Book Review- A Girl and Her Cat: Honey West and T.H.E. Cat by Win Scott Eckert and Matthew Baugh

Title: A Girl and Her Cat: Honey West and T.H.E. Cat

Authors: Win Scott Eckert and Matthew Baugh

Format: Hardcover edition, Moonstone Books

Published: 2013

HoneyWest-Cat_title_FINAL

 

 

As stated previously and likely to be stated many more times, I love mysteries.  And a special sort of mystery I love happens to be the tv tie-in.  When authors are able to take tv characters that I’ve liked or even loved and weave wonderful prose tales of them, I’m always happy.  Now, I’ve tripped over a few that were average or even awful as well, but still even those stay on my shelf just because it’s a tv tie-in.

“A Girl and Her Cat: Honey West and T.H.E. Cat” by Win Scott Eckert and Matthew Baugh qualifies not only as a tv tie-in novel, but it’s a simply told, well presented tale of intrigue and action that hits almost every note exactly right.

Now, before I continue, let me clarify. Moonstone published this novel and I do have a position with Moonstone.  I normally don’t review books from my own company, Pro Se Productions.  I also don’t normally review books from other companies that I had anything to do with, either as a writer, editor, or any other capacity. Yes, Moonstone published this. Yes, I work for Moonstone. No, I had nothing at all to do with this book and therefore feel okay giving my thoughts on it.

“A Girl and Her Cat” features two characters, each leads in their own 1960s television series- Honey West and Thomas Edward Hewitt Cat, better known as T.H.E. Cat.  As a matter of fact, prior to the series starring Anne Francis, Honey West, a female private eye following in the footsteps of her murdered father, actually debuted in a series of novels.  T.H.E. Cat, a master thief turned bodyguard for hire, first appeared on the scene in his series of the same name, played by Robbert Loggia.

In ‘A Girl and Her Cat’, Honey is hired by an Asian scientist to help recover a potentially deadly virus that has fallen into the hands of an evil terrorist type.  Almost immediately, Honey is attacked and the case turns on its ear, as a past lover of Honey’s who works for the CIA shows up.  It turns out that there’s more to the case, the Asian scientist, and even Johnny Doom, the well named lover, than Honey was led to believe, all of that carrying to a point where she is forced to actually attempt to steal the virus for a criminal organization. Enter another friend from Honey’s past, T.H.E. Cat, who teams up with the buxom PI to not only try to save the CIA agent being held captive, but also potentially the world from dying from a horrible plague.

This novel has everything a fan of these series or even just fans of 1960s type spy mysteries would look for.  Great leads, fantastically wild supporting characters, and a plot that involves world devastation or domination, depending on how one looks at it, and even teases its way into other fantastic things beyond that.  The authors didn’t go out of their way to make the story over complicated and that makes it that much better.  It’s an easy read and one that is paced exactly as it should be.  Also, the characterizations of Honey and Cat are dead on perfect, actually allowing me to hear Francis’ and Loggia’s voices as I read it.

There are other characters who make cameos and veiled appearances in ‘A Girl and Her Cat’, characters that are featured in other books, television series, even in films.  This is something I love in stories usually and enjoyed it immensely in this one, recognizing the nods to several other favorite characters of mine.  In this book, though, I felt a little overwhelmed by this in some way as well.  I don’t know if it was that there was more than one or two such appearances, or if when they were introduced in the story was just to close together, but something made that affectation seem a little too much for ‘A Girl and Her Cat.’  Not so much so that it made it a bad book, it’s quite a great book actually, but I did find myself more than once distracted from the story by wondering if a name was used because it was an Easter egg.  Again, this is something I do enjoy, it just felt a little… I don’t know, forced maybe this time around.

‘ A Girl and Her Cat’ rates four out of five pages. Aside from being a slightly overfilled easter basket, this book delivers a fast, action packed, and fun read all the way around.

Five out of six bullets goes to this one, using my personal scale. The authors capture Honey and Cat perfectly and the interactions between the two sing just like a groovy jazz tune.

