I will not be posting FFB on 12/25, 1/1 or 1/8. We can all take some time off unless someone wants to do it.
SPREE by Max Allan Collins, reviewed by Ed Gorman.
here: I'm such an Al Collins fan that it's impossible for me to choose a
favorite. But this may be it or at least is very close. Character, plot
and writing impeccable. Read it to enjoy and writers read it to learn.
It's a hardboiled masterpiece.
This is my favorite of Collins' Nolan series. Formerly a man associated
with the mob, though reluctantly, now trying to go straight with a
restaurant in the Quad Cities on the Mississippi River. Things are going
along nicely until Cole Comfort and his dim son catch up with him. They
hold him responsible for some of their serious bad luck.
To fully appreciate Cole you have reach back to William Falkner and
Erskine Caldwell. Outwardly he's something of a hayseed, right down to
his flannel shirts and bib overalls. But he's hard to peg, as one of his
early victims learns. She wonders about a man who says "ain't" then a
few sentences later uses the word "conduit." Go figure.
Cole Comfort is one of the great bad guys of hardboiled fiction. A man
who has used his family to help him run every kind of scam, con and
robbery you see on those WANTED posters in the post office. And not a
sentimentalist. Oh, no. If he has to lose a loved one in the process of
getting what he wants so be it.
Son Lyle is a twenty-three year old pretty boy who is in effect his
father's robot. He doesn't want to kill anybody but just as the book
opens he's about to off his sixth victim. He has flashes of remorse but
they don't last longer than any of his other thoughts, around thirty
In broad-stroke the story is a confrontation between Nolan and the
Comforts. They are nasty sumbitches and make some of the mob men who
tried to kill Nolan years earlier seem like nice guys.
What makes the book memorable is its successful balance of hard boiled
suspense and wit. No easy task. Nolan is just detached enough to
function as a mercenary when he goes after the Comforts for kidnapping
his woman (Collins partially modeled him after Lee Van Cleef) but
believable enough to really care about her. Collins' description of
their relationship is winning and unique.
But the Comforts take the book. Loathsome as they are--Cole is a
combination of Bubba and Richard Speck--you can't look away no matter
how grotesque they become. Most of the Comfort scenes have me smiling
all the way through. Several have me laughing out loud.
Spree is pure twisty pleasure and a major book in Collins' career.
(from the archives)
from Richard Godwin, HUNGER, Knut Hamsum
HAMSUN’S HUNGER. I remember talking about ‘Hunger’ by Knut Hamsun
many years ago with a friend in a smoke-filled London pub. It’s a great
novel. You can stick whatever label you want on it, it fits
existentialism, post modernism, noir, surrealism and the point is it’s a
story that is totally compelling. Labels are for soup tins.
published it in the UK, among a treasure trove of great authors when
writing still made sense in Britain. It yawned into a golden gap filled
with brilliant old and new novelists before the door was shut by some
politically correct agenda. Hamsun, a Norwegian novelist, August 4th,
1859 – February 19, 1952, won the Nobel Prize for literature. He stepped
over the edge and kept on walking. He is iconoclastic, irreverent,
and utterly inspired by whatever dark gods trespass on our soul in the
The protagonist of ‘Hunger’, which is told in the first person, is an unnamed vagrant with intellectual leanings.
It is the intense story of a starving writer living in Christiana.
We’re in the great Scandinavian tradition of relentless exposure It was
written after Hamsun made an ill-fated tour of America, and based on
his own impoverished life before his breakthrough in 1890. It takes
place in the late nineteenth century and narrates the delusionary
existence of a starving young man on the dark side of a modern
metropolis. It has tones of Dostoyevsky and Kafka, Genet and Zola.
The protagonist tries to maintain a veneer of respectability while he decays. He refuses to pursue a professional career,
seeing it as unfit for his abilities and descends into starvation. I
remember reading the opening lines: ‘’It was during the time I wandered
about and starved in Christiania: Christiania, this singular city, from
which no man departs without carrying away the traces of his sojourn
Hamsun’s themes are alienation and the inescapability of the physical
condition. As the protagonist’s hunger intensifies his hallucinations
become more intense. ‘’I raise myself up in bed and fling out my arms.
My nervous condition has got the upper hand of me, and nothing availed,
no matter how much I tried to work against it. There I sat, a prey to
the most singular fantasies, listening to myself crooning lullabies,
sweating with the exertion of striving to hush myself to rest. I peered
into the gloom, and I never in all the days of my life felt such
There was no doubt that I found myself here, in face of
a peculiar kind of darkness; a desperate element to which no one had
hitherto paid attention. The most ludicrous thoughts busied me, and
everything made me afraid. A little hole in the wall at the head of my
bed occupies me greatly--a nail hole. I find the marks in the wall--I
feel it, blow into it, and try to guess its depth. That was no innocent
hole--not at all. It was a downright intricate and mysterious hole,
which I must guard against! Possessed by the thought of this hole,
entirely beside myself with curiosity and fear, I get out of bed and
seize hold of my penknife in order to gauge its depth, and convince
myself that it does not reach right into the next wall.’’ This really
does deserved to be read.
Sergio Angelini, WHO IS SIMON WARWICK? Patricia Moyes
Yvette Banek, FOUR BY HARE, Cyril Hare
Joe Barone, FIVE FORGOTTEN BOOKS
Les Blatt, A BOOK OF THE DEAD, Elizabeth Daly
Brian Busby, THE ADVENTURES OF JIMMY DALE, Frank Packard
Bill Crider, THE SIXPENNY DAME, Eaton K. Goldthwaite
Martin Edwards, DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE, Robertson Halkett
Curt Evans, GRINDLE NIGHTMARE, Q. Patrick
Ed Gorman, THE KILLER, Wade Miller
Rick Horton, THE DAMNATION OF THERON WARE, Harold Frederic
Jerry House. THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ. L. Frank Baum
George Kelley, ELLISON WONDERLAND, Harlan Ellison
Margot Kinberg, A DEATH IN BRESLAU, Marek Krajewski
Rob Kitchin, INSTANT ENEMY, Ross Macdonald
B.V. Lawson, HABIT OF FEAR, Dorothy Salisbury Davis
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, A THOUSAND FALLING CROWS, Larry Sweazy
Todd Mason, FFB
redux: Ed Gorman guest post: LEARNING TO KILL by Evan Hunter as Ed
McBain; Mason on HRF Keating: CRIME & MYSTERY: THE 100 BEST BOOKS;
Lupoff & Thompson, eds.: ALL IN COLOR FOR A DIME; Peter Nicholls,
ed. SCIENCE FICTION AT LARGE
J.F. Norris, BLEEDING HOOKS, Harriet Rutland
Matt Paust, SOME CAME RUNNING, James Jones
James Reasoner, A HAVEN FOR THE DAMNED, Harry Whittington
Richard Robinson,MURDER ON ICE, Ted Wood
Gerard Saylor, GHOST ROAD BLUES, Jonathan Mayberry
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THE FALA FACTOR, Stuart M. Kaminsky
TomCat, ENVIOUS CASCA, Georgett Heyer
TracyK, THE ICE HARVEST, Scott Phillips