Saturday, January 21, 2012

While I'm at it (see my earlier post today) here's 3 month's worth of books which gets me up to date (ish). Real posting will resume soon.

  1. The Dinosaur Hunters - Deborah Cadbury.

  2. Modesty Blaise - Peter O'Donnel. I'm sad to say, camp trash fan that I am, that I have never seen the Joseph Losey film version with Monica Vitti and Terence Stamp. This books turns out to be a novelization of a script that wasn't used. Dated, but trash crime/spy action fun with a bit more than the usual amount of character development.

  3. Honey West: This Girl for Hire - G G Fickling. My scheme to spend September reading books with strong female protagonists wearing black and carrying a gun on the front cover comes to a grinding halt with this dull, badly written piece of 'tec drek. Girl private eye Honey West wanders around loosing her bra a lot and blunders around a Hollywood populated by six identical people who all hate each others guts and all have feeble excuses (and plenty of coincidence laden opportunities) to see every one of the others dead. I didn't finish it.

  4. The Dylis Powell Film Reader - Ed. Christopher Cook. Collected reviews and other writings from one of the doyennes of grown-up British film Criticism. Enjoyable stuff. As a book, however, it had one major annoyance. Each section - some only a couple of pages long - was dated at the end of the piece. Personally I would have preferred the date at the start of the article so I knew whether she was talking about a film she had just seen for the first time in 1949, or coming back to thirty years later. I never knew if I was reading an initial response, or a mature consideration. I took to reading with a pencil in hand, flipping to the end of the next article, then writing the date I found at the end in at the start so I don't have to wonder next time I read / look something up in it. It pained me every time. I hate writing in books.

  5. The Mad Old Ads - Dick Sutphen

  6. Scrivener's Moon - Philip Reeve.

  7. The Fortunes of Captain Blood - Rafael Sabatini. Swashbuckling nonsense from 1936 in which Captain Blood walks through six 'adventures' aided by a lot of luck, buckets of coincidence, and a motley assortment of minor characters who say things like, "Od's blood! He speaks aright!"


  1. Tyranopolis (aka Future Glitter) - A E van Vogt. Another late (1973) bonkers piece of van Vogtiness which starts with the words:
    Professor Dun Higenroth read the offical letter with pursed lips:
    "...Your good fortune to have won the Accolade for your field... Hence, your decapitation on behalf of your students in the advanced educational program... will take place on Patriotic Day. Congratulations..."
    There was more, but that was the gist.
    ...and ends with an incidental character everyone had forgotten about from midway through the book suddenly reappearing on the last page and decapitating the villain for no apparent reason. In between there is the usual van Vogtian confusion of false starts, unexplained endings, and 'what the hell is going on?' middles.

  2. The Winds of Gath - E C Tubb. The first of the 30+ book thud and blunder Dumarest Saga.

  3. The Iron and the Anger - Francis S Rayer. A forgotten novel by a forgotten author. Though with prose like this at his fingertips you have to wonder why:
    Kyrie Michaelson stood by the wide workshop door. "Explain what this crystal you call mensite is and what it does," he urged gravely. His brows jutted bushily. He was a large man and his wide face was concentrated somberly.
    dang it must have been great being an SF writer in the glory days of pulp.

  4. The Hell of it All - Charlie Booker. Either I have overdosed on Charlie Booker or (more likely) I am Charlie Booker. many of his fulminations and 'misanthropic scribblings' strike me as perfectly reasonable and sensible.

  5. Raven 5: A time of Dying - the fifth and final novel in the Raven Swordmistress of Chaos books written by the tag team of Robert Holdstock and Angus Wells. This one was written by Wells and is pretty dire. Stuffed to the gunwales with padding: detailed page-filling descriptions of rooms which the characters immediately leave never to return - that sort of thing. Expanding a paper thin plot: Five pages of plotless, "I'll tell you a tale", framing device. Ravening Beast terrorises a city. Ravening Beast captures Raven and takes her to another realm. Secondary hero companion rescues Raven who destroys Ravening Beast in the final pages. Two more pages of pointless framing device.

