Donald Hamilton – The Removers (1961)

Removers

Silver Age
Category: TBR First Lines
Date Finished: September 30, 2015

The cover blurb from the Milwaukee Journal calls this “Fast, tightly written, brutal, and very good…” It is definitely all of those things. Matt Helm heads to Reno at the call of his ex-wife to help out with some unspecified trouble. It turns out that she has remarried to a former soldier-of-fortune, who is being pressured by a mobster to smuggle heroin north from Mexico. Also present is a foreign agent posing as the mobster’s bodyguard. Sparks still fly with his ex-wife, but Helm also gets involved with the daughter of the mobster. It turns out that I very much like books that are fast, tightly written, brutal, and very good. Helm is superior to much of the bullying violence that an average spy or private eye encounters, and he tells us so. But he must maintain his cover, so puts up with things, waiting for his moment. This is also not a cartoonish view of spies and espionage a la the James Bond imitators that filled the ’60s, including the Matt Helm movies. This is the third book in the Helm series and the best I’ve read so far, of which this is the eighth. There is some continuity between the books, so I should probably have read them in order. This has been on my To Be Read pile since at least 1983, so it is about time that I got to it.

The other TBR first lines considered for this category:

Cop Out by Ellery Queen (1969)
It had been a good Indian summer and there were still leaves on the tiring maples behind the plant.

Credit for a Murder by Spencer Dean (1961)
The room was very warm, although a roaring norther rattled the tall windows of the old river mansion and made whirling dervishes spin across the snowy lawn.

Two to Tangle by Frank Kane (1965)
The man in the visitor’s chair was old, tired.

The Removers by Donald Hamilton (1961)
To get to Reno, Nevada, from the southeast, in summer, if you don’t have an air conditioned car, you first sleep all day in Las Vegas.

And with that box, I have completed the Silver Age bingo challenge for 2015.

Vintage Silver Bingo 2015-09-30

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Harry Kemelman – Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry (1966)

SaturdaytheRabbi

Silver Age
Category: Clergy or Religion
Date Finished: September 29, 2015

As the second in the Rabbi Small series, this mystery novel continues where the first left off, as the rabbi again faces congregational politics, the contrast of a Jewish community within a larger Gentile suburb, and, of course, a murder. The murder mystery takes a back seat, however, as it really isn’t addressed much before chapter 23. Rabbi Small is a sympathetic character despite being very stubborn, very precise, and very bad at human interactions. The most irritating parts of this novel are his somewhat pedantic explanations of Jewish life and customs to his own wife. Obviously she is just standing in for us non-Jewish readers, but it does seem patronizing. The congregational politics continue to be a difficulty for Rabbi Small, and perhaps they are a bit too realistic for those of us who have had to deal with them. The police chief, Lannigan, only appears a few times, compared to his more significant role in the first novel. Overall, a good book, though one wishes the mystery were more central to the story.

Vintage Silver Bingo 2015-09-29

Dick Francis – Forfeit (1968)

Forfeit

Silver Age
Category: Amateur Detective
Date Finished: September 24, 2015

A British newspaper reporter on the horse racing beat for the sports section discovers a plot to force favorites to scratch just prior to the race, causing the money bet on them to be forfeited to the bookies. The reporter, James Tyrone, is a strong character, with an invalid wife and a new romance. The whole plot is a bit far fetched, with the mastermind involved with some strong arm business at the end which leads to his downfall. Couldn’t he hire some more thugs? Still an enjoyable read. I put these off for so long because of my lack of interest in horses, and, I suppose, their popularity, but they are well written. Perhaps they will become formulaic after a few, but so far so good.

Vintage Silver Bingo 2015-09-24

Richard and Frances Lockridge – Show Red for Danger (1960)

Lockridge_ShowRed noDJ

Silver Age
Category: Color in the Title
Date Finished: September 16, 2015

This is an Captain¬†Heimrich mystery, rather than a Mr. & Mrs. North, the 11th out of 22 in that series. Richard Lockridge continued these on after Frances’ death in 1963, unlike the North series. In this novel, Heimrich’s self doubt and droopy character is more adequately conveyed than any of the other characters. He is visiting his female friend in the Hudson River valley, where a movie company is also filming a story of early Dutch settlers in the area. Heimrich discovers the murder of a local artist and an actress in a modernist house in the woods. This house and the art world is clearly of more interest to the authors than the movie world or the characters that inhabit it. Some typical Lockridge suspense where the female interest is stalked by the murderer, who is then caught before anything bad can happen.

Vintage Silver Bingo 2015-09-16

Dan J. Marlowe – One Endless Hour (1969)

marlowe_endless_gold_medal

Silver Age
Category: A Time, Day, Month, etc., in the Title
Date Finished: September 12, 2015

This one comes very close to a Parker novel, as Marlowe revived an earlier character for a series that eventually leaned more toward espionage. I’m not sure how that was accomplished, but this one was very well done, especially the earlier section as Drake is confined to a prison hospital. The heist section moves along, but isn’t as original. I’ll count this as a book with time in the title, though that is a bit of a stretch.

Vintage Silver Bingo 2015-09-12

James McKimmey – The Long Ride (1961)

LongRide

Silver Age
Category: Size in the Title
Date Finished: September 11, 2015

A fast-moving ride across the country with a car load of people that include a bank robber, a sneak thief, and an FBI agent. At times humorous, this one tells the story from several points of view, including the three listed above, while keeping other characters, particularly the women, as mysteries. Very well done.

Vintage Silver Bingo 2015-09-11

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 16 Skeletons From My Closet (1963)

16Skeletons

Silver Age
Category: Spooky Cover
Date Finished: August 22, 2015

This was a tough category to find something to fulfill it. What is considered “spooky” in a title. Skeletons should count, though. I put off reading short story collections, but these always turn out to be fun. This one contains some good authors, such as Frank Kane (a Peter Chambers) and Craig Rice (a John J. Malone). Here’s the full list:

  • Ghost Story by Henry Kane
  • Where is Thy Sting? by James Holding
  • Butler Who Didn’t Do It by Craig Rice
  • Christmas Gift by Robert Turner
  • Man at the Table by C.B. Gilford
  • Death of Another Salesman by Donald Honig
  • Man with a Hobby by Robert Bloch
  • …Said Jack the Ripper by Robert Arthur
  • Gun with a Heart by William Logan
  • Assassination by Dion Henderson
  • Little Sororicide by Richard Deming
  • Man Who Got Away with It by Lawrence Treat
  • Secret Recipe by Charles Mergendahl
  • Daddy-O by David Alexander
  • Crime Machine by Jack Ritchie
  • Homicide and Gentlemen by Fletcher Flora

Some twists, some turns, some murderers who get away with it all, a Cleveland convention story set in Cleveland just before I was to go there for a convention (the Robert Bloch story). Some good mid-century modern murder here.

Vintage Silver Bingo 2015-08-22