Titan Books out of the UK is becoming a HUGE player in American Publishing. Over the last two months, they’ve been letting me read some new books that are now all ready and waiting for you to devour from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Let’s tear into them:
Sherlock Holmes and the Army of Dr. Moreau is a new Doyle pastiche, and a fun, unknown episode in the life of the world’s greatest detective. This time Holmes and Watson are up against an enemy who violates the laws of god and man in an effort to create his own, animal form of life. Author Guy Adams cleverly adds some classic adventure characters to the mix, including Allan Quatermain from H. Rider Haggard’s epics, Abner Perry from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pellucidar series, and, of course, the tale is a sequel to H. G. Wells’ sf/horror classic, The Island of Dr. Moreau. It’s good storytelling, and a good tale to read by the fireplace when the wind is blowing through the eaves. Pour yourself a brandy, and have some fun.
Fans of TV’s cult shows will enjoy the next two novelizations. (Here I employ the use of novelization to indicate not a novel or story taken directly from a film or tv show, but an original story based on on the media property’s basic premise.) Supernatural: Rite of Passage is a new adventure that takes place in Season 7 of the CW show. Spartacus: Morituri evolves the Roman series’ gladiatorial battles with a political battle between Spartacus and his enemy, Batiatus. The writing in both novels is serviceable — far nicer than the writing in almost any Star Trek or Star Wars novelization nowadays — and fans of the shows won’t go wrong if they pick up these new stories.
Another sequel or pastiche is The Martian War, a sequel to H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds by Kevin J. Anderson. He’s a bestselling author, and fans love his books. I can’t read him. Sorry. I’ve tried. While his stories are uniformly breathtakingly paced, the novels of his that I have read lack adequate characterization, description, and even setting. As much as I believe that all good novels have to have a good story, Anderson proves to me that story, alone, isn’t enough. The redeming grace with The Martian War is that it serves as a semi-sequel to several other Wells classics, including The Invisible Man and Dr. Moreau. Read this if you like Anderson’s other novels, or if you just want to see how he puts all these disparate elements together. As we used to say in the ’70s, Whatever floats your boat.
Lenore is a semi-sweet little dead girl who plays with dead things. Roman Dirge has been writing and drawing the comic adventures of Lenore for a while now, and Lenore: Swirlies takes some of her comic book tales and puts them together in hardback. It’s like zombie Simpsons, and I like Lenore a lot.
I’d never want to play with her, though.
Titan has finagled the rights to publish the Hard Case Crime line of novels, and The Twenty-Year Death is an ambitious book — three short, noir novels by Ariel Winter, interconnected by a couple of minor characters and how they interact in tales told decades apart in 1931, 1941 and 1951. It’s a fascinating experiment, and hearkens back to the days of Black Mask, Raymond Marlowe and Mickey Spillane. This has been getting a LOT of good reviews from bestelling writers such as Stephen King, Peter Straub and David Morrell.
Hard Case has also just published the final novel by classic crime noir writer James M. Cain. The Cocktail Waitress is a lot like Cain’s hard-edged stories of good girls gone bad, tragic love triangles, and violent passion. Unlike The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, it’s not very good. It was written in Cain’s final years, and it reads as though it were a ’40s story told in the early ’70s . . . which it very much was. Read it if you’re a Cain completist or a mystery lover.
That’s all for now. 13 more books are piled on my desk, just waiting to be reviewed. Maybe later this week . . .