My favorite genre of genre literature (what did you think--westerns??). Sadly, the racks these days, already heavy with the nosy old ladys priggish male ratiocinaters, have been further flooded by plucky female private eyes. Eeeecchh.... But there are a few gems amidst the chainstore dross, and plenty of dusty jewels awaiting the used book store patrons.
GOOD BEHAVIOR by Donald Westlake
One of my many current projects is reading through Westlake's Dortmunder saga, mishap by mishap. This installment finds everyones favorite beleagured burglar saddled with the mission of rescuing a formerly cloistered nun from the clutches of her evil magante father and his deprogrammers.
It seems so promising. The nun smuggles out the complete security plans for the highrise where she is being held. Dortmunder & the usual crew go in, the boys looting the lower floors to fund the job while Dormunder rescues the damsel. All goes swimmingly until Dormunder stumbles across a squad of mercenaries preparing to invade a South American country..... (6/7/01)
THE AX by Donald Westlake
I've never been disappointed by a Westlake book, from his hard-as-nails Parker novels (written under his Richard Stark byline) to his goofy caper comedies like THE HOT ROCK. THE AX falls towards the draker endge of this continuim. Burke, the protaganist, is a downsized executive. Two years of unempoyment have made him desperate enough to take WHAT COLOR IS YOUR PARACHUTE? to its logical extreme. He targets his dream position, identifes his competition, and puts a plan in motion to kill his fellow job seekers and the unfortunate dolt currently holding the job.
This bloodletting over a crummy job may seem kind of silly when every other jerk has a million dollars in stock options, but there's a grim sort of fun here. And when the balloon bursts, it's all going to make a frightening amount of sense.
THE BLACK ECHO by Michael Connelly
Mr. Connelly may be widely known, but don't hold that agains him. Unlike your Grishams & Cooks, Connelly writes thick paperbacks that are really cool. How cool, you might ask? Cool enough for the limited edition of his last book (BLOOD WORK) to be published by Dennis McMillan, whose list includes Fredric Brown, Charles Willeford, and James Crumley.
It all started with THE BLACK ECHO, a woderful ode to the storm sewers of Los Angeles and the first LAPD Detective Heironymous Bosch novel. Action starts when Bosch gets a squeal on the OD of one of his fellow tunnel rats from Vietnam. It's really murder, natch, with an intricate connection to a bank burglary gang specializing in tunnelling in from the sewers. Loads of twists & turns, plenty of gritty atmosphere both above and below ground. Now you have something to buy at the airport bookstores.
THE DEEP END by Fredric Brown
If you've already experienced the joys of Fred Brown, you should need no other encouragement beyond the fact that this is one of his best. A bored newspaper reporter gets assigned an obit for Obie Westphal, a high school football star killed in a roller coaster accident. Turns out it wasn't Obie, but another teen, but questions begin to be asked. Just how did the dead kid wind up on the coaster tracks? Why have there been so many girsly & fatal accidents at the high school? And why does high school dream boat Obie spend evenings in the hobo jungle if not to shove bums in front of trains? Good fun & great suspense. (10/17/98)