay (1941)

They Met in Bombay is part comedy caper film and part WW2 action yarn.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 182nd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

As I said last week, “police and detective films of the ’30s and ’40s can be a wonderful thing.” So, when browsing through the program guide a few months ago, I was immediately struck by the title They Met in Bombay. I looked up the summary and found it to be a comedy caper about two jewel thieves in India. The stars included Clark Gable, the amazing Rosalind Russell and Peter Lorre. So, onto the DVR it went.

When I was looking for something to watch and describe for you faithful readers, the film struck me again. It starts in Bombay, where the Duchess of Belltravers (Jessie Ralph) is set to appear at the annual celebration of colonial British rule. The Duchess owns a fabulous necklace with a huge diamond pendant, the Star of Asia. Being a well-known jewel, it naturally attracts the attention of thieves. Gerald Meldrick (Gable) is such a thief and he has made a very acceptable copy of the necklace. He arrives at the hotel where the celebration will take place. He presents the manager (Eduardo Ciannelli) with a telegram presenting him as a detective for Lloyd’s of London, which insures the necklace. The necklace is kept is the hotel safe and guarded at all times when it’s not worn.

As he Meldrick checks in, he sees the Baroness Anya van Duren (Russell) arrive to make her own play as a con artist. She goes to her room and studies the history of the Belltravers family, brushing up on the family lineage and personal details such as who their friends are.

When Anya goes to get her hair and nails done, Gerald is there getting a shave. That shave quickly turns into a haircut so he can look admiringly at her. At the celebration, the Duchess notes that Anya looks just like she did when she was younger. Anya’s guests include a local prince, but they have not shown up (because they were never invited). The Duchess invites Anya to join her party as the prince in question is also a friend of hers.

Anya, being a good con artist, ingratiates herself into the Duchess’ confidence, and soon the two are back at the Duchess’ suite where the older woman falls asleep. Anya removes the necklace and departs to her suite. When Gerald enters, he sees that the necklace is gone. He puts his copy on the woman and goes to Anya’s room, where he confronts her as the Lloyd’s detective and gets her to give up the goods. A few minutes after he leaves, she sees the real hotel detectives leaving the Duchess’ room with the necklace, which she asks to see. She then realizes that she has been conned herself.

The next morning, Gerald checks out of the hotel and grabs a ride to the airport. Inside the cab he finds Anya. They discuss the evening’s happenings and the possibility of a partnership. Just as they reach the airport, they hear the sound of the police. Realizing the jig is up, they steal a boat and row out to a freighter on its way to Hong Kong. Captain Chang (Peter Lorre) realizes who the pair are and offers to turn them over when they get to Hong Kong for a £10,000.

The two grab the jewel and escape over the side of the freighter and hide out in Hong Kong for several weeks. Anya has acquired a domestic streak and is hoping the two can retire from theft. Nearly broke, Gerald concocts a new plan to steal money from a businessman who has defrauded the military. Getting a military uniform, he marches through the street acquiring soldiers as he goes along. He arrives at the mark’s house with a large contingent and fleeces the man of his ledgers and all the cash on hand. Things are going well. He and Anya are leaving in a couple of hours. Then the real military shows up. Gerald, using the name Captain Houston, is whisked to the garrison where he is impressed into handling the evacuation of the Chiang Lin province from the Japanese occupation. (This is at the beginning of World War II.)

Here the film turns into a heroic adventure and is no longer the romantic caper comedy it started as. Still, it remains fun. Gable and Russell work well together throughout, although Wikipedia tells me that Lana Turner was originally slated to be the co-star. I like Russell more than I do Turner, so this was fine by me.

Overall, They Met in Bombay was was good film and I really enjoyed it. Peter Lorre was only in the film 10 or 15 minutes and was pretty well wasted as an unscrupulous Chinese freighter captain. I had never heard of this film before, so it was a nice piece of serendipity that I found it and watched it. Perhaps it will work for you also. Though, of course, your mileage may vary.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Book: The Continental Op: The Complete Case Files by Dashiell Hammett, 1923 – 1930, Edited by Richard Laymon and Julie M. Rivette

Hammett’s Continental Op stories aren’t as well known as his novels, but they still pack a punch.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 202nd in my series of Forgotten Books.

Like John D. MacDonald in last week’s Forgotten Book, it would be hard to imagine a world where Dashiell Hammett is a “forgotten writer.” The five novels ranging from Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Glass Key, The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man have been printed and reprinted over and over. In fact, The Maltese Falcon is one of the greatest novels in the English language. Together with Raymond Chandler and Carroll John Daly, Hammett led the charge to take murder and mayhem out of the English drawing room and pit it back on the mean streets.

I have read each of those books, multiple times, over the past 50 years, and I watch the films whenever they are on. I cannot count the number of times of time I have heard Sam Spade say “the stuff dreams are made of.”

But it is easy to forget that those novels did not spring fully realized from the head of Hammett. He had an apprenticeship period, generally in the Black Mask magazine. And he told many of these tales through the eyes of a short, fat unnamed detective who worked for the Continental Detective Agency in San Francisco. There are a number of Hammett short story collections that have been published throughout the years, some with great titles like Dead Yellow Women, The Creeping Siamese and The Big Knockover. But, until this volume, there has never been a complete accounting of the Continental Op stories.

The three title stories listed in the previous paragraph are all among the best of the stories contained in The Continental Op: The Complete Case Files, this week’s book. But, again, these stories did not just leap from Hammett’s fingertips. Editors Laymon and Rivette group the stories into three groups – The Early Years (1923-1924) with 10 stories beginning with “Arson Plus”; The Middle Years (1924-1926) with 11 stories, beginning with “The House in Turk Street” (one of my favorites) through “The Gutting of Couffignal” (another amazing story); and The Later Years (1927-1930) with 8 stories beginning with “The Creeping Siamese” and including the near novel The Big Knockover,” its sequel “$106,000 Blood Money” and “Death and Company.” That period also includes one unfinished story, “Three Dimes.” All but two of the published stories appeared in Black Mask.

