Friday, April 29, 2011

FFB: "No Chance In Hell" by Nick Quarry---Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Barry Ergang is back today with his review of No Chance In Hell by Nick Quarry.

NO CHANCE IN HELL (1960) by Nick Quarry
Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Marvin H. Albert wrote a variety of novels under a variety of pseudonyms, among them Albert Conroy, J.D. Christilian, Ian MacAlister, and Anthony Rome. (The Rome titles included two that served as the basis for two films starring Frank Sinatra: "Tony Rome" and "Lady in Cement.") He also wrote a number of books as Nick Quarry, six of which starred New York private detective Jake Barrow.

No Chance in Hell is fast-paced tale of chaos stretching from New York City to Santa Fe. Showing off his expensive new apartment to his girlfriend Sandy, herself an undercover cop, Barrow discovers that a sixteen-year-old girl named Nina Cloud has climbed in through a rear window. Her father Johnny Cloud, an old wartime friend of Barrow's, has told her to seek out the detective for protection after a woman she was staying with is murdered.

Barrow, worried that Johnny Cloud's phone may be tapped, doesn't want to call his New Mexico ranch from the apartment for fear his—Barrow's—own number might prove traceable, so he leaves Nina in Sandy's care and goes out to make the call. He learns that Cloud, who occasionally drives big rigs for an Albuquerque trucking company to supplement his income, left for New York several days earlier. Returning to the apartment, he finds that Sandy has been shot and that Nina is gone.

Barrow also knows that a vicious killer named Ben Hanks—probably the same man who shot Sandy—is after her, and he wants to get to Hanks before he can harm Nina. As his investigation expands, he learns that Harvey Kew, who has his hand in a number of rackets but who has so far evaded prosecution, is mixed up in whatever Johnny Cloud has gotten himself into—because it gradually becomes clearer that Cloud is involved somehow. As it turns out, he's in a New York hospital recovering from gunshot wounds, but he won't tell Barrow or the police what's going on until he's assured Nina is safe. Whoever is after him intends to use Nina to prevent him from talking.

As his investigation progresses, Barrow is framed by Ben Hanks for the savage murder of a teenaged boy who was sheltering Nina, and now must manage to escape from cops and evade killers while he searches for the girl. He wants to save her life, of course, but he also realizes she's the only person who can clear him of a murder charge. Aided by Johnny Cloud's beautiful sister, who goes by the appropriate nickname Stormy, he must make his way across the country to New Mexico to save Nina and force a showdown with Hanks.

How I can adequately describe No Chance in Hell without resorting to clich├ęs like "action-packed" and "hardboiled"? It's simple. I can't. It is. Should I tell you it moves like a runaway train? Well, yeah, provided you understand it's the Bullet Train. And I guess I should mention that there are a couple of high-tension chapters in which Barrow, trying to get away from the police after he's been framed, must make his way almost blindly through a network of underground sewer pipes—a section that vaguely reminded me of a couple of chapters in Ian Fleming's Dr. No, which predated No Chance in Hell by two years. I suppose I should point out as a forewarning to squeamish readers that Albert/Quarry, like many another author of paperback originals from this era, liked to dwell on the physical attributes of female characters in some detail, as well as write descriptions of sexual encounters that were overheated and overwrought to the point of being unintentionally comical—to wit: "There was a roaring and pounding of blood in my ears, a hot liquid urgency coursing all through me...I pulled her closer in a rising madness and she was all coiled, supple strength sheathed in springy softness—by turns provoking, refusing, demanding, retracting, assaulting...And then her teeth were sinking into my shoulder, stifling her gasping cries of pain and delight, and a furious whirlwind of savage sensation swept me and I was attacking her slim agile wickedness in a mounting, driving frenzy...."


Although it seems at first to be a straightforward thriller whose protagonist happens to be a private eye, No Chance in Hell also turns out to be a genuine detective story, with Barrow at the end resolving the mystery of who wounded and later killed Harvey Kew. His explanation of what happened and how he deduced it runs a tad longer than necessary, but nevertheless shows that Barrow is a detective who can use his brain as well as his fists and gun.      

