Tag: Hard Case Crime (page 1 of 2)



An Atomic Moo Book Review

May include SPOILERS!

Now re-released through Hard Case Crime is a 1960’s crime novel by award winning author Lawrence Block that explores a dark world of debauchery and murder on the Texas border. Borderline follows the sordid lives of four people living between El Paso and Juarez. It’s a story of sex, murder, sex, gambling, and… more sex. Along with Bordeline, there are few other short stories, written by Block, that are included in the paperback. Here’s the synopsis:

On the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, five lives are about to collide – with fatal results. You’ll meet MARTY—the professional gambler who rolls the dice on a night with… MEG—the bored divorcee who seeks excitement and finds… LILY—the beautiful hitchhiker lured into a live sex show by… CASSIE—the redhead with her own private agenda… and WEAVER—the madman, the killer with a straight razor in his pocket, on the run from the police and determined to go down swinging!

Although Lawrence Block has an incredible writing talent, the stories included in Borderline came across as brutal, and very abrupt. The thing is, I really dig these 1950’s – 1960’s, hard boiled crime stories being put out by Titan Books and Hard Case Crimes. They’re awesome in a way today’s stories just aren’t. They have real men who drink, gamble, and kill. Sexy dames in tight dresses, and smoking! Lot’s of healthy smoking and drinking! And all of that is in Block’s, but just way (way) more sex, drinking, and gambling, and then a sudden stop at the end that made me think, “what the fuck?” Which was kind of a current theme in all these stories. Block writing is excellent and provocative, and he describes sex in a way that is graphic without being explicit in the least, but then BAM! Violent death. Or, woman beating. Overall, I just couldn’t enjoy these stories because of that. I enjoy sex (doing, seeing, reading, hearing… however) but it was way too much, and added with that was the harsh violence against the women in these stories. It was really, awful. However; this doesn’t put me off the Hard Case Crime novels. I’m still looking forward to the next smoke filled story of seedy murder in a third world country. I just hope the chick doesn’t get horribly beaten or murdered for no reason next time. Though, with just as much sex. Yeah, the sex was pretty cool, now that I think about it… and think about it…

Borderline can be found in all major bookstores or online at Titanbooks.com!

Atomic Moo Book Review of The Wrong Quarry!


Original review by Chris “Buttery Wholesomeness” French.
The views and opinions of Buttery Wholesomeness do not necessarily reflect those of Atomic Moo; However it is important to note that Buttery Wholesomeness does not necessarily acknowledge the opinions others, including those of Atomic Moo…

“So,” Buttery Wholesomeness glowered. “I suppose it’s well past time for me to get started.” With that, he threw his copy of Max Collins’ (Road to Perdition) The Wrong Quarry into a pile of discarded novels. Water dripped from the ceiling of the warren, his dwelling in the tunnels under the neon nightmare that was Las Vegas Boulevard, pooling at the bottom of the moldering pile. Buttery cracked his knuckles and turned to his pieced-together desktop.

I love a hard-edged protagonist. I suppose I’m not alone in this, of course; if anyone is willing to admit that they read a line of comics from the 90’s that wasn’t Archie, you do, too.Cable But I’ve always found the harder protagonists more compelling. I like deep mental scarring, I love drama. Those two things, well-written, feed from each other, and make for some very compelling stories.

In this, The Wrong Quarry doesn’t disappoint. Quarry, an assumed name, of course (who would name their kid Quarry, after all?) did a bit in Vietnam, learning a new trade, as he says. Coming back to the World, he gets hugged up with a gentleman who brokered contract killings. This was the guy who gave Quarry his working name, because, as he said, he was harder than stone, and just as cold. When the Broker double-crossed Quarry, he came back to talk to the Broker about it.

Seems to have been a short visit. Quarry got the better of the discussion.

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Atomic Moo Book Review of Michael Crichton’s Grave Descend!


We’re now down to the last of our reviews for the exciting John Lange novels written by world famous author, Michael Crichton, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s! Our finally book in this line of suspense novels, now in reprint through Hard Case Crime library of hard boiled fiction, is Grave Descend! A thrilling story of sunken treasure and sinister plots! Here’s the synopsis:

Diver James McGregor is used to exploring sunken ships. But there’s something strange about the wreck of the Grave Descend. No one aboard tells quite the same story about what happened. Then there’s the mysterious cargo they were carrying… In one of the most beautiful places on Earth, a sinister plot is about to unfold. And if McGregor’s not careful, he may find himself in over his head.