The Early Years stories are all okay. None of them particularly leapt out to me as an Oh-My-God! moment. But with the advent of Hammett’s middle period and “The House in Turk Street” and its sequel “The Girl With the Silver Eyes,” there was a difference in the writing, a leanness that moved the stories along, even though they were longer pieces. In this period we get the stories previously noted as well as “The Whosis Kid,” “Who Killed Bob Teal” and “Dead Yellow Women.” If he had stopped writing at this point, he would still be revered today.

The later years bring it all home, though. “The Big Knockover” and “$106,000 Blood Money” were issued together as a short novel by Dell Paperbacks and as a hardcover from World Publishing. They are a little short to be considered a complete novel, but they are very, very good. During this period, I also liked “The Creeping Siamese” and “Fly Paper.” There were one or two contrived pieces, especially “The King Business” (one of the two non-Black Mask stories), which takes the Op away from San Francisco and into Europe with a young man being maneuvered into funding a political revolution.

Read in one or two sittings, these stories will get old. Spread over a week or month, however, they retain their wonderful flavor. If, like me, you have not read all of these or only know Hammett through his novels, this is where you want to be. If you are interested in the history of the mystery field in the 20th Century, this is where you need to be. The introductory essays before each section are worth the price of admission alone. If character names like The Whosis Kid, Paddy the Mex, Bluepoint Vance, Wop Healy, Tom-Tom Carey, and the Did-and-Dat Kid strike your fancy, this is the book for you. (I should mention that Hammett was definitely a product of his time, and there are some ethnic slurs that were common in the period and which reflect the character of the Operative. Just a word to not be surprised when you run into those words. There are not a lot of them, but they could be jarring to some readers.)

Looking again this evening, this particular version does not appear to be available on Amazon. Which is a crying shame. There are multiple volumes which reprint all the stories, but it talks some work and money. I got this in September 2016 for $14.99, the most I ever have paid for an e-book. And it was worth every penny.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Book: The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald (1964)

The Deep Blue Good-By is a fast-paced 144 pages.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 201st in my series of Forgotten Books.

Recently, on a trip, I was getting tired of no music on the radio from Alpine to the rest of the world and my USB stick was wearing a little thin. I pulled into a truck stop, and sitting on as shelf was a CD version of this novel, The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald. For five discs and six hours, I was back in a world that I had not been to for a long time.

OK, before anyone says anything, John D. MacDonald, is not a Forgotten Writer. At least not to many who follow this blog. But to many of the readers out in the world, he is. MacDonald has been dead since 1986, more than 30 years. Travis McGee, the hero of this novel, somehow never made it into a profitable film franchise, and MacDonald is not being carried in the bookstores anymore.

But there was a wonderful time — a time when you could find a new book by John D. and the prose would sparkle and dazzle and race through your eyes and your brain. I came to John D. later in life thanks to the insistence of Joe R. Lansdale. He thrust a copy of The Executioners into my hands on a vacation. I read for two hours straight. I’m not sure I was breathing when I finished it. I had not seen Cape Fear at that point — the original one — the remake was still four years in the future. I deeply hooked into that prose and pacing. When I returned to Dallas, I started looking for every book of his I could find. And there were lots of them. There were the mysteries, the wonderful science fiction, the fantasy of The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything (I reviewed the film version last year), the suspense novels, the non-fiction, his letter exchanges with Dan Rowan and the short stories. I read a lot of John D. during those days.

Unlike many other writers, he only had one series character. The formidable Travis McGee, fixer of problems, salvage consultant, beach bum, and chief resident of the house boat The Busted Flush, generally moored at Slip F-18, Bahia Mar Marina, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

The Deep Blue Good-By introduces Travis McGee, and he would be with us for 21 novels, each with a color in the title. Chook McCall is an old friend of McGee’s. She has a dance troupe at one of the clubs. One of her dancers, Cathy Kerr, has a problem. An old boyfriend, one Junior Allen, up and left her one day after destroying a mailbox. He returned about a month later with a fancy houseboat and lots of money. He ignored Cathy and took up with a Mrs. Lois Atkinson, a divorced woman. But Junior soon deserts her. Cathy believes Junior has found some cache that her father brought back from World War II. On his return, Cathy’s dad struck an officer in a bar fight and got sent to a military prison. He told his family that he would be taking care of them when he got out. But he never got out.

Cathy wants McGee to locate whatever junior has found and recover it for her. His fee is half plus expenses. Cathy seems like a nice person, so he agrees, even though he has reservations.

He soon finds out that Junior is a full-on psychopath with deep issues and great personal strength. He enjoys finding a certain kind of woman and destroying her self worth and personal pride.

It’s a good, quick read — the perfect lead in to the series. The second book Nightmare in Pink was published the month after The Deep Blue Goodbye, giving 1964 readers two quick bites of a very complex apple.

It had been a long time since I read a MacDonald novel. I no longer have all of them, but I have still own quite a few. I’ll be delving back into that world again soon. If you are a MacDonald fan, what’s your favorite JDM book and favorite McGee mystery? If you’ve never read him (and you know who you are!), that needs to change this week. Just go to the bookstore, find a couple of his books (you will want another as soon as you finish the first), call in sick to work, and luxuriate in the sparse prose and lightning action. You can thank me next week. None of the early tales are bloated 300-page tales. The Deep Blue Good-By clocks in at a trim 144 pages in the Gold Medal first edition. No wasted or excess words here. Check it out.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.