EPS Review #55 - Junk!

It was a long summer.

Glitz, by Elmore Leonard, 1985

Stephen King compares Leonard to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and says he bought all Leonard's works after reading "Glitz". It's a standard police thriller, and the characters are well-drawn. The hero, like most in this genre, is inexplicably attractive to women. The bad guy is such a nasty psycho that I'm afraid the story rather depressed me. I'd prefer a higher wit content, too. The exotic scene interest is Puerto Rico.

Old Tin Sorrows, by Glenn Cook; Signet 1989

This series of hard-boiled detective novels in a fantasy setting (trolls etc) gets some pretty enthusiastic reviews around the web. If I had liked it, I would have had lots more to read. But I didn't like it enough. It reminded me of Terry Pratchett: a bit too facetious, a bit too easy to write.

Requiem Mass, by Elizabeth Corley; Headline 1998

A close friend at Merrill Lynch told me that Ms Corley is a Managing Director there. Where does she find the time to write mystery novels? This first one is hard to find now, commanding some absurd prices on the web (I found this for £2.50 in Borehamwood!) I like the detective, Fenwick, your sensitive but tough type, and enjoyed his liaison with the opera singer. The mystery itself seems to me to have a large logical flaw, which is a pity, but wouldn't stop me from trying the next one, which I'm told is better (and is still in print). I found this funny: "The word died in a gurgle as the sole of a boot found his throat, the pressure choked the air from his lungs. He didn't take it personally; someone was just following orders." Obviously writing from job experience.

The Real Story, by Stephen Donaldson; HarperCollins 1997

Donaldson wrote the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series, a Tolkien rip-off that I truly loathed. Friends disagreed, so when I saw this first volume of a space opera, with rave reviews, I gave it a chance. It was short after all. Short, but bad. And if the silly characters aren't irritating enough, there's an afterword in which the author explains how the whole brilliant series is based on the Ring of the Nibelung. Ugh.

A Quantum Murder, by Peter Hamilton; Pan 1994

The Reality Dysfunction by Hamilton was promising indeed, with sentient space ships, an interesting villain, and some memorable images, like the scavengers roaming the wreckage of a planet blown up by its own inhabitants to escape a nameless terror. But a trusted friend actually forbade me to read the third fat volume because the ending was so egregiously lame. So I turned to "A Quantum Murder" to see how this earlier work rated. The answer is: OK. The sci fi elements are trite (psi drugs) but unobjectionable. There is another highly-sexed heroine.

Brief Candles, by Manning Coles, Rue Morgue Press 1982 (1954)

A much-praised old series of mystery novels, with back-cover comparisons to Wodehouse. Two ghosts and their ghost monkey help their descendants solve some problems. Unfortunately the whole ghost concept is treated with a delight only possible for a generation wholly deprived of Special Effects. Comes across as an aged Disney film. Still, the very affectionate forward by the Rue Morgue folks might tempt me to read one of the "Tommy Hambledon" spy novels some summer on a musty sofa near the sea.

The Man From Tibet, by Clyde B Clason, Rue Morgue Press 1998 (1938)

A locked-room mystery, with stiff characters (the cop especially), but the sleuth, Prof Theocritus Lucius Westborough, is a scholar, and the Tibetan details are good. There's even a bibliography of works on Tibet. Clason also wrote "The Delights of the Slide Rule", some confessions of the Devil, and science fiction. I'm keeping an eye out for "Green Shiver", his mystery involving Chinese jade. This may be more out of book-collecting impulse than out of admiration for his story.

Pablo wrote: as far as junk goes, american tabloid by james ellroy gets my vote ... kennedy conspiracy stuff ... can't get much better than a cast of characters consisting of jfk, bobby kennedy, j. edgar hoover, momo giancana, howard hughes, jimmy hoffa, fidel castro, marilyn monroe, assorted kennedy tarts, renegade fbi and cia agents, pissed-off bay of pigs invaders, plus jack ruby and his cast of strippers and dogs to boot! on the other hand, ellroy's continuation of that story, "the cold six-thousand", is quite possibly the worst book i've ever finished

Scott wrote: For less junky junk... In the hard-boiled vein, try James Ellroy's "American Tabloid". Some of Elmore Leonard's stuff is wickedly funny, actually. Have you read Banks's follow-on to Consider Phlebas yet? It's called Look to Windward, and I loved it.

Laurie wrote: i like your review of the Corley! esp the last line. I have been reading a couple of books you might like: The Abyssinian and its "sequel" which I'm reading now, the Siege of Isfahan. Some French author - I'm sure you can look it up by title.

Gavin wrote: i just read tishomingo blues again, the hero is inexplicably attractive to women. set in mississippi leading up to a civil war reenactment. fun all the same, but he's nowhere near as dark as ellroy or burke. i loved american tabloid (as did ewan). have read it at least 3 times. the black dahlia (first of the LA quartet) is also amazing. as are the other 3.

Andy wrote: I read the Real Story awhile back and completely agree with your 'loathsome pile of trash' view. I had, however, been a fierce Covenant fan and still have a soft spot for these old Donaldson trilogies.