Book Review: The Body Lovers by Mickey Spillane

Title: The Body Lovers

Author: Mickey Spillane

Format: Paperback, Signet Books

Published: 1967

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When people talk about classic Private Eye writers, three usually bubble to the top.  It’s normally Dashiell Hammett for refining the classic ‘hard boiled’ detective, Raymond Chandler for bestowing upon the trench coated fedora wearing gumshoe the possibility of being a modern day knight, and then Mickey Spillane for giving a rough, balls to the wall, overtly violent edge to the PI character.  Of course, each has their signature character, Spillane’s being the tough as nails, very nearly psychopathic (according to some) Mike Hammer, ready to deliver death at a moment’s notice to those who deserve it.

‘The Body Lovers’ is the tenth Mike Hammer book in the series and a prime example of what I’ve said for sometime.  I think Mike Hammer gets a bum rap often from supposed experts in the Private Eye Fiction field and maybe even some fans.  Spillane’s Hammer is often, if not nearly always described as some sort of seething, angry monster walking on the edges of justice, ready to strike out at his own discretion with deadly violence against the depraved, be they threats against national security or near demons passing through humanity nearly unnoticed.  He is not seen as ever reaching the sophistication of sorts that Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe seems to be credited with from the first story forward, nor is he ever described as a multifaceted character, something that is normally always said about Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade.

In ‘The Body Lovers’, Hammer happens onto a scared kid at a  construction site who has found a dead woman in a negligee.  Insistent to stay on the outside of this particular situation, Hammer ends up pulled in not only when links are drawn between this death and the alleged suicide of another woman previously, also found wearing a negligee, but also when a con Mike sent up the river sends him a message and hires him to find his sister to make sure she’s not the third victim.

What unfolds, once Mike is involved, is a case that involves evil at all stages of society, from foreign dignitaries to the rich upper crust of New York down into the bowels of Greenwich Village and even into the ghetto.  No one is immune from the darkness that seems to be engulfing these women, nor are they protected from the justice seeking Mike Hammer.

This is top of the line Spillane.  Every word is keyed to illicit the perfect reaction, the phrasing is top notch, and the characters are cut from the hardest asphalt any city has to offer.  Mike is on full display here, along with Velda and Pat Chambers.  But, be warned. If You’re reading this to find the unhinged, rather over the top Mike Hammer that you read in ‘I, The Jury’ or ‘One Lonely Night’, then you’re likely to be disappointed. Yes, Hammer has his savage moments in ‘The Body Lovers’, his the rules be damned way of dealing with things.  But that’s not the core of Hammer in this book, not at all.

And why should it be? I think Mickey Spillane is often underrated as an author, especially when compared to others in his field.  Spillane’s Hammer grew and developed with each book, sometimes slightly, sometimes dramatically.  Spillane revealed facets to this dark diamond, and Mike often exceeded, but sometimes regressed to the character at his most primal.  To say that Mike Hammer remained the same throughout each book and what changed was the story around him, which several have insinuated, is unfair to both the author and the character, as well as the reader.

‘The Body Lovers’ puts a more methodical, a more detective like Mike Hammer on stage for all to see, a man who doesn’t have to prove how violent he can be or out of control his methods are, because we know that already.  The fact that Mike is the center of most of the news stories when he just stumbles across the body at the beginning of the book establishes that he is good copy, that he has a reputation.  And although that is a recurrent theme in the book, Spillane does not feel like he has to prove to us that Mike can only be that.  We see Mike work a case from the ground up, after spending a few pages trying to not even be involved.  Mike’s street wise intelligence shines through much more in this book than does his reliance on shooting his way out of things that so many people associate with the character.  ‘The Body Lovers’ is definitely Spillane at not only the top of his Mike Hammer game, but showing his chops as a true author with every single page.

‘The Body Lovers’ is an easy five out of five pages.  Not a missed beat anywhere between the covers.

