Books (#SFWApro)

Much like King of Crooks, ALBION: Origins is a spinoff reprint collection prompted by the Albion miniseries. This collects adventures of Brit-comics heroes Tim Kelly (protected from all harm by a magic gem), the roboticist Dolmann, Victorian escapologist Janus Stark and occultist Cursitor Doom (Whom I didn’t read in my childhood but i can see why he’s fondly remembered) though contrary to the title, only Stark and Dolmann get an origin included. Stuff I think I’d enjoy even if I hadn’t grown up with them, though that certainly helps.
THE RED TRIANGLE by Arthur Morrison is much better than the first Martin Hewitt book, starting off with what appears to be a baffling diamond theft—which Hewitt solves with his usual brilliance—only to discover after recovering the gems that the thief has wound up dead with the eponymous brand on his forehead. Subsequent thefts reveals Hewitt is now playing against his Moriarty, a mastermind recruiting lackeys via hypnosis and able to drive them to self-destruction if they cross him. Still no match for Arthur Conan Doyle, but much more readable than Morrison’s first collection.
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Touching base with my movie-book publisher, McFarland at Dragoncon, I couldn’t resist buying A HISTORY OF THE DOC SAVAGE ADVENTURES in Pulps. Paperbacks, Comics, Fanzines, Radio and Film by Robert Michael Cotter when I found it on display, though I wondered if I knew too much to make it a good investment. Nope: Cotter does a great job recounting Doc Savage’s career in the comics (including his disastrous stint as an occult super-hero), his short-lived radio show and the storyline for Archenemy of Evil, the planned sequel to the 1970s Doc Savage film. There’s also a great deal on the pulps which I’ll touch on as a I read my way through them (for example, Cotter reveals the Green Bell in Czar of Fear was originally the Red Bell, to hint at a Communist plot). The only real flaw is presenting Doc in the intro as the wellspring of all super-heroes (claiming without Pat Savage there’d be no Wonder Woman is laughable). That said, it’s well worth getting if Doc is of interest to you (copyright to cover image resides with current holder)
TALES FROM GAVAGAN’S BAR by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague deCamp didn’t work as well for me as when I first read it. The premise is that the authors hang out in the title pub and jot down drinkers’ stories of were-dachsunds, using a dragon as a rat-catcher and awkward magical gifts (a woman whose husband loves plain foods finds herself unable to cook anything that’s not cordon bleu). Unfortunately this leaves many of the stories without any real closure, which is realistic (given the set-up) but not always satisfying (they modeled the stories on Lord Dunsany’s Jorkens tales, but Jorkens always finished his tall tales) on the second go-round.
THE 1ST ARMADA GHOST BOOK (Armada being the publisher) was an anthology I remembered from childhood as being a good collection of scary stories and rereading confirms it. While editor Christine Bernard uses a few too many by Sorche Nic Leodhas (Scots folktale-styled stories) Manly Wade Wellman’s “School for the Unspeakable” is as creepy as I remember it, as are Wells’ “Story of the Inexperienced Ghost” and “Red Room” plus such gentler fair as Arthur Quiller-Couch’s “A Pair of Hands.” Very good.
THE SECOND ARMADA GHOST BOOK is smaller and less impressive, though Leodhas “The Ghost Who Didn’t Want to Be a Ghost” is extremely funny and William Croft Dickinson’s “Keepers of the Wall” is effective. I think the big problem is that it gets too far away from real ghost stories with the traditional “Mr. Fox” and Wells’ “Magic Shop” (much as I like that one) and “Flowering of the Strange Orchid.”

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Filed under Comics, Doc Savage, Reading

12 responses to “Books (#SFWApro)

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