I’m not making an attempt to review every book I read but some people have shown interest in my reading list and thoughts on books. I’ve read ninety so far this year. Here’s a list of the first thirty, along with casual remarks.
1. Dennis Wheatley – Contraband: Very clearly an early Sallust tale because it’s full of young-man’s fire and precious little subtlety. There’s a dastardly plot involving Parisian gangs smuggling into the UK and Sallust has to give them a severe reprimand. Okay, but if you’re new to Wheatley save this till later or you won’t appreciate how good he became. 6/10
2. Bernard Cornwell – Sharpe’s Devil: I like how Cornwell has dedicated a career to mythologising the heroics of English fighters. Though Sharpe is a disgruntled and onery redcoat, he’s still heroically inclined and gets stuck in. I like how the shadow of Napoleon, in final exile, hangs over this tale of pirated and greasy Portuguese in Chile. Really funny how the two main dastardly Portuguese turn out to be bum bandits. It lacked a page-turning suspense sadly. A light read. 6/10
3. Michael Avallone – The Case of the Violent Virgin: If you read a book series long enough you see the author develop the character from book to book and can easily grow to like him. I’ve read so many of Avallone’s Ed Noon series that I’ll have to see it through to the end. This one is about mafia hoods and a famous sculpture. Typical hard-boiled fare. 7/10
4. John Creasey – The Mark of the Crescent: Set in 1930s Britain, a secret society of drug addicts is taking over positions of power. They can be identified by a curious mark left on their wrists (sounds like an oversight by the architects of the plan to me). It’s silly nonsense full of stiff upper lip and derring do. 5/10
5. Donald Hamilton – The Devastators: I seem to have settled into a few different series that I’ll follow through to the end. This is more hardboiled 1960s spy action where Matt Helm yet again walks into traps in order to smoke out the opposition, bangs birds, and then mercilessly slaughters the enemy. 8/10
6. Warren Murphy – Mafia Fix: These Devastator books are such utter childish nonsense with Remy the superhero assassion and his little Mr Miyagi sidekick who murders people for interrupting his watching of daytime soap dramas. Can’t remember the story. Probably some Italian hoods causing a stir. 5/10
7. Josh Kaufman – How to Fight a Hydra: Upon reading I immediately recommended it to my daygame friends. Kaufman tells a first-person tale of a young man setting off to fight a hydra and ruminating on the self development it triggers. Probably the non-daygame book most applicable to daygamers. 9/10
8. Stefan Molyneux – Essential Philosophy: This has all the insufferable Molyneuxrisms of the YouTube channel but bear with it and Stefan has a good go at solving all the problems of philosophy in one book. He fails, but it’s a good try and a highly ambitious goal. He seems rather naive over the power of logic to change the world. 7/10
9. Alexandre Dumas – The Companions of Jehu: The first of the Saint-Hermain trilogy features a young Napoleon Bonaparte as a main character, freshly on the run from the English navy having drubbed him off the coast of Egypt. It’s a romance in the style of The Three Musketeers and not far below his best. A good read. 8/10
10. Oreste Pinto – More Exploits of Spy Catcher: Real life stories of WW2 counter-espionage agent Pinto as he discusses cases referred to him. In each case it’s a real conundrum whether the suspect is a spy or not. It is all presented like Sunday afternoon crossword puzzles, until Pinto finished a story with “so then we hanged him”. 7/10
12. Warren Murphy – Dr Quake: Really dumb action about a mad scientist attempting to trigger a huge earthquake on the San Andreas faultline. Written in the early 1970s, this was a bad thing. Compare that to now, if you knew someone was going to destroy all of San Francisco. Hand on heart, would you really try to stop him? Some weird characters, such as the scientists’ buxom twin nympho helpers. 5/10
13. Michael Avallone – The Crazy Mixed Up Corpse: More of the usual hardboiled action, neither more nor less entertaining than the others. A quick page-turner. Avallone is getting better at capturing Noon’s irreverent and quarrelsome personality without it being abrasive to the reader. 7/10
14. Donald Hamilton – The Betrayers: This time Helm is on Holiday in Hawaii when his boss tells him a former agent is acting suspicious. It turns out the ChiComs are trying to set off a false flag nuke to bring on war. Just as twisty-turny and brutal as the other Helm books. I feel sorry for the junior agents. They always get killed. 8/10
15. Ellery Queen – The Player on the Other Side: An old suspense tale in inter-war NYC about a kooky family living in four houses in the same square, held together by the terms of rich deceased daddy’s inheritance. They fall one-by-one, as strange notes keep the caretaker up to speed. A very interesting take on a whodunnit but excessively slow-paced. 7/10
16. Harry Harrison – The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge: I notice lots of sci-fi paperbacks seem like normal earth-bound adventure stories, just with added flying cars and spaceships. This is one such book. A good buccaneering adventure story that is quaintly locked in the technology of the time it is written. 7/10
17. Mickey Spillane – The Delta Factor: It seems everyone wanted to do James Bond in the 1960s. The celebrated hardboiled writer tries to kick off a new franchise here in which a super criminal is captured and sent to Cuba in a deal with the Feds: catch so-and-so and have his sentence quashed. It plays out like an Oceans Eleven heist. 7/10
18. Alexandre Dumas – Joseph Balsamo vol. 1: The top-tier Dumas stories are fantastic and easily available in paperback. Drop down to the second tier and suddenly you have a challenge just finding a decent English translation. I read half of this before realising I had an awful translation that cuts out half the chapters and much of the Dumas magