Saturday, February 28, 2015

Japantown


Jim Brodie #1: “Japantown” by Barry L. Lancet. Brodie lives in San Francisco where he owns an art shop, specializing in Japanese art and Asian artifacts. He is also half owner of Brodie Security in Tokyo, Japan, his co-owner was his father’s partner in the business, and Jim inherited his share when his father died. Jim Brodie is also a single father raising a six-year-old girl alone since his wife died in a fire.
Then one night his friend, Lieutenant Frank Renna of the San Francisco Police Department called for his assistance at a crime scene in Japantown. At the scene of the brutal murder of a Japanese family and their bodyguard, a scrap of paper with a unique character printed on it is found near the bodies. Lt. Renna hopes Brodie can identify the Japanese character and give them a clue to the killers. The same symbol had been at the scene of Brodie’s wife’s death, and this may prove that she was also murdered. Though he doesn’t know the meaning of the characters, he promises to use his detective agency in Japan to research it.
The next day he is approached by a billionaire Japanese businessman who wants to hire Brodie to investigate the killing also. He explains that the woman murdered in Japantown was his daughter. But Brodie learns the man has other reasons, as well. And before the case concludes, Brodie, his company investigators in Japan, and the San Francisco police will be up against professional killers: The Soga; a private army of assassins for hire of Japanese origin based somewhere overseas.
This was a fun and exciting read, with the action set in both America and Japan. There were a lot of similarities between Jack Seward’s Curt Stone, and Earl Norman’s Burns Bannion, but better written (maybe not the same kind of fun as Burns Bannion, though, but much better written). The Soga group reminded me of CYPHER, the organization of ex-soldiers who were also an army of hired assassins The Shadow put out of business in that series. The difference being, CYPHER was an organization made up of trained soldiers, Soga is made up of martial arts experts from all walks of life. But the ideals are the same. This thrill-a-minute action will keep the reader turning the pages.


Friday, February 6, 2015

The Inn of The Sixth Happiness

“The Inn of The Sixth Happiness” (“The Small Woman”) by Alan Burgess. Gladys Aylward, named by the Chinese, Ai-weh-deh (the Virtuous Woman), was a mere parlor-maid in London, but she had a burning desire to go to China as a missionary to preach the Word of God. She did not have the education to achieve her dream, so saved her small wages until she had enough train-fare to cross over Siberia and enter China, eventually arriving in Shansi to help the missionary there.  With Jeannie Lawson, they open The Inn of Eight Happinesses (The Inn of The Sixth Happiness must be the movie title only). Upon Jeannie’s death, Gladys continues her work, and from being a hated white devil, she wins over the respect of the locals, until she becomes beloved for her tireless efforts to help them.
This is a true story about The Small Woman who accomplished many miracles while dedicating her life to the people in China, eventually leading 100 children over the mountains to safety from the invading Japanese Army in early 1940, during their push into China. Almost fatally wounded, she is returned to England for medical treatment, and then was refused back into China. She loved China, and became fluent in the mountain dialect where she lived and taught, and had actually become a Chinese citizen. Basically, she gave up her life in England to live in her adopted country, and fell in love with a Chinese Army colonel, but never married. Unable to return to China, she taught and preached in England until finally settling in Taiwan, where she started the Gladys Aylward Orphanage. She remained there until her death, never returning to China.
This was a very interesting book, filled with action, adventure, and danger. It records the terror of the Japanese invasion in China during the late 1930s and early ‘40s. Highly recommended for history lovers, and anyone looking for an exciting read about true-life adventure and danger.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Kill Me In Roppongi & Kill Me In Atami For Trade

FOR TRADE
Kill Me In Roppongi & Kill Me In Atami

Burns Bannion #9: “Kill Me In Roppongi” by Earl Norman (Norman Thompson). In this final novel of the “Kill Me In …” series, Hedges sends ex-Stars & Stripes newspaperman, Addis Racquets to him for help. Racquets now runs his own small paper, and has received a death threat along with an ad. He hires Bannion to answer the ad, and find out what’s going on. Although Inspector Izawa and Hedges are mentioned, they have no active part in this story. It involves the IOON (International Order of Nationalists) Nazi organization. They are running an illegal abortion scheme in Japan, bringing women from all over the world that need an abortion, then blackmailing them to work as their sex spies. Unfortunately, this was the final Burns Bannion novel. Not a great series, but definitely a fun one with sex and karate as the main theme. The series was published by Berkley in the U.S., but distribution in the Far East must have been poor, so Norman Thompson, who had contacts with the military and Stars & Stripes, had the series printed by a Japanese publisher under his ERLE BOOKS Logo. This enabled him to get his books on the racks in the PX system of military bases, where millions of G.I.s became familiar with them. I don’t know if Berkley was aware of this double-dealing or not. Sadly, the ERLE Editions seem to have been printed without editing or proofing, so there are many typos in them. If readers have a choice, buy the American editions published by Berkley instead. Actually, I’m not sure if Berkley even published the last two stories or not.  This one is only 49k, kind of short for a paperback. I have a pdf of this one for trade.