Through out our reviews of the Lange novels I’ve touched on a few of the same notes: These books are excellent suspense novels full of danger and gorgeous dames; they are fun and easy reads; Crichton had an ability to fill his stories with a diverse cast of characters for both the heroes and the villains. Though, to be fair, the women are mostly the same. The hair color may change but, for the most part they’re beautiful, wealthy, and often dangerous. All of which stays true in Grave Descend. This would be one his “tough guy” novels where real men are quick to action. It’s an exciting adventure for sunken treasure set off the coast of a tropical island. Greedy criminals, sharks, alligators, and sexy women all have it out for expert diver, James McGregor. Grave Descend was probably one of the better novels to have ended my reading of the series since it seemed to encompass all the excitement of the prior Lange books. However, it is really short. It took only a few hours to read through the story, so if you’re going to get it, you may also want to get a few of the other Lange novels. That’s not a shallow plug either, the story is just a straight forward, fast read. Something excellent for a long flight, or travel.

Grave Descend can be found at all major book stores or online at titanbooks.com!

Atomic Moo Book Review of Drug of Choice!


We’re just about done with our reviews of the John Lange novels as written by Michael Crichton in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. This series of classic, hard boil, pulp-like novels is now seeing a new life in reprint through Hard Case Crime series of mystery and suspense novels, and I’m very glad to have had the chance to read and review these fantastic books! This week review is for the suspense thriller Drug of Choice. Here’s a quick synopsis:

On a secret island in the Caribbean, bioengineers have devised a vacation resort like no other, promising the ultimate escape. But when Dr. Roger Clark investigates, he discovers the dark secret of Eden Island and of Advance Biosystems, the shadowy corporation underwriting it…

Through out his run of the John Lange novels, Crichton demonstrated an incredible versatility in being able to write for all sorts of different protagonist. Some are “hard boiled” men of action, while others are more mundane or academic. Drug of Choice’s main protagonist is a doctor. Sort of a “normal” doctor (as far doctors go), but Crichton creates an exciting situation that pushes Dr. Clark to every limit, mentally and physically. Without trying to spoil too much, Drug of Choice has an old school (1960’s) era vibe where the effects of drugs on our ability to interpret reality mix well with a story about corporate greed and conspiracies. It fits in well with many other stories that question the ethics of big corporations and the products they sell us. Kind of like a slighty more down to Earth Philip K. Dick novel. Well, less paranoid anyways. Crichton fans (or new readers) shouldn’t be to concerned though. It still has many of the “Lange” qualities that make these books great pulp fiction. Beautiful women, loads of money, and greedy villains are all there playing their parts. Overall, Drug of Choice stayed consistent with the other Lange novels in that it was cover to cover fun! Not exactly deep reading, but highly entertaining and worth adding to your collection (assuming you have one) of classic pulp fiction.

Drug of Choice is available now in all major book stores, or you can get your copy online at Titanbooks.com!

Atomic Moo Book Review of Scratch One!


This isn’t the first time a spy story has intersected with a mistaken identity tale, but at least in Scratch One writer Michael Crichton added a good deal of suspense and humor. Writing as John Lange, this novel (first published in 1967 and now in reprint throughlogo Hard Case Crime) follows a spoiled senators son turned lawyer into the south of France where his pudgy face gets him confused for a US operative and nearly killed. Here’s a proper synopsis:

To prevent an arms shipment from reaching the Middle East a terrorist group has been carrying out targeted assassinations in Egypt, Portugal, Denmark, and France. In response, the US sends one of its deadliest agents to take the killers down. But when the agent is delayed in transit, lawyer Roger Carr gets mistaken for him. Now, with some of the world’s deadliest men after him, will he survive long enough to prove his identity?

In the past reviews of Crichton’s Lange novels it was very easy to point to Crichton’s ability to create thrilling suspense tales full of sexy dames and murderous thugs, but what carries Scratch One is it’s humor. Not exactly what some might call “gut busting” humor, but the right mix of fun and danger to make an excellent pulp novel. Roger Carr is a spoiled ass, and that doesn’t change much through out the novel; however his arrogance, and often cowardice, makes him an excellent dope for this tale. This isn’t a life changing tale, and maybe a little bit on the goofy side, but overall Scratch One is a novel for people who love hard boiled – pulp tales!

Scratch One is now available in all major book stores or you can get it online at Titan Books’s online store!

Atomic Moo Book Review of Easy Go!


Any collection of hard boiled crime, and pulp, novels would not be complete without a dangerous quest for lost Egyptian gold. The idea of “tomb raiding” in the harsh deserts of Egypt occurred to author Michael CrichtonMichael_Crichton many years before a certain Dr. Jones would don a fedora and strap on a bullwhip. Crichton’s (writing as John Lange) Easy Go is a fun adventure story of five people brought together to rob Egypt’s secret last tomb, or die trying! Here’s the synopsis:

Beneath the sands of the Egyptian desert lies treasure beyond imagining. And when a professor of archaeology finds clues to the location of a Pharaoh’s lost tomb in ancient hieroglyphs, he hatches a plan to find the burial site – and plunder it. But can a five-man team of smugglers and thieves uncover what the centuries have hidden? And even if they find it, can they escape with it…and with their lives?

Though this may not be the most exciting of the Lange novels, now in reprint through Hard Case Crime, it is a constant page turner full of interesting characters who approach the plundering of a tomb in the most sensible and scientific way available. The team of smugglers and thieves are something straight out of the movie. There’s the English Lord benefactor; the bookish archaeologist; the hard boiled team leader, and (of course) the attractive assistant; along with deadly thieves, con men, and cobras. Unfortunately the cobras only make a few brief appearances and, contrary to the novels cover, there are no scimitar wielding horsemen to threaten the team as they painstakingly dig for a last tomb. Though what Easy Go may lack in action (as compared to the previously review Lange novels) it does make up for with a good bit of humor and intrigue. It does answer the question of “how does one rob an lost Egyptian tomb” very well and to a satisfying conclusion.

Easy Go is available now in all major book stores or you can get your copy online at www.titanbooks.com!

Atomic Moo Book Review of Zero Cool!


Among the many Michael Crichton (writing as John Lange) novels now in reprint from Hard Case Crime’s library of “hard boiled” fiction, Zero Cool stands out as a refreshing departure from the adventures of rugged heroes (MEN) that inhabit Crichton’s other Lange novels. Zero Cool still retains all the sex, action, and suspense you would expect in a John Lange novel, but it also has the charm and humor of an ordinary man bumbling his way through an extraordinary circumstance. The adventure begins when an overworked American radiologist started a much needed vacation in Spain and meets a beautiful girl clad in a small pink bikini. Then all hell breaks loose. Here’s the synopsis:

American radiologist Peter Ross just wanted a vacation. But when he meets the beautiful Angela Locke on a Spanish beach, he soon finds himself caught in a murderous crossfire between rival gangs seeking a precious artifact. From Barcelona to Paris, from the towers of the Alhambra to its catacombs, Ross is an ordinary man in desperate circumstances: racing to uncover a secret lost for centuries, before he becomes its next victim.

Harsher critics may say that Zero Cool reads like a B-Movie or comic book, but it’s outlandish plot, gorgeous dames, and scheming villains are what make it an exciting page turner. Dr. Peter Ross is up against The Baron and The Professor; two powerful, and greedy, men competing for the same treasure. Thrown in the mix is the beautiful Angela Locke and a laundry list of henchmen and hired goons to threaten not only the doctors vacation, but his life. By placing an ordinary person, like Ross, in the pivotal role Crichton allowed for an equal amount of excitement and humor. It’s that great mix of funny and suspense that unfolds a fun story for the readers.

Zero Cool is now in available in all major book stores or you can get your copy from the Titan Books online store!

Atomic Moo Book Review of Odds On!


This review was written by Chris “Buttery Wholesmeness” French and may contain Spoilers.

The views and opinions of this review’s author do not necessarily reflect those of Atomic Moo’s; Though they should since we’re trading our views and opinions for a smokes and candy bars.