  6. Barrier 346 - Karl Zeigfreid (R L Fanthorpe) A long time since I have read a Badger Book. They haven't improved while I wasn't looking at them.
  1. 101 Movies to Avoid: The Most Overrated Films Ever - Alan Smithee. Not bad little, read in one sitting, list book by someone who I would guess is in the business but has chosen to hide behind the pen name Alan Smithee, a name used by Hollywood directors for years when they didn't want their name to appear on the final product.

  2. The Face on the Cutting Room Floor - Cameron McCabe. A really really odd detective novel which, after the story finishes on page 248 with the narrator/murderer about to be in turn murdered by the policeman in the case, there is a 50 page epilogue penned by one of the characters in the book explaining in laborious lit crit detail why what you have just read is all rubbish. At which point the original narrator comes back from the dead for a bit, and after it has been explained that everyone else in the book was in fact the lone murderer, it only remains for narrator of the epilogue to shoot someone dead in the last three words of the book. Everyone did it. Very very odd indeed.

  3. Projections 12 - Var. Probably the least interesting of the Projections series I have read so far in that it spends a lot of its length talking about Film Schools which don't really interest me. Not the book's fault, mine. I like this series. It's ostensibly written by film makers for film makers though I suspect their readership is mostly made up of fanboys like me who like to think we are listening in on part the creative process. That's the trouble with eavesdropping, sometimes the conversations you listen to are a tad dull.

  4. F.A.T.E. No 6 Settetee Alert! - by Greogory Kern. 'Adventures of Captain Kennedy Super-hero of the Spaceways.' Total rubbish with a cliffhanger '"Move and you die!' said a voice." endings to every chapter and a character so prescient he gets his people to investigate an evil corporation even though no one (his informant or the author) has mentioned their existence until he orders his minions into action.

  5. Witchcraft Through the Ages: The Story of Haxan, the World's Strangest Film, and the Man Who Made It - Jack Stevenson interesting little read. Could have done with a better editor though; some of the sentence structures were very odd.

  6. The Ice Schooner - Michael Moorcock. I consumed huge numbers of Moorcock's books when I was a lad. I remember this one as being better than most of his Sciencey Sword and Fantasy nonsense. A Heart of Darkness type journey through madness and obsession to an mythic goal set in a post holocaustian ice-age world. Moby Dick on ice. And it was all right too, right up until the last couple of chapters when the destination is reached and great gobbits of exposition are thrown at the reader to explain everything and finish the book quickly. Pity.

  7. The Black Corridor - Michael Moorcock. Written in the same year as The Ice Schooner (and at least one other novel - he was prolific was Mr Moorcock) this is a straight SF novel about loneliness and madness and isolation and it works. I read it one sitting. Hooked.

  8. The Distant Suns - Michael Moorcock. Now here's the other side of Moorcock, infantile trash which I hope was written for the juvenile market. A plot Hugo Gernsback would have dismissed as simplistic, and characters and situations which wouldn't strain the readers of Enid Blyton. According to the introduction it was co-written with Jim Cawthorn - who I remember as an illustrator more than an author. I would guess they wrote alternate chapters and left each other with cliffhangers to resolve. Like this from chapter 23. Our hero has just found his wife (previously presumed eaten by troglodytes) in a camp of the primitive tribes-people who have just captured him:
    Gasping, he halted before her staring into the face he knew better than any other in his personal universe. The familiar wide green eyes looked calmly back at him without any sign of recognition. "Cathy!" he cried, "My God, what have they done to you?"
    A brief chapter in some parallel action later he touches her face tenderly and all her memories instantly flood back.
    Note in margin of original manuscript:
    Ha! You have to do better than that, Jim.
    Hard to believe that this is the same author as The Black Corridor and harder to see why it was ever reprinted. (Even harder to fathom is why I just bought another copy having forgotten I'd just read it.)
  1. Movies From the Mansion - George Perry. Gushy, well illustrated history of the first 50 years of Pinewood studios.

