Donald E. Westlake – The Spy in the Ointment (1966)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Why — It made a “best of” list
TBR #124 (72e, 52p)
Date Finished: December 2, 2019

When the secretary of a pacifist organization that gets mistaken for a terrorist organization by a gang organized by a criminal mastermind, he then has to infiltrate that organization for the federal government and defeat them before he is caught.

A comedy romp in the midst of the mid-1960s spy craze, Westlake delivers an entertaining story that doesn’t quite live up to some of his other works, such as the Dortmunder comedic crime series that started in 1970. It still made Anthony Boucher’s Best Crime Fiction of the Year list for 1966.

Just the Facts Silver 2019-12-02

Percy K. Fitzhugh – Tom Slade with the Boys Over There (1918)


Vintage Juvenile Adventure
TBR #116
Date Finished: November 13, 2018

The Tom Slade series was originally about the Boy Scouts, but here he and a pal have been sent to France in World War I to serve as helpers. In a previous story they have been captured by the Germans and imprisoned, but this one starts just after their escape. They find the father and sister of a French friend in Alsace and save them from the dreadful Germans, while running and fighting to safety.

As propaganda goes, these are pretty strongly anti-German with incredible generalizations as brutal, baby-bayoneting monsters. The writing and action isn’t too terrible, though.

Mount TBR: Checkpoint #3

Mount TBR 2016

As per Bev’s instructions, here is my check-in information so far.

  1. How high have you climbed?

Well, things have slowed down a bit since finishing the sabbatical and the Golden Age Mystery challenge, but I’m at 71 read out of my goal of 75 TBR books, so almost to Mt. Toro. I’ll still shoot for 100 and Mt. Everest but need to get climbing.

2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following:

 C. Which book (read so far) has been on your TBR mountain the longest? Was it worth the wait? Or is it possible you should have tackled it back when you first put it on the pile? Or tossed it off the edge without reading it all?
I suppose Ellery Queen’s Blow Hot, Blow Cold has been in my pile since the late 1980s, though some of the Agatha Christies have also been around for that long. I am less motivated to read non-series titles, so some other Ellery Queens have been on my shelf since the early 1980s. Even as a kid, I could tell that those late Queens did not fit with the rest of his work, long before the internet and the identification of various ghostwriters. This one, written by Fletcher Flora, was ok, but not a Queen classic. Still, it is good to get it off the shelf.

Edgar Rice Burroughs – Llana of Gathol (1941)

Llana of Gathol

Date Finished: August 5, 2016
TBR #64.5

I’ve had this one quite a while, but read some of the earlier ones in the series during a period of poor record keeping, so I wasn’t sure where to begin. It doesn’t really matter, though, as there isn’t a great deal of continuity. I read these out of the original Amazing Stories issues, so the disjointed nature of this book fit better within that structure. Here John Carter and his granddaughter Llana of Gathol are captured or face adversaries in four cities across Mars. Llana doesn’t have a large role, but apparently this is a return to featuring John Carter after a few novels centered around various family members. Some have indicated that Burroughs had slipped to self-parody at this point, but I’m not sure I see that. It is fairly standard Mars action on Burroughs part, competently told. Fun, but not amazing, despite its origin.



Bob McKnight – The Flying Eye (1961)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Flashlight
Date Finished: August 2, 2016
TBR #63.5

We’ll only count this as a half-step up the TBR pile, as this is just half of an Ace Double. McKnight returns to the flying world with another pilot dragged into a mystery investigation. I haven’t bothered to determine if this is the same character, but there isn’t much distinctive about any of McKnight’s characters so it doesn’t really matter. His writing style seems to have changed a bit here as he is much more jokier, a la Prather or Carter Brown, than I remember him being in earlier novels. It is not a good fit. A less leering attitude would have helped here. There is something in this about a stolen plane, a wad of money and possibly drug smuggling, but it is such a muddled mess that I forgot most of it by now. The best part is the title.

One of the thugs on the dock is holding a flashlight, though you can mostly just see the beam, but we’ll count it as that.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2016-08-02

Nicolas Freeling – Criminal Conversation (1965)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Skull
Date Finished: July 22, 2016
TBR #63

A pointed and intended imitation of Simenon’s Maigret, this fifth novel of Freeling’s series of Dutch police inspector Van der Valk is well done, but slow moving. Freeling captures Simenon’s mood and atmosphere, but where many Maigret novels are shorter, this one is a bit too long. It is split into two parts, one following Van der Valk’s thoughts and actions and the other following the killer’s. They become friends and have sympathy for each other, and this is a good interior examination of two somewhat lonely individuals. I would just have enjoyed it more if I had been moved to pick it up more often.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2016-07-22

Marian Babson – Murder Sails at Midnight (1975)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Boat
Date Finished: July 13, 2016
TBR #62

An assortment of first class passengers are being hunted by a hit man. Who is the target? Who is the killer? All of the characters are so unlikable and unhappy that I was rooting for the hit man. Unfortunately, he doesn’t kill them all or anyone. If he’d bumped them off in the first chapter we would have been spared all this unpleasantness. Yech.

Vintage Silver Scavenger 2016-07-13

Henry Kane – Trinity in Violence (1955)


Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Jewelry
Date Finished: July 5, 2016

And the Golden Age Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt is complete! I had two copies of this, but we’ll go with the cover for the earlier one with the jewelry.

This Peter Chambers mystery contains three novellas: Far Cry, Slaughter on Sunday, and Skip a Beat, a couple of which were originally published in Manhunt. The subject matter and plotting are fairly standard, but the dialogue is the main attraction and point. It is a little tough to get accustomed to it, just as it is when listening to Crime and Peter Chambers, but once you do it is a unique approach to the genre. If this were attached to better plotting, these would be worth more than three stars out of five.


Vintage Golden Scavenger 2016-07-05