ButteryReviews I sat in the Rat Warrens under the scar that is Las Vegas, awaiting my fate. I’d just murdered the Rat King, and had been placed, in his stead, atop the stinking mound of filth that was his throne. The toothless human errata that inhabited those dark places where more sensible men feared to go (without being fully vested in their hobo-stab-insurance policies, at any rate) swarmed about my feet, some of them hopeless, many of them stupefied by their intoxicants of choice. How, could I turn such a rabble into a force to be reckoned with? How could I bend such a mob to my needs? It was then that a package arrived.

Trog had sent me a book to read. He had been completely immersed in his labors, none of which were even mildly reputable, and had, somehow, been entreated upon to spend his time reading this book, and others like it, and reporting to the entire Over-world about the quality of the craft therein. I happily agreed to do the job in his stead; it would provide a much-needed outlet for me. The job of managing the Warren was difficult. In time, it would become easier, of course. Until then, there was a new book to read…

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Atomic Moo Book Review of Binary!

It’s Michael Chichton writing as John Lange!


Way (way!) back in the 1970’s author Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) was an honors student at Harvard Medical School. Harvard! But that wasn’t enough for the brilliant overachiever, because at the same time he was also writing suspense novels under the pen name, John Lange. Writing as Lange, Crichton produced eight (pulp styled) novels that are now in print again as part of Titan Books’s new Hard Case Crime series of mystery and suspense novels. Though I’ve got all eight novels, I’m going to take the time to review each one, individually. Starting with the thrilling book; Binary! Here’s the synopsis:

Political radical John Wright is plotting an act of mass destruction – and federal agent John Graves has him under surveillance, trying to figure out what the plot is. When a government computer is hacked and a high-security shipment of nerve gas gets hijacked, Graves puts the pieces together – but can he stop Wright from unleashing his weapon and killing a million people…including the President of the United States?

First, contrary to what the cover shows, there is no naked women in this book! Bummer, right? However, Binary does deliver a very exciting suspense story based in San Diego! Yes, San Diego! The world’s greatest city! The story takes place in the early 1970’s, so it was interesting to read a tale where in people have to use things like CB radios and Magnetic Tape computers to suss out the wrong doings of the demented mad man. Which gave the story some much needed character. Most of our modern spy stories are a collage of high tech computers, sleek gear, and women way too pretty to need day jobs. Binary had none of that! …which is a good thing. This was a story full of “hard boiled” detective types. The type of tough guys who drink day old black coffee and smoke two packs a day! Meat eaters dammit! The type a guys who call women “dames” and if they cry it’s only because old yeller just ate a bullet! Binary was a much needed “palate cleanser” after the frilly vampire story I reviewed last time. Granted, it is a quick read (I finished it in just under a day) but it packs a punch and is one hell of a fun piece of pulp literature.

You can get your own copy of Binary (and other John Lange novels) and all major book stores or at the Titan Books online store!

Atomic Moo Book Review of Joyland, a New Stephen King Mystery!


For over a year now, I’ve had an opportunity to read many of the books from the Hard Case Crime library of hard boiled crime fiction. For the most part they are an excellent collection of stories, but I think I’ve found a clear favorite among this collection in the recently published Joyland. Written by legendary author, Stephen King, Joyland has a uniqueness that other crime novels don’t often try for in that it’s wonderfully subtle. In Joyland, the main character isn’t some “hard as a coffin nail” P.I. who’s as quick a draw with a pistol as he is the ladies. The main character is Devin Jones, a heart broke college kid working away from home, in a North Carolina amusement park, during the summer of 1973. Devin is thoughtful, but also young and inexperienced. While at Joyland he’ll encounter a unique little boy who himself is fatally ill and Devin will pick up on a haunting legacy of a girls cruel murder, at the park, several years before.

I think one of Joyland’s biggest strengths is that it is written as a memoir of Devin Jones. I’m fascinated by King’s ability to take us into the mind of a man nearing retirement and still re-live youthful moments in that man’s life that would change him forever. King injects a wonderful amount of humanity that helps us relate to these characters and accept their story. There are also these little nuances of having to learn a special “carney” language, and Devin eventually finding a special joy in “wearing the fur” for kids even on the really hot July days. Also, what better place could you pick for a grizzly murder than a small, under budget amusement park all set in the early 1970’s? I really don’t have much to be critical about in this story. I feel that most fans of King’s prior novels will embrace this book as it has a very “early” King vibe.

Summer is in full swing now and Joyland should be at the top of your summer reading list. Joyland is available in book stores now or you can get a copy through Titan Books.

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