  2. Critical Threshold - Brian M Stableford

  3. Coraline - Neil Gaiman. Read to the kids. Number one daughter says 'it's better than the film' and it's a joy to read aloud.

  4. The Drums of Dracula - Robert Lory. A New English Library Piece of shit from 1976 full of the most gloriously godawful writing:
    The Snake now had wound its way upwards to Euleila's thigh, a thigh which was trembling in almost volatile shudders as the snake's head rose even higher.
    'Volatile shudders' wow! Actually I feel a bit sorry for Euleila a 'beautiful black woman' with a 'primitive mind' who, for the sin of being easily duped by our musclebound hero, gets stripped naked, chained to a wall, gang-raped, almost sacrificed on a voodoo altar (see above) then gets turned into a vampire before finally getting staked through the heart on the last page.
    When the door of the ramshackle house had closed behind the old black woman, an almost silent pair of wings disturbed the air across the way. they had descended from a height not all that great, but so swiftly that, even had there been eyes to see their movement, they would have had to be especially alert. A blink of the eyelids, and there would have been nothing to see.

    But there was no observer. If there had been, the wings would not have come downward. They would have waited until the pair of red eyes between them had satisfied themselves that the risk of detection was gone.

    For the space of four human heartbeats there was no sound in the street, no movement anywhere, including the darkest of the dark shadows between the two houses across the way from the door the old woman had entered. And then, suddenly, where there had been nothing, no one, there was.
    The Drums of Dracula

    Drums of Dracula is number five in a series of nine. I can't wait to find the rest.

  5. Excavating Kafka - James Hawes. A fascinating debunking of the Kafka myth (lonely, isolated, unknown, tormented, persecuted Jewish genius) that places him in (and therefore his writing) in context. Turns out he was a well-liked son of a millionaire businessman father, and was well connected in literary circles. Kafka far from being an unknown was making a real name for himself before the minor inconvenience of the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire got in the way. The tormented bit may be true, but no more than any other middle-class sado-masochist of the day.

  6. Shadow and Light - Jonathan Rabb.

  7. The Planets - Dava Sobel. Easy to read, science lite, whistle stop tour around the solar system that, nevertheless, made me grind my teeth by using variably Fahrenheit, Centigrade, and Kelvin scales from chapter to chapter. So the Sun's core was X Kelvin, one planet's surface was Y Centigrade and another's was Z Fahrenheit. It's a personal hate of mine but if you're going to use a system of measurement, stick to it! She also sometimes used centemeters and sometimes miles and, at one point, miles and 'Roman miles' in one sentence without giving any way of comparing the two. Grrrrrr.

  8. The Master Weed by John Rackham

  9. The Master Weed (Another Adventure of the Space-Puppet) - John Rackham. Another oddity found in my attic. A 1954 'Tit-Bits Science Fiction Library' about the thrilling adventures of a Captain Video like space-ranger and his identical remote-controlable simulacrum. In this episode they thwart the evil plans of a mad scientist whose dastardly scheme to take over the planet Mars hinges upon everyone on the planet simultaneously smoking drugged cigarettes. So cunning is his plan that they all do just that! He would have got away with it too, if it hadn't been for our meddling hero who turned up at the fateful event as a robot. He had to pretend to be drugged until he could rescue the token semi-naked space bimbo which he did by skewering the villain to a control panel with a casually discarded screwdriver - and then electrocuting her head. They don't write them like this any more.

No comments:

Missing CD? Contact vendor

Free CD
Please take care
in removing from cover.

Copyright (c) 2004-2007 by me, Liam Baldwin. That's real copyright, not any 'creative commons' internet hippy type thing.

(this copyright notice stolen from

eXTReMe Tracker