Barry Ergang © 2011

Winner of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer Award for the best flash fiction story of 2006, Barry Ergang’s written work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. No Chance in Hell is one of the many books Barry has for sale—see


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Giving Up Another Piece Of Me

A lot has changed in my life the last thirteen months plus since the morning of March 15, 2010. I lost my job and income, gone broke, lost my insurance, been sued by Citibank and their third party debt collectors Allen Adkins and Associates (hearing still scheduled for May 16, 2010), had to file for Social Security Disability, food stamps and beg for help in public to pay my rent. All that has been bad, but it is the little things that destroy me.

I don’t go for walks anymore because I can’t walk. I have not been to a park in forever it seems. I can’t go fishing in the creek here because I can’t get down the bank to do it. Even if I could stand for five minutes straight, getting there is impossible. Sitting anywhere for more than about five to ten minutes is nearly impossible now. I have not been in a bookstore since right before this all started with me. If I go shopping anywhere, they have to have those little motorized cart thingies so that I can get around the store.My life has shrunk down to my apartment, the TV, and the computer.

Yesterday, I had to give up another piece of me. Since the brutal record cold of January and February and a number of falls back then, whatever is wrong with me seems to have spread into my hands. Especially my left arm and hand will burn with the same pain that fired down my left leg and is occasionally present in the right. Some mornings, like this morning, I wake up and I am completely numb down both arms with no feeling in my arms or hands. Some mornings, like this morning, after I roll over onto my back and wait about fifteen minutes, the feeling comes back with a rush of tingles and spasms and then the burning starts up and I can move my fingers again.

I am falling more than I ever have before despite using the cane 100 percent of the time. Whatever is wrong with me is clearly getting much worse.  Yesterday I resigned my unpaid Assistant Editor position at Tangent Online. It had been something I had been thinking about possibly having to do since late February when it was very clear to me that things were getting worse. The last month has made it very clear to me that my time there was drawing to a close. I was desperately trying to hang in until Dave Truesdale returned and caught up. He came back last week and was already fully caught up by yesterday. So, I tendered my resignation. Ironically, while it took months to get my name and contact information added to the website, it took less than 24 hours to remove that same information.

So, another little piece of me is gone like I never was there.  For now, I hope to keep doing my review column for the newspaper Senior News. I hope to somehow be able to write a little bit of my own fiction as well. More than anything, I just hope to survive and not get any worse.

Hopefully, I am not asking for too much.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: "Baby Grape and Huskey" by Thom Rogers

It is 1845 as this engaging young adult novel by Thom Rodgers opens with a scene too familiar to both children and adults. Bullying has always been a problem and for young Toby the morning conflict is with an older boy known to terrorize the other kids that work in the area shops. He isn't about to let the older boy steal his pocket knife--- the same pocket knife his father gave him. Using a bull whip for maximum effectiveness, Toby manages to get his pocket knife back as well as teach the older boy a lesson he will never forget.

At age 14, Toby has experienced a lot and is supporting the family by working as an apprentice to Abe in a local workshop. They are almost finished making a large whiskey still Toby's main job has been to get inside the still and hold the buck hammer against the rivets while Abe pounds them into place from the outside. It is noisy work but Toby is glad to have work in the workshop his father once worked in.

But, change is about to upheave Toby's young life yet again. Just days after his father died, Toby is wanted by the police for the well-deserved whipping he gave that boy, and is going to have to leave his Pittsburg home. The shop owner, Mr. Rodgers, is going to help Toby by sending him with a guy named Lew to deliver the still he has been working on to the new owner up in Sligo. Going north for a hundred miles and back will take weeks and hopeful by the time Toby gets back everything will be sorted out. Toby is not sure Lew is anybody he wants to be with based on what he remembers his father saying about the man, but with the cops and a judge looking for him, he does not have much of a choice.

What follows is a very enjoyable tale featuring Toby and the perils of his road trip to deliver the still and come back home. The perils are many, the friends few, and the young man is tested in ways he never saw coming. This is the tale of a young man who finds himself while discovering not only his inner resources but when to listen to others and follow their lead. Told from his viewpoint, the author skillfully shows the challenges he faces and the young man begins to head into a maturity one would not have thought possible at the beginning of this very good tale.

