Friday, October 28, 2022

Paperback 1064: The Big Four / Agatha Christie (Dell 0562)

Paperback 1064: Dell 0562 (1st New Dell Edition, 1972)

Title: The Big Four
Author: Agatha Christie
Cover artist: Uncredited

Condition: 9/10
Value: ~$10
Best things about this cover:
  • These objects-only covers are fairly common for Christie paperbacks of the '60s and '70s. I think (William) Teason is the name of the artist I know who has done several like this. Maybe this cover is Teason's work too, dunno. Anyway, it's very evocative ... of a certain ... criminal ... milieu ... but it's not terribly exciting.
  • The pearl-handled gun is gorgeous, as is the ornamental key. The noose is awfully, uh, circular. It's all so artfully arranged, like evidence that you just know is planted.
  • I'm curious about this font. And about the weird colors ... beige / yellow / beige ... that's one way to make sure the yellow doesn't pop. Then again, publishers have clearly learned to value marketing over art at this point, as Christie's name is big feature, and everything else merely decorative.
  • I want all the people in the photographs to be Doing Something! Making out, killing each other, something! To this cover's credit, I am curious to know how all this detritus fits into narrative form.
Best things about this back cover:
  • Back Cover Copy in C[heap pun] Minor
  • Wait, four men? I thought the photos on the cover were the Big Four, but one of those was a woman, so ... now I'm *really* intrigued (I've only ever read a few Christie titles in my life, if I'm being honest)
  • Bizarre to make such a superhero out of Poirot and yet depict him Nowhere on your cover. 
Page 123~
"Ernest Luttrell. Son of a North Country parson. Always had a kink of some kind in his moral make-up"
I am quite sure that what Christie means by "kink" and what I mean by "kink" are somewhat if not quite different from one another, and yet ... one can hope.


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Saturday, October 22, 2022

Paperback 1063: Tama of the Light Country / Ray Cummings (Ace F-363)

Paperback 1063: Ace F-363 (PBO, 1965)

Title: Tama of the Light Country
Author: Ray Cummings
Cover artist: Podwil

Condition: 7/10
Value: ~$5

Best things about this cover:
  • She's back! Well, actually, this book is earlier than the last one (Paperback 1062), so ... she's here! For the first time! And yet again! Tamagain! Tamalamadingdong! Slicing her way through the planetary system, god knows why...
  • Tama, Queen of Forgotten Serial Characters!
  • Those blood-soaked wings are phenomenal, why didn't she catch on / take off!? Fewer Marvel movies, more Tama movies!
  • Once again I identify with the nondescript dude in the background urging Tama on while staying safely back
  • Caught between two space volleyballs, Tama braces for she knows not what!
  • I see no evidence that she has been or is about to be "Kidnapped by a spaceship," let alone "Kidnapped by a spaceship Exclamation Point!"
Best things about this back cover:
  • Not much
  • LOL satellite paranoia! Nice.
  • "Furore"—when it's spelled like that you are required to pronounce it with three syllables like "Volare!"
Page 123~
I do not find it pleasant, nor does Rowena, nor do any of the rest of us.
It's settled, then—I won't bother with this book. Thank you, Mr. Narrator.


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Friday, October 21, 2022

Paperback 1062: Tama, Princess of Mercury / Ray Cummings (Ace F-406)

Paperback 1062: Ace F-406 (PBO, 1966)

Title: Tama, Princess of Mercury
Author: Ray Cummings
Cover artist: Podwil

Condition: 9/10
Value: ~$10

Best things about this cover:
  • Carving Jack O' Lanterns is a bloodsport on Mercury
  • Monster looks surprised to find out that the "princess" has blood-tipped wings and a big fucking dagger
  • I relate to the dude on the ground pointing and going "oh hell no, I don't want any of this, run away!"
  • Author Tama Janowitz is now not the only Tama I've ever heard of
Best things about this back cover:
  • Guy Palisse, Space-Explorer—gonna get some business cards made up and just hand them out to everyone I meet
  • Guy Palisse, Space-Explorer / President, Bolton Flying Cube, Inc.
  • Move over Gay Talese, it's ... Guy Palisse!
  • "...warded off war between the two worlds" is a terrible mumbly mouthful
  • Guy Palisse and the Frenzied Mercurians were the toast of New York's early-80s post-punk scene
Page 123~
The infuriated, reckless girls hurled themselves down like frenzied birds.
Is anyone on Mercury *not* frenzied? Seems like a stressful place to visit. Probably gonna take my Flying Cube somewhere else this summer.  


