Well, in all I had seven tests to find out why I'm not getting enough oxygen. The initial results of one of the tests worried both Carol and I as well as my oncologist but it turned out all right after all. The conjecture now is that taking two years of steroids not only packed on pounds but put me badly out of shape. Hand me those carrots please. Thanks to all of you who wrote with good wishes. I really appreciated all the kind and supportive words.
Here are some things I want to mention:
Honey in His Mouth by Lester Dent is one one of the most interesting books Charles Ardai has yet published in his Hard Case line. And it's also one of the damndest novels I've ever read.
Whenever I see the name Lester Dent I think of a) all the Doc Savage novels he wrote and b) the pleasure he took in sailing, mountain climbing and searching for gold. A man of action who wrote action books.
Now one thing I should have remembered was that Dent got so tired of writing the Savage novels that he gave ole Doc some strange occupations from time to time (Ron Goulart can check me on this). In one novel he had Doc lead a dance band aboard a ship and on another he had Doc be a fashion designer. He mentioned that nary a single reader complained about the disguise jobs he gave our hero.
I should have remembered this because far from being thud-and-blunder pulp Honey In His Mouth has elements of black comedy and dares to offer you a wide range of characters who have one thing in common--they are greedy ruthless people starting with the ostensible protagonist, a dimwit named Walter Harsh who didn't manage to make it through the eighth grade.
The set-up was familiar in the Fifties. You want to get rid of somebody, in this case a cruel Latin dictator, but you need somebody who looks like him to pull it off. Walter Harsh not only looks like him but he's also a perfect match for the dictator's rare blood type.
The group running this whole scam work for the dictator. They've been stealing from him for years. He asks them to bank his money throughout the world. They bank some, skim the rest. Now the dictator is being forced out by a revolution. The group wants to get all his money. Walter Harsh, the perfect double, will get it for them. Then of course they'll kill Harsh.
The story is cunningly structured and told. It's laid out so well it's easy to keep up with all the crosses and double crosses and triple crosses going on within the group itself. And as I said, it's very funny in places.
The standard Latina beauty in Honey In The Mouth turns out to be as ruthless as the rest of them but also (something new) a brilliant intellectual. She gets the job of trying to teach Harsh a little bit of Spanish so he can fake it properly when the time comes. All he wants to do is sleep with her. So her revenge is to read him something sure to be boring--she takes out a volume of Spinoza and inflicts it on him.
Dortmunder would probably have hired several of these people. Parker would have lined them up against the wall and shot them on general principles.
I love this book and I think you will, too.
-----------------From Vince Keenan:
Got a chance to meet Alan Rode of the Film Noir Foundation over the weekend. We're going to collaborate on a big piece about the Whistler films for a future issue of the Sentinel. Turner is going to run all 8 movies in sequence in November, you know.
-----------------Two of The Deadliest
As I mentioned awhile back I'm reading for next year's best of anthology. One of the finest collections I've come across this year is Two of The Deadliest edited by Elizabeth George. In addition to terrific stories by Laura Lippman, Nancy Pickard and many others, Wendy Hornsby offers a piece of historical fiction that will be of interest to all readers of Jack London.
London historians have long disagreed about the effects London's second wife, Charmian had on Jack as a man and as a writer Well, Hornsby has a definite opinion on the subject and in the course of encapsulating the last ten years of London's life, she brings alive the entire era in which he lived and long disputed saga. A fine piece of work.