Well written, the tale features plenty of action and suspense along with the beginnings of a first romance. Toby is a character that many, especially young boys, will relate to and shows increasing maturity throughout the work.  A grand adventure that is sure to please not only the intended audience but the adults in their lives this book would also work well in the classroom as it imparts history at the same time it entertains. 

First in the series, this young adult novel is an adventure that is hard to put down. It is followed by “Baby Grape And The River Folk.”

Baby Grape and Huskey
Thom Rodgers
Mill City Press
ISBN #978-1-884687-88-4
250 pages

Review copy was a PDF provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Magaine Review: "Men's Journal: Live The Interesting Life"

Years and years ago, in the time of a fitter body with no gray hair and some disposable income, I looked at a couple of issues of Men's Journal. I wasn't impressed. It seemed to be aimed at the mythical super stud man's man. The guy who could and did travel anywhere, could and did anything, and had plenty of money to burn to make it all happen. To a certain extent it is still that way, though the feature articles the last few months have hooked me as a reader.

My oldest son, Karl (aka Thundercatsnyy online elsewhere) got a great deal on this magazine a little over a year ago. I skipped reading the issues as the came because of my previous experience with the product. Then sometime last summer came the issue with a feature interview on  Brett Favre and I had to read that. After I read that article, I found another piece of interest and pretty soon I was reading that issue cover to cover. A couple more interesting issues followed that one and I got hooked.

The same is true for the April 2011 issue. Certain items are always present with categories such as “Notebook” that in this issue featured brief articles on skiing Glacier National Park’s back country, exploring the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico and a very interesting piece on Buck Showalter, the former New York Yankees and Texas Ranger skipper who is now a manager for the Baltimore Orioles among other items.  I was one of those that felt Buck should not be fired by the Rangers and time has not changed my opinion of a man that was chastised repeatedly in the local media after he was gone for being too hard on his players. That may play in to why Buck has not gotten the credit he deserves for what happened with the Rangers last season despite his placing many of the pieces into place during his tenure.  

“Mind and Body” is back with small pieces on how to train for a triathlon 10 weeks , healthy packaged snacks,( yes , they really do exist though you may disagree with their suggestions) among other things.  This section always has a lot of exercise and cooking tips and this issue brings more of the same. I usually glance over this section and find nothing that will work for me in my current health situation. 

The always present “Style” section is back with the male models wearing what is considered to be fashion against the back drop of equipment from various distillers in the Hudson Valley of New York.  I never see anything in this section that appeals to me. Of course, I am the wrong demographic so the fact this section is an epic failure for me does not matter. When they start putting models (preferably ones that look like real guys I would hang out with) in cheap jeans and shirts, I will start paying attention.

Of course, the usual ads for fancy watches, various cars, insurance, health products, etc. along with short letters to the editor and small tidbits of information appear scattered throughout the magazine. Considering the point that this magazine is all about getting out in the world and doing things (depicted by exercises, places to go, etc.) the tobacco ads are an ironic touch. Also ironic, to me at least, was the inclusion of several ads for erectile dysfunction medications. Considering the demographic, one would think that the majority of readers would not need such products.

The features are what make the magazine for me when they are not doing Hollywood stuff. One can count on a tie in to whatever movie is deemed “hot” these days in every issue. The April 2011 issue continues this with a feature about Jake Gyllenhaal, leading man of the new release “Source Code.” Of course, he is a man of action befitting the magazine and his history is detailed through text and photographs showing him doing a variety of actions in a variety of places with a variety of people.  Makes James Bond look like a slacker.

