Saturday, May 30, 2009


By Jim Thompson

Deputy Lou Ford is the kind of man who exemplifies the best in small town law enforcement. He doesn’t carry a gun. He prefers to reason with people. He prefers to keep the peace. Except that inside Lou Ford is a raging nut case, a time bomb whose first person narration ticks off the seconds to a horrific explosion.

Jim Thompson’s novel is perhaps slow, not unlike Lou, but it builds steam. The idyllic world of small town life is riven by hidden currents, secret hates that fester until they break into the open. Lou is simply the corruption and madness of his surroundings embodied.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, May 16, 2009


By Robert van Gulik

Robert van Gulik is the translator of Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee. He found such a warm reception for a two-hundred year-old Chinese detective novel that he began to write new tales of Judge Dee.

The Chinese Gold Murders is situated in the early days of Dee’s service as a magistrate (c AD 690). The good judge takes up a post in a provincial town. The judge’s predecessor is literally a predecessor. The judge has to get to the bottom of the last judge’s death before he joins him. Along the way there are encounters with highwaymen, smugglers, Korean exiles, ghosts, and mysterious priests.

The Emperor’s Pearl is similarly fast-paced fare. At the height of the Dragon Boat races, a drummer drops dead. Dee is plunged into an investigation of the man’s death. It is somehow linked to a centuries-old theft from the imperial household itself. There is also a marvelous supporting character in the form of a Mongolian lady-wrestler (I am not making this up).

Van Gulik was an expert on Chinese culture. His books are a marvelous exploration of Medieval China without any tedious lecturing. Van Gulik also has an eye for fantasy. While there are no flying swordsman action-heroes in the Judge Dee mysteries, the supernatural is never far away. Van Gulik’s Judge Dee mysteries are highly entertaining, with superb settings and engaging characters.

-Dave Hardy

Monday, May 11, 2009

REH Audio

In a hunt for something totally unrelated, I ran across these various older REH audio projects.

The first two are apparently from a 1975 radio drama series that was planned, but only these two ever got produced.

These are hosted on mediafire and you may need to register to download, but registration is free.

THE FROST GIANT'S DAUGHTER has eight Howard works recorded for free download, including Bear Creek.


Winner of the Howard Widow Lifetime Achievement Award

Sunday, May 10, 2009


By Poul Anderson

Doom, that is the word to describe Poul Anderson’s 1954 fantasy novel The Broken Sword. The tale marvelously evokes the Dark Ages and the world of Faerie as neither has been before or since. It is a fast paced tale of action and adventure suffused with tragedy, betrayal, cruelty, loss, and inexorable doom.

Like all good Viking tales, The Broken Sword is about family. Orm the Strong is a Viking chief who settles down in England. But his bloody rise to power has earned him an enemy who causes his first-born to be replaced with a changeling from the world of Faerie. The doppelgangers are sent separate ways, one to be a prince among the elves, the other to become an outcast among men until he realizes his destiny lies among the trolls. They come together when their tribes wage an all out war for control of the hidden world of Faerie.

The Broken Sword is almost too dark for mainstream tastes. That is what makes it so perfectly suited for the grim 21st century.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, May 02, 2009


By Sebastien Japrisot

Despite the cumbersome title, this is a taut little Euro-thriller. Dany Longo is a self-contained urban isolate. She is the child of WWII-era misery, hiding behind a cool exterior and sexy-librarian glasses. When her boss asks her to do a bit of overtime work at his luxurious Paris home, Dany finds it opportune to borrow his car and take a joyride to the coast.

The trip gets bizarre when people begin to recognize Dany even though she has never met them. A fling with a drifter complicates Dany’s road trip. Soon things occur without rational explanation. Suddenly she finds herself lost in a mental maze where reality has become unreal.

Japisrot is part fantastist (much as Cornell Woolrich, spinning a plot so intricate that it creates its own reality), there is a compelling realism to Dany. She’s a marvelous serie noir heroine.

-Dave Hardy