It’s also a fully loaded six out of six bullets.  Spillane balances violence, crime solving, and characterization like the truly professional author he was, and in my opinion, this is what makes him one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century.

 

 

 

 

Book Review- He Done Her Wrong: A Toby Peters Mystery by Stuart Kaminsky

Title: He Done Her Wrong: A Toby Peters Mystery

Author: Stuart Kaminsky

Format: Paperback edition by iBooks

Published: 2001

hedoneherwrong

If you’ve read my reviews, it’s no doubt that I am a massive fan of detective stories, particularly series.  It will also be evident to you, depending on how long you’ve been reading these, that I have already reviewed a Toby Peters book by Stuart Kaminsky, the one that precedes He Done Her Wrong in the series, by coincidence.  Even with that, though, this particular volume of Toby’s adventures left me less than satisfied, unlike almost every other Kaminsky book with Peters in it that I’ve read.

He Done Her Wrong opens with Toby in a room full of Mae Wests in 1942.  He has been invited to a party by the aging starlet who turned sarcasm into a career because West needs to get back a tell all manuscript that she’s penned from a blackmailer, who is to attend the party, a shindig that required all attendees to come as the hostess herself.  Toby encounters the bad guy, gets walloped pretty good, and the chase is then on. A chase that leads to two murders, Toby taking on protecting Cecil B. Demille as well, and even a short stint in an insane asylum for our hero.  Along the way, Toby uncovers family secrets, both of those he comes into contact with and even of his own family and takes quite a pounding, both physically and otherwise while doing it.

On the surface, this is a typical Stuart Kaminsky Toby Peters tale. Toby argues with his police officer brother, who is actually the person who involves Toby in this case, and he calls on his wonderful cast of friends, including the ever dapper little person Gunther Wherthman and the poetic giant Jeremy Butler, for help.  There is the requisite mix of classic Hollywood lore that Kaminsky is known for and Toby’s typical more bad than good luck is evident as well. Almost too much so, as a matter of fact.

He Done Her Wrong at best is just a typical Toby Peters tale.  Throughout the story, there is a heavy feeling that Kaminsky for some reason decided to put Toby through as much punishment as humanly possible, pitting him against a villain who seems to be one step ahead of him every step of the way. The twist at the end is good, but not enough to salvage the book from the feeling that this was simply and excuse to show in painful measures that Toby isn’t really that great at his job, but truly just does stumble through cases, as he is known for saying.

Another thing about this particular book that isn’t evident in other Peters stories is that Kaminsky spends pages on completely useless near interludes.  One of the running subplots in the Peters books is that Toby’s landlady, Mrs. Plaut, is writing her family history and she’s convinced Toby is an editor, so she delivers pieces of the book to him in different novels.  In He Done Her Wrong, Kaminsky actually spends 2-3 pages quoting Mrs. Plaut’s family treatise and this does nothing but slow down an already weak story.   He does something else similar when Toby is in the sanitarium, devoting pages to essentially a soliloquy that simply adds nothing to the action or the pacing of the tale at all.

He Done Her Wrong gets three out of five pages from me.  It is definitely one of the weakest entrants into the Toby Peters series and, if it’s the first one a reader picks up, will be the reason that reader doesn’t go any farther.  Something completists will want to read, but that’s about it.

This one gets three out of six bullets from me.  Read it if You haven’t and You like Toby. But don’t waste your time if you don’t already like the character from other better Kaminsky novels.

Writer Wednesday – Steven Manchester

Let’s start with the basics.
Tell us (briefly) about you…

I’m a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, where I promised that I would chase my lifelong dreams of being a writer. When not spending time with my beautiful wife, Paula, or my four children, I’m out promoting my works or writing. Visit: http://www.StevenManchester.com

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’m the author of my new release, The Rockin’ Chair, as well as the #1 best seller, Twelve Months. I’m also the author of A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), the heart-warming prequel to Goodnight, Brian. My work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of my short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m rewriting a manuscript that I finished some years ago, entitled, Pressed Pennies. I expect that it will be released early 2014.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
In Mrs. Parson’s 4th grade class, I had two poems published in a classroom anthology. This had an enormous impact on me; I really thought it was quite the accomplishment.

