Date Finished: August 12, 2018
A airline chief running a pioneering nighttime flying airmail service in Argentina awaits a late flight to come in, while that flight’s pilot is experiencing bad weather.
The action in this is very spare, as is the dialogue, while the inner monologues and descriptions are very poetic. The mail must go through, and the development of night flying takes precedence of an individual’s life. The 1933 MGM film of this novel was out of circulation for many years and was one of the few Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, and Myrna Loy films I had not seen. Unfortunately, the imagination had built it up to be better than it actually was, and I probably did the same somewhat with the novel, though that has to do more with the novel just being different than what I expected and is by no means bad.
Monthly Key Word: Few
Date Finished: August 11, 2018
A collection features ten very, very funny stories with the standard great Wodehouse style. Most of these stories were first published in magazines between 1940 and 1958 and include one Jeeves and Wooster story, a couple of golf, Mr. Mulliner and Drones club stories, and an Ukridge. I’ve mostly read Wodehouse’s novels, but he is very expert at creating characters and setting within just a few pages in these short stories. Excellent.
Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #112
Date Finished: August 11, 2018
Matt Helm is sent to assassinate a Central American general, which he does, but he also finds a ex-Nazi, an imprisoned female American secret agent, and a stolen Russian nuclear missile. Unable to destroy the Nazi or the missile, Helm brings the female agent back to the U.S., but is sent out again to Arizona-New Mexico to find the Nazi agents. He takes the woman along and they eventually end up in northern Mexico on the trail of the Nazis and the missile.
An exciting thriller with Helm’s usual coldly professional exterior, which never seems to prevent him from becoming involved with amateur or amateurish assistants. Hamilton’s writing is lean with plenty of wit. Very well done.
Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #111
Monthly Key Word: Boat
Date Finished: August 9, 2018
THRUSH agents are involved in some activity on some tropical islands and so U.N.C.L.E. agents April Dancer and Mark Slade go undercover aboard a cargo boat to find out what is up. Aboard they run into various characters, both crew and passengers, and reach an island, Taradata, where the islanders are virtual prisoners and some sort of smuggling is happening.
A fairly awful book, published only in Great Britain, that is badly plotted with poorly delineated characters. Much time is spent describing the family controlled island, Palaga, only for it to have little or no bearing on the plot. There is no clear-cut villain and the reason for all of the action is unexplained until the final chapter. Slade remains boring, although without Noel Harrison’s bad acting, and April Dancer has very little to do. Humor is largely absent, as is cleverness of any sort. A complete mess.
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #10
Date Finished: August 8, 2018
This Tor Double Action Western series contained two pulp novellas for each author. Here we have “Look Behind Every Hill” from the December 1952 issue of Complete Western Book Magazine and “The Big Trouble” from the July 1953 issue of the same magazine. Both are outstanding stories with good characters and plot with plenty of suspense to keep me from putting it down until each story was done.
“Look Behind Every Hill” tells of a young man whose homesteading father has been killed by powerful ranchers. Taken in by a taciturn man who has his own reasons to fight the ranchers, the boy grows and learns how to fight, leading into the final confrontation of all the various factions in the valley.
“The Big Trouble” is a bit more unusual in that it follows a young Ute boy whose family is murdered by white miners, his growth into a young warrior, and the battles his band fights against the whites, the Arapahos, and his own tribe. A touching story in an unwinnable battle told from a very different perspective than most other pulp westerns that I’ve ever read.
Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #110
Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge #6
Monthly Key Word: Yellow
Date Finished: August 6, 2018
The Avenger, Richard Benson, encounters a young woman whose archaeologist father has been murdered and two bricks he brought back from Mexico have been stolen. Several other members of that archaeological dig have also been attacked or murdered and their bricks also stolen. Discovering one, Benson finds a piece of a golden belt enclosed within the brick, with partial instructions to find a large cache of hidden Aztec gold engraved on the back of each section of the belt. Can Benson and his associates find the treasurer and defeat the gang and its mastermind, or will they fall prey to either the gang or the ancient hidden traps that the Aztecs left behind to protect the treasure?
A good pulp adventure reprint that moves along nicely and holds interest despite some clunky writing. The feisty woman, Nellie Gray, and her accomplished jujitsu skills are a welcome addition. I always like a good treasure hunt story, and the Aztec traps add some thrill.
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #9
Monthly Key Word: Sun
Date Finished: August 5, 2018
Ken English, disgraced former Army officer, is sent by U.S. Senator William H. Seward to Virginia City, Utah Territory, to investigate Southern sympathizers who are plotting to take over the silver mines once the Civil War begins. The secret Southern society, the Golden Circle, has various sinister characters involved, as well as mostly innocent shopkeepers, including one with a feisty daughter who soon becomes involved with English. Can he stop this plot, even as the army post nearby is indifferent or openly hostile to him due to his background?
An entertaining and well-researched western with a fairly standard hero, fighting individually against overwhelming odds, overcoming his shady background once the truth comes out, and winning the love of the girl. Kirkus called this “Stout stuff,” and I agree. I prefer Ballard’s mysteries, which are a little racier, but this was still very entertaining.