Saturday, April 12, 2014

Nymph to the Slaughter - Carter Brown

For a breathtaking moment she floated above the couch, then gently came to rest real close beside me. At that range I could see it was a two-piece outfit, and not completely transparent, although the ten percent that wasn't really didn't matter. 

Signet, June 1963
It's for dames like the one floating above the couch, or that nifty babe on the Oriental rug on the cover above, that guys go into the detective business. Sure, you have to take some lumps along the way, get used to walking around with a gun in your back, but eventually, if you get lucky like our friend Danny Boyd does in this novel, you get to wake up and share coffee and toast with a hot little chick named Kitty, sitting across from you in nothing but her leopard-print undies. There are definitely worse things in life.

Carter Brown (Alan Geoffrey Yates) was born in England and lived in Australia, where he wrote a slew of mystery novels set in the U.S. featuring several different, yet somewhat randy, detectives. Nymph to the Slaughter, from 1963 features Danny Boyd, a tough Manhattan private eye with a talent for smart-assed quips and getting involved with dangerous dames. In this case he's hired by a hookah puffing cat named Osman Bey to find the missing daughter of a partner. Seems Osman Bey wasn't too careful at insuring the missing girl's safety on her recent arrival to Manhattan. And it's no wonder, since she was bringing with her a rare book loaded with smuggled diamonds. Boyd is sent to a seedy joint named The Ottoman Club where he encounters a deadly belly-dancer named Leila Zenta, and her boyfriend Frankie Lomax. And if those two weren't problems enough, there is nattily attired Julie Kern, the club's manager, always popping up expectantly with gun in hand. The gang at the Ottoman Club are on the hook for a delivery of some kind to another person named Corlis. Turns out that Corlis is Beatrice Corlis,  an aging nympho who lives in a fortress estate on Long Island. The old bat likes to keep her meek husband on a leash while a couple of house thugs pleasure her on the side. It's all very confusing and gets pretty convoluted in a mere 125 pages, with everyone double crossing each other and lying to Danny Boyd the whole time. Still, there are a couple of dames ready to drop their pants for our hero, which helps, and before you know it, the whole thing is wrapped up in a blood-spattered resolution that ultimately leads Danny Boyd between the legs of another young lovely lass like the one described in the quote above.

I've read a couple Carter Brown novels over the years. The best things about them are their awesome covers by Robert McGinnis. They're always a reliable, quick read and not a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon. They used to be easy to find in used bookstores, but with fewer bookstores out there, you might have to do a little extra hunting to get some. Just don't let some greedy bastard overcharge you for copies.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Pollinators of Eden - John Boyd

"To my knowledge, you’re the first woman who ever did it to a flower, and the first case of space madness located in the primary erogenic zone."

Dell - November 1970
The Pollinators of Eden by John Boyd had the goods to be way more fun than it was. Plant sex, weird experiments, a smoking hot yet frigid babe, space travel, talking tulips, and hot orchids! Right? Well…not so fast. Instead, these pulpy ingredients got stirred into a novel that, after all is said and done, more is said than done. There are some cool moments and intriguing ideas presented, and yes, there is a pretty hot space orchid-on-woman scene (the orchid’s name is Suzy, if it matters), but that comes way too late in the novel. Long past the point that many readers would have likely bailed and missed it. I didn't bail, and I sort of glad for it. But that didn't make the novel much fun getting there.

A brief rundown: In the year 2237, Dr. Freda Caron is a cystologist for the Bureau of Exotic Plants. Her fiancĂ©, Paul Theaston, is due back from an expedition on Flora, or the Flower Planet. Instead of returning as scheduled, Paul has decided to remain on Flora and continue is studies of the plant life there. In his place, he sends back an assistant, Hal Polino, and a couple of native tulips that have some very unusual characteristics. Freda is a bit miffed at Paul’s decision and isn't too thrilled at getting an eager, smitten assistant in his place. The tulips have this weird ability to mimic sounds, including speech. They’re also single sexed, instead of having both male and female parts, that we're all supposed to have remembered learning in high school biology. Hal and Freda set up studying the plants, and do a lot of verbal teasing back and forth in the process. Freda soon learns that Paul is more than just interested in the studying the plant life on Flora. In fact, he’s gone native there, and is now living among the plants with no intention of returning. Then there is a sideline to the plot where Freda goes to Washington D.C. for a hearing on the potential colonization of Flora. By this point I lost most interest, because while everyone is talking, they’re all really starting to sound like the same person. Most dialog is delivered in a smart-alecky tone where nothing feels serious, or is to be taken seriously. Okay, maybe a book that features plant-on-human sex isn't so serious, but I at least wanted the characters to seem to care a little about the world they’re skipping around in. Ultimately we’re teased by the plot, along with the characters' endless banter, slowly learning that Freda can drink four martinis before she’s in danger of succumbing to her buried horny nature. Okay, we also learn that the procreating tulips display a lethal talent for self-preservation. Hal, and a few other unfortunates, learn this the hard way. But Freda doesn't seem so much concerned for them as she does for finagling a way to avoid getting a gig in the loony bin in Houston in lieu of a ticket to Flora to rescue Paul…remember Paul?

The other gripe I had is that for a novel that takes place in the year 2237, there seems to be very little progress, beyond interplanetary travel, since the year 1969. People still use telephones, paper, mail, film and concepts like marriage, psychology, and mental health, hasn't changed either. It creates a disassociation between the reader and the book. It’s a world that is too familiar, too old-fashioned and absent from the wonder of its themes. I almost envied the victims of “space-madness” described so poetically and wished that one of them was holding a starring role instead of Freda.

The Pollinators of Eden is really a bit too boring to recommend. I will admit that maybe I’m not the right reader for it. Maybe there were things I missed out in it by rushing to the finish. So it’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to search out for. 

I will add that the cover by Paul Lehr (shown here) is terrific. I’m keeping it in my collection for the cover alone.

And…who knows, there is that hot babe-on-orchid scene that may get a dramatic reading from me at some point in the near future, when I've had four martinis to loosen my inhibitions that is.