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Sunday, October 9, 2022

Paperback 1061: The Relentless Rider / John and David Shelley (Ace F-340)

Paperback 1061: Ace F-340 (PBO, 1965)

Title: The Relentless Rider
Author: John and David Shelley
Cover artist: Uncredited

Condition: 8/10
Value: ~$10

Best things about this cover:
  • Seems like it should be "the name / the game" or "his name / his game"; the mix-and-match reads awful
  • Not sure why you'd name your gun "patient" but I like a cowboy with the guts to be different
  • This cover is not that interesting, though I love how RELENTLESS goes hard, end to end, no margins, and I love that pop of yellow up top
  • Got this as part of a completely unexpected library sale haul—didn't even know the library was having a sale. I was just there to check out some J.G. Ballard, as one does
  • The book is bright, square, and unread. It's mildly warpy—not sure what the term is for that
Best things about this back cover:
  • OK, just a block of text, yellow-orange on red-brown, hang on, just let me put my glasses on here and ... Booger? Really?
  • The "eat. Booger" juxtaposition midway down the page is really making it hard to see anything else
  • "Carving teeth for a rangeland dentist" well there it is I have discovered the most whimsical western occupation ever
Page 123~
"Wrong on number one," Booger said, "so you might as well quit guessin'." He went on to tell Kinney what had happened, and Kinney sat shaking his head, his brows describing ups and downs and curlicues as the story unfolded.
Kinney's legendarily acrobatic brows got him steady work in carnival freak shows, though he kept this part of his life to himself, fearing, rightly, that his cowboy friends would not understand


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Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Paperback 1060: The Troubled Midnight / Rodney Garland (Lion Library LL 128)

Paperback 1060: Lion Library LL 128 (1st ptg, 1956)

Title: The Troubled Midnight
Author: Rodney Garland
Cover artist: Charles Copeland

Condition: 7/10
Value: ~$15

Best things about this cover:
  • Satan Had Yellow Eyebrows!
  • Love this dude's "sneering supercilious billionaire face." Too bad half of it got blown off somehow.
  • "Look at the little worms, fighting over nothing, doomed to fail ... pathetic. I regret that I have but one eye to glower at them with."
  • If there aren't airplanes involved, you cannot call it a "novel of flight." That's the rule.
  • For a grade A thriller, make sure you steep your novel in reality for at least three but no more than five minutes. Any longer and it loses that delicious cheesy taste.

Best things about this back cover:
  • The searing tale of a woman's forbidden love for her bedpost! "When her midnight became troubled, she turned to the one solid, upright thing in her life ..."
  • Wow, they really don't want you to know anything about the plot, do they?
  • Marseilles? Huh. Did not see that coming. With that build-up, I was thinking maybe "Rome" or "Moscow" or something, but no, Marseilles, sure, let's go with that.
Page 123~
The shop was full of people, some trying out fountain pens or buying postcards, others, like a girl I noticed with hairy legs like a deer, and obviously from the Midi, browsing.
Dude needs to go back to Comma School. Also, "like a deer?" Like a deer's legs ... are hairy? Like a deer browses? Like a browsing hairy deer from the Midi browses? I honestly don't know what I'm supposed to be picturing here. Some kind of sexy bibliophilic satyress?  Maybe just buy your mystery novel and go back to your garret, Pierre.