Years and years ago, back in the seventies when I was a snot nosed lad (as opposed to the pot- bellied barely walking with a cane snot nosed Dad of today) I was fortunate enough to get to spend a lot of time in the parks thanks to my parents annual excursions and weekend trips. We spent a lot of time in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming among other places when I was a kid. I'm not sure which I liked better. The raw beauty of the Tetons or the explosive power of Yellowstone. I have not been back in thirty years. In “Ghost Park” writer Paul Solotaroff charts the destruction of Yellowstone as well as a large surround area in the mountains of the Western United States. Warming temps, ongoing drought, and the deaths of thousands of acres of forest land as well as other problems could create “the next outback.” This is a scary and very sobering article told through compelling words and pictures.

That is followed by a piece showing several photographs taken by Edward Burtynsky detailing man's effects in China in the US. From the massive damn construction project on China’s Yangtze River and the Nanpu Bridge Interchange in Shanghai to a plane boneyard at Davis –Monthan Air Force Base in the Arizona desert the article tells the take through large pictures and accompanying text.

All that leads into a feature celebrating their picks across the country for the best places to live, lots more ads and a couple of filler pieces, before this issue comes to a close with the survival skills of the world’s oldest man at 114.

Those who fit the demographic for this magazine will enjoy it the most. You need to be a self- starter, adventuresome type, hip and cool, with plenty of money to burn and a driving need to be perceived special in terms of fashion, cooking and your overall life style choices. 

If you are overweight, gray haired thinning out, dead broke, that has no ability or desire to travel, and your preferred fashion is comfortable clothes that may or may not have holes in them, you may be me under another name and this deal is not for you. But, that is okay because you can read the feature pics as well as some other stuff here and there and then nod knowledgeably when the twenty something mentions something in the magazine.

The secret to being cool is to fake it. “Men’s Journal: Live The Interesting Life” will help. 

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reviewing: "Double Prey" by Steven F. Havill

Located along the U.S. New Mexico border, Posadas County has served as the setting for many good books written by Steven F. Havill. This series has seen monumental shifts before and one gets the sense by the end of Double Prey another shift is underway.

A western diamond back rattlesnake is not a snake to play with. Unfortunately, Francisco, the nine year old son of Posada County Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman, and fourteen year old Butch Romero were doing just that. They were playing with it by herding it with a weed trimmer. The boys had planned to corner it and then finally kill it by cutting its head off. The snake did not much care for being messed with and as the boys toyed with it, the snake did what came naturally and repeatedly struck out at the head of the trimmer. At some point, either because Butch's aim was off or the snake hit the trimmer, the flying line ripped open the mouth of the snake and flung a fang into the right eye of Butch Romero. Not only did the fang pierce his eye, it shot venom into him. Because of that, not only may he lose an eye, he may lose his life. The small local hospital run by Estelle’s husband, Francis, does not have the resources to really help the young teenager so he has to be air lifted to the university hospital in Albuquerque. That means his family needs to get there too as fast as possible.

While his parents, George and Tata Romero are easily located and brought to the hospital, his older brother Freddy is nowhere to be found. Missing from school, as is typical for Freddy. Everybody figures he is probably tearing up the surrounding desert country side on his four wheeler like he does most days and no doubt he will turn up soon. Hours pass into another day and with Butch in critical condition; Estelle becomes more and more concerned about the missing teenager. Eventually, Estelle and former sheriff Bill Gastner, about to retire from his latest job as a livestock inspector, begin to hunt for the missing teenager. A hunt that raises many more questions than answers.

Family has always been a major theme of this series. Whether it has been the direct family or extended family that included friends, the importance of family has always been a major theme of the series. Time is a relentless force that causes changes and upheavals that many are powerless to prevent and can only be dealt with from a strong family basis. This has happened when Estelle was shot and gravely wounded, when Gastner retired, and many other events have happened in this very good series. This 17th novel in the series illustrates that concept well with one family's tragedy contrasting against not only happiness coming in Estelle's family that will change everything, but the destruction of yet another family due to events put into motion years ago.

This latest one in the series now being published by Poison Pen Press is another very good one. Filled with complexity and nuance, it is a welcome return to a county and friends that many readers think of as home. It also proves that snakes come in all shapes and sizes and some do not slither.

Steve F. Havill
Poisoned Pen Press
ISBN# 978-1-59058-782-9
306 Pages

Material supplied by the hard working and much appreciated folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011