Friday, November 02, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books. November 2, 2018


"As the days went by, the evolution of like into love was accelerated.  White Fang himself began to grow aware of it, though in his consciousness he knew not what love was.  It manifested itself to him as a void in his being—a hungry, aching, yearning void that clamoured to be filled.  It was a pain and an unrest; and it received easement only by the touch of the new god’s presence.  At such times love was joy to him, a wild, keen-thrilling satisfaction.  But when away from his god, the pain and the unrest returned; the void in him sprang up and pressed against him with its emptiness, and the hunger gnawed and gnawed unceasingly. "
White Fang - Jack London


CROSS COUNTRY (Ed Gorman from the archives)
 
Herbert D. Kastle wrote a number of science fiction stories in magazines of the 1950s. That's where I first read him. Later in the 1960s he was writing those fat sexy bestseller-type novels that owed more to marketing and Harold Robbins than his presumed muse.

Then in 1974 he wrote CROSS COUNTRY. Here's a quote from one of the reviews: "This novel seems to occupy the same dark and twisted territory as the works of Jim Thompson. Characters interact in a dance of barely suppressed psycho-pathological urges and desires that is as
grotesquely fascinating as a multi-car pileup on the freeway. It
may leave you feeling unclean afterwards, but chances are you will not forget it."

Damn straight. It really is a sewer of sex and terror and blood-soaked suspense. I read it in one long sitting. If it's trash, as some called it at the time, it is spellbinding trash.

IMDB sums up the story line succintly: "After a woman is found butchered in her New York apartment, suspicion falls on her estranged husband, an ad executive who has suddenly left town on a cross-country road trip. He takes along a beautiful girl he met in a bar and a drifter he picked up along the way. A cop sets out after the husband, but he's more interested in shaking him down than bringing him back."

Kastle masterfully controls his long nightmare journey and you buy into his paranoia. He shows you an American wasteland of truck stops, motels, convenience stores connected by interstate highway and darkness. By book's end everyone will betray everyone else. This is survival of the fittest enacted by a Yuppie businessman, sociopathic hippies and a crooked cop. The sheer nastiness of Kastle's existential vision make this book impossible to forget. Thirty-some years after I first read it I still think of it from time to time when hundreds of other novels have fled from memory.

As a vision of hell, it's a small masterpiece.


Les Blatt, THREE PLOTS OF ASEY MAYO, Gladys Mitchell
Brian Busby, MAID OF ARMS, Enid Cushing
Crossexaminingcrime, THE DEADLY PERCHERON, John Franklin
Martin Edwards, AND DEATH CAME TOO, Richard Hull
Richard Horton, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, Achmed Abdullah
George Kelley, ASTOUNDING: JOHN W. CAMPBELL, ISAAC ASIMOV, ROBERT A. HEINLEIN, L. RON HUBBARD, AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF SCIENCE FICTION By Alec Nevada-Lee
Margot Kinberg, MISTAKEN IN MALLORCA, RODERIC Jeffries
Rib Kitchin, RAIN FALLS ON EVERYONE, Clar N Chonghale 
B.V. Lawson, NINE COACHES WAITING, Mary Stewart
Evan Lewis, THE VALLEY OF TWISTED TRAILS, W.C. Tuttle
Steve Lewis, CASE OF THE HAUNTED HUSBAND, Erle Stanley Gardner
Todd Mason, THE WOMEN WHO WALK THROUGH FIRE, ed. Susanna J. Sturgis
J.F. Norris, THE HANDS OF ORLAC. Maurice Renard
ONLY DETECT, SMALLBONE,DECEASED Michael Gilbert
Matt Paust, UNEXPECTED NIGHT, Elizabeth Daly
James Reasoner, COLT CRUSADERS, E. B. Mann
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, E. PLURIBUS UNICORN,  Theodore Sturgeon
TomCat,. DEATH OF A QUEEN,  Christopher St. John Sprigg

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Hmm... Cross Country sounds a bit dark and violent for my taste. But sometimes a book like that can be absorbing if it's done very well. Thanks for including my post!