Thursday, July 28, 2022

Paperback 1059: It Was The Day Of The Robot / Frank Belknap Long (Belmont 90-277)

Paperback 1059: Belmont 90-277 (PBO, 1963)

Title: It Was The Day Of The Robot
Author: Frank Belknap Long
Cover artist: uncredited

Condition: 8/10 (unread; crease across top, slightest of warps)
Value: $10-15

Best things about this cover:
  • This looks less like a robot and more like some kind of novelty tent that the little men are having trouble setting up.
  • If this book were a song, the title would be "(It Was The) Day Of The Robot"
  • Writer, to publisher: "Well, here's my book. I call it: Day Of The Robot!" "Hmmm ... I mean, I *like* it, but I feel like it's missing something. Maybe we can spice it up a little. What if we called it: The Day Of The Robot!" "Well ... I guess a definite article does add spice, but ..." "No, no, wait! I've got it! It Was The Day Of The Robot!" "So like ... a full sentence?" "Yesssss!""I don't see how ... I mean, it's just more words, really, isn't it? It doesn't add-" "I think it really makes you feel, like, *there*, you know?" "I-" "Not just any day of the robot—THE day of the robot." "Again, I-" "Ooh, and does the robot vape? The robot should definitely be vaping. Very in, very now."
  • It Was The Day Of The Robot That Vaped While Little Army Men Shot Sad Lasers At It
  • Why does the robot have three legs? Oh god ... that is a leg, isn't it? ISN'T IT!?
  • They shot him right in his left nipple. Rude.
Best things about this back cover:
  • "MAN AGAINST MACHINE" ... that narrative used to hold such dramatic promise. The sad reality of Actual Future is that most MAN AGAINST MACHINE stuff is just me trying to get the ATM to work or struggling to get past those online dealies where I have to prove (to a robot!) that I am not ... a robot.
  • Computers used to be enormous, and life was better that way. It just was. Computers should be ominous and threatening and two stories high and six blocks wide and they should beep and hum and churn out a steady stream of information on ticker tape or paper cards that have to be filed in a giant vault somewhere.
  • He counted his strides? Such a weird detail. I mean, if it had been one or two long strides, I can see remembering, but six? 
Page 123~
Disillusion and rage had made them transfer their allegiance to me. I'd dragged a popular hero down from his pedestal and slugged him unconscious with the chain at his wrist. And I'd meshed his gears before he could score another victory in a contest of skill.
I like "meshed his gears" as a kind of all purpose phrase for beating someone up. So much nicer and colorful than "kicked his ass" or "fucked him up." In this case, I think the gears are probably literal, since it is, after all, The Day Of The Robot, but I think any time you soundly drub someone, physically or otherwise, you should try "meshed his gears" on for size. 


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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Paperback 1058: Berserker's Planet / Fred Saberhagen (DAW UY1167)

Paperback 1058: DAW UY1167 (PBO, 1975)

Title: Berserker's Planet
Author: Fred Saberhagen
Cover artist: Jack Gaughan

Condition: 8/10 (unread, some surface wear)
Estimated value: $10-15

Best things about this cover:
  • "That's not a toothpick! ... THIS is a toothpick!"
  • There was an early-80s arcade game called "Berserker." It was pretty cool. I don't remember these guys, though.
  • I like the big guy's aesthetic. Very Prince Valiant-meets-Grizzly Man. It's just ... he looks more like an action figure than a living humanoid creature. He has many points of articulation and is neither standing nor holding that sword in a way that one might call "naturalistic" or "plausible." 
  • Little buddy, on the other hand—very believable. Cowering nakedness, total unpreparedness, I can relate.
  • The pink palette here is amazing, as is the suggestion of a giant skull in the oddly machine-like background.
  • The actual title has an apostrophe in "Berserker's" but the cover does not. This bothers me about as much as you'd expect (a lot).
Best things about this back cover:
  • No one needs this much text, truly.
  • "NO QUARTER! NO QUARTER! NO COIN! ONLY DOLLAR! DOLLAR BILL! OR CREDIT CARD!"—someone behind me at the vending machine
  • This feels pretty prescient—the idea that your robots would learn and "develop"; sadly modern out-of-control robots didn't take over the planet with swords, they just figured out how to sell you things you don't need and show you "content" that makes you angry ... in order to sell you things you don't need. Give me the robots in pelts and disco boots, please!
  • "It's a Fred Saberhagen science thriller" doesn't quite have the standalone energy you'd expect a climactic back-cover paragraph to have.
  • Also LOL "Have you seen THE BOOK OF SABERHAGEN" what, is it missing?
Page 123~
As the two men wrestled, it was still Omir who smiled, and Thomas who looked desperate, but quickly it was demonstrated that Omir was not the stronger of the two, not with a spear stuck through him, anyway.
Yeah, impalement will really take it out of you, I find