Burns Bannion #6: “Kill Me In Atami” by Earl Norman (Norman Thompson). This one could have been a Bud & Lou comedy film. Bannion is hired by a wealthy widow, Mrs. Hikonami. She wants a renter removed from her estate. Legal action would take years, but she wants Bannion to see that he leaves early, even if it means a karate chop to back of the neck. But there’s more to the case, as he soon finds out. The widow’s husband was murdered by a karate blow to the back of the head, forcing the head into a sharp instrument, but everybody says it was a suicide. En route to the estate, Bannion picks up a ‘wooley booger’ girl (read the book to find out) who loves sex, but someone hangs him and pins a suicide note on his chest. Arriving at the mansion, he finds the widow’s sister, Fujiwara, and Mrs. Hikonami’s daughter, Asako.  The three women are exact images of each other. Over the next three nights, the power goes off, and one of them enters his room to seduce him, but he never knows which one. Except that it isn’t the 300-pound maid, who also knows karate. There are hidden passages behind a bookcase, tunnels beneath the mansion, and monsters lurking about the tunnels and an abandoned sanitarium nearby. More supposed suicides happen, men hanging in the tunnel, and Bannion’s wooley booger girl inside the sanitarium. This is one of my favorites in the series. Thought Hedges is mentioned, he isn’t in this story. Inspector Ezawa introduces Bannion to Mrs. Hikonami, and then we don’t see him any more. Oddly, this is the only Burns Bannion novel not reprinted in the ERLE Edition in Japan. It’s only available in the American Berkley 1962 printing. I might add at this point that the Berkley editions were well edited, while the Japanese ERLE editions were not. This Berkley edition paperback is for trade.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Land of Precious Snow

“Land of Precious Snow” by Thaddeus Tuleja.  Young Jethro Dey and his father travel to Tibet in search of precious white gold, but they are attacked by bandits and all are killed. Jethro believes he is also dead, but after a few days lying in the frozen snow, a man appears almost as a vision, naked, but unaffected by the cold and ice. He tends to the young American for several months until he is strong enough to travel, then the old man leads him to a monastery many miles away. In the meantime, one of his friends has set out to find Jethro and his dad, hoping they are still alive. It is a long journey, and finally they meet at the monastery. But now Jethro is a new man, and wishes to remain, not for the gold, but for deeper understanding. He gives up his belief in Christian religion, and accepts Eastern beliefs. This was written in Victorian style, as indeed, it’s the era the story takes place. I’ve never been a fan of Victorian fiction, however. The author is a historian, and also wrote the K’ing Kung Fu series as Marshall Macao, another series I couldn’t get into. “Land of Precious Snow” was supposed to be the first in a new Green Lama series, with Jethro Dumont’s name changed to Jethro Dey. This novel, however, was merely how Jethro reached the monastery, and the writing was too academic to be of interest. There were supposed to be three more novels after this one, but none appeared. Probably due to the negative response the first story received. We never see him as The Green Lama, so the book was a waste. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Doorways To Danger


Doorways To Danger by Mark Napier. Sam Cape, an Australian officer is on leave from Pacific patrol duty, and picks Singapore because it’s a big place with lots to do. Plus, he’s a friend of the local police chief. After a night of hard drinking he wakes to find a nude blonde in his bathtub, strangled. How did she get there? Who killed her? Then a rich British gentleman and his daughter show up He wants him to find the murderer of his son. He’s on vacation, he tells them, but his friend in the police department was sure he would help them. It was just something that would interest him more than drinking and chasing women. This was a nice little mystery with plenty of women, Chinese Tong killers, and local crooks. My copy is the original hardback published in the UK in 1966. I can’t find out anything about the author, and I’m not sure this book was even published in the US, but it is a good story and well worth searching for.