What are your three favorite books?
The Bible; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (amongst many others)

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
No more than two at a time, and right now I’m actually reviewing a manuscript for a fellow writer.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I __
lose myself to the world around me.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Re-read!

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely—given that the recommendation comes from someone I know.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very likely—especially when I know the writer (I’ll do whatever I can to help promote them).

What do you look for in a good book?
I believe that good books make people think, while great books make people feel. I look for raw emotion.

Why do you write?
I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d finally done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
A stand-up comedian (I’m joking, of course).

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My wife and children!

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That my life will be spent in the quest of knowledge; that I possess the determination to make my dreams come true.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
I’ve been at it for nearly two decades now. I think that the people in my life enjoy sharing the journey with me. And for me, it wouldn’t mean nearly as much if I couldn’t share it all.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Work ethic; there’s a belief that writers sit around all day—in the comfort of their homes—tinkering with words. In truth, I’ve never worked harder at anything my entire life.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The rejection rates are insane. I really enjoy working with new writers and this is what I share with them; things I wish I had known at the beginning of my career:
Be true to yourself, always.

  • Write constantly.
  • Keep the faith!!!
  • And NEVER, EVER, EVER quit. Most people in this industry would agree that more than talent or skill or even luck, perseverance is the one trait that will always get the job done.
  • Knock on every door you can, and keep knocking. I promise that eventually someone will open and the warmth you feel on your face will more than validate every hour spent alone in the darkness.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Writing is a discipline as much as it is a passion for me, so as I continue to put in the work, my talent has developed. When comparing my recent works with my earlier work, I can’t help but to cringe at times. But I suppose that’s the nature of things and most writers feel the same.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
The Rockin’ Chair—as a film!

How do you deal with your fan base?
As personally as possible. I appreciate all the feedback and the support, so I go out of my way to share the same.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know __ about me.
That although I write tear-jerkers, I’m really more of a clown in real life.

Anything else we should know?
My favorite saying: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

Book Review – Kinsey & Me by Sue Grafton

Kinsey & Me

Sue Grafton

Hardback

2013

 

So, if you’re not familiar, Kinsey Millhone is a gumshoe who goes around solving crime for the incredible price of thirty dollars an hour plus expenses in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc).  The novels started about thirty years ago, but before that, there were a few short stories.

 

In this book, the stories were finally bound together.

 

Actually, it was first an intro, then a bunch of stories about Kinsey, then a second intro of sorts, then a few stories about… I don’t know who.  But I’ll get to that in a minute.

 

The Kinsey stories were decent.  There were a couple that were too short to be really good.  But the problem that I had was that Sue’s writing style doesn’t lend to a lot of story.  What you get, as with any awesome cozy mystery, is a bunch of characters that you really like.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s just that, in Kinsey’s world, you have some really incredible awesome characters.  And I seriously missed  Rosie in her dive of a restaurant, and Henry Pitts, her incredibly sweet, elderly landlord, and her interaction with cops and friends and whatever else.

Like I said, they weren’t bad, they just weren’t nearly as rounded out as the novels.  And I think that was part of the problem.  Had I not read the novels, I would have liked most of these stories a lot better.

 

Okay, next was a second prologue of sorts, a short intro by Sue before you launched into the And Me part of this book.  Except here’s my issue.  Some of the stories were about a character named Kit and written in third person, and some were written in third person, and even some were written in second person.  And I was sort of unsure if they were all fiction, even though the book sort of leans towards them being that.

Sue is an incredible writer; I actually liked her first person stuff better as a short story, and she managed second person quite well, which most writers can’t do.  I teetered between giving this book a three and a four, and in the end, when I couldn’t recall what most of the stories were about by just their title, it was clear.  Three out of five pages.  Worth a read, but not as good as the novels.

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