Friday, September 25, 2015

Under Cover of Night

Under Cover of Night by Manning Lee Stokes. Originally published in 1957/58 by DELL, then reprinted in 1969 by MacFadden Books during the men’s adventure craze. Bob Fitzhugh had worked in Korea prior to the war, and now that it’s over he works as rewrite for the Cleveland Bulletin. His pal on the paper gets him an assignment back to Korea to write a series of articles on G.I.s stationed in Korea after the war. His pal has hidden plans for Fitzhugh, however. During the war he had been assigned to help a finance officer carry a million dollars from Seoul to a forward base to pay troops. They were attacked by rebels and driven into the mountains, only to be attacked by an allied fighter plane that killed the rebels. His pal had hidden the money, then made his way back to the front lines. Now that the war was over he wanted that million dollars, but a heart condition kept him from returning. That’s where Fitzhugh comes in. They will split the million dollars, if his pal will retrieve the money. He will tell Fitzhugh where it’s hidden.

The million dollars sounds good to Fitzhugh, so he agrees. Only things aren’t as easy as it appears. The C.I.D., Korean rebels, and Korean commies also know the rumor and story behind the hidden cash. His pal had been kept under surveillance and it was known the minute Fitzhugh reached Korea, and he doesn’t know whom he can trust. This was one of the early novels by Manning Lee Stokes. He would write many of the men’s adventure novels through the 60s and 70s, under numerous pseudonyms and house names. Most of them would be hit and miss. My main complaint with many of them was his lack of knowledge of the countries where his stories were set; usually the settings seemed false. But in “Under Cover of Night” he knowledge of Korea appears very believable, and I’m guessing he spent time in Korea, or knew someone that had. Although the story fairly slow, the characters were interesting, and it was definitely a fun read.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Danger In Paradise

Danger In Paradise by A. S. Fleishman. (Gold Medal Books, 1953) Jeff Cape, an oil geologist recently of Java, is on a stopover in Buleleng, Indonesia, on his way back to America. While the boat is in Port for a few hours, he decides to get a beer at Father Jon’s Bar. He’s approached by a beautiful woman he suspects is a White Russian; she wants him to carry a message to the CIA for her and gives him a card. It’s written in Russian, so he can’t read the message. Leaving the bar he sees a fat man trailing him, and decides to ditch the tail, but misses the boat, and has to hide. Things get worse, and he wants to find the girl again, but others are searching for her too.

This was very similar to those Dan Cushman novels, but without the great dialogue Cushman was noted for. Rebels are terrorizing the island, and someone is selling them guns. If the terrorists don’t kill him, the gunrunners might. A nice plot, with good action, and a fun read.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hang Me In Hong Kong

HANG ME IN HONG KONG by Earl Norman. This is a Rick Shaw novel, published in 1976 by JADE ORIENT. Earl Norman (Norman Thompson) wasn’t a polished writer, but his novels set in Japan and Hong Kong were lots of fun. Thompson, a karate black belt himself, wrote excellent fight scenes, with some nice plots. Berkley Books published six of his Burns Bannion novels in the US, then Norman self published five of them in Japan, plus three not released in the US, and sold them through the military bases PX and Stars & Stripes to US military personnel in the Orient. Nine novels in all, featuring Burns Bannion, then a final novel featuring Rick Shaw that is extremely rare. Does anyone have this book for sale, trade, or will photocopy it for me if they don’t want to sell it?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Chinese Bell Murders

Judge Dee #1: “The Chinese Bell Murders” by Robert Van Gulik.  Actually, this is the third published Judge Dee work, though the first published in the US. It is also the first case of Judge Dee in Poo-yang Province. Judge Dee Jen-djieh comes to the Poo-yang tribunal in the 7th Century China, with his four aides – Lieutenants Ma Joeng, Chiao Tai, & Tao Gan, along with his close associate, Sergeant Hoong. Three mysteries are awaiting him as he replaces the previous Judge. The rape and murder of a young girl on Half Moon Street, mysterious going-on at the Temple of Boundless Mercy, and a feud between the Laing family and Lin Fan, in which a number of murders have been committed, as well as smuggling. How the judge unravels all the mysteries and brings the cases to a satisfying conclusion is a fun read, and we get to know Dee and his aides personally as their investigation progresses.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Assignment Peking

Sam Durell #28: “Assignment Peking” by Edward S. Aarons. Supposedly K-Section and E-Section of the CIA are at each other’s throats. Someone wants K-Section and General McFee shut down; McFee brings Durell in for assignment to Piking, but he’s under orders to E-Section. Jasmine Jones, a Chinese/American is assigned to keep an eye on Sam, but no one is to be trusted, even Jasmine, McFee, or the general in charge of E-Section. Surgery makes Durell look like Major Shan, a Chinese agent, who is supposed to be dead, but then Shan returns to complicate matters, and we find that there’s a third element playing both sides against each other. Code-named The Six Sentinels, they are an American group wanting China to drop an atomic bomb on Taiwan, bringing a nuclear war between the US and China. Actually, I felt this plot was too complicated for its simplicity. US Intelligence should have been able to uncover the third party with ease, and Durell would have been unnecessary. But being a Sam Durell action novel, we get to watch his cold efficiency in preparing to kill McFee or anyone else involved. A fun read.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Saigon Singer

Major North #15: “Saigon Singer” (1946) by Van Wyck Mason. Colonel Hugh North resigns his rank of colonel to remain a field agent. G-2 has received word that someone in Saigon can give them the names of British and Americans who consorted with a Japanese general, identifying our agents, resulting in their deaths. Now America and British governments want them brought to trial for treason.  His cover is a safari to shoot tigers in Indo-China, and his contact will come to him. The British sends their man, Brigadier Bruce Kilgore to assist Major North. Pamela Saunders, an American prisoner during the Japanese occupation, had the mistress of the general in order to survive, and she has the records. A gifted opera singer in Saigon, she wants money that will take her to the Stage in Paris and New York, and will reveal the secret for the right price – if North can keep her alive.
This was a good plot, but lacked action. I was mainly disappointed in the lack of detail of Indo-China in 1946. This was right after WWII, and the defeat of Germany and Japan. Indo-China was a colony of France, and everyone involved in the Saigon case is American or European. We do get this brief description: At the more important intersections diminutive gendarmes in conical lampshade hats used white batons in languid efforts to direct traffic. Nobody appeared to give them more than casual and tolerant consideration. Chinese, Annamite, Malay, Negroid, Caucasian, Sikhs, and Arabs hustled about.
I did enjoy the writing, no matter how boring it was. The author used a lot of words that kept me reaching for the dictionary, and I enjoy finding new words to play with. For instance, the following:
Definitely callopegic, eh?”
“The word, old boy, is callipygian.”
“What kind of double talk is that?” a third party wondered.
“Merely a brief dissertation upon the pulchritudinous merits of the charming nymphs of the asphalt who just passed.”
Well, my dictionary could not find callopegic or callipygian, but pulchritudinous tells us they were discussing the beauty of street hookers.
I’m not sure who the Annamites were, but supposed they are the local inhabitants – Vietnamese. The final confrontation came twenty miles from Saigon, in one of my old stomping grounds, Bien Hoa, so that tickled me, though it would be 24 years later when I arrived. The French Colonists controlled Saigon and Indo-China, and whether the author meant to or not, it didn’t paint a very good picture colonialism.  Still, the plot was good, and the story interesting, even if there wasn’t much action on the part of our hero. It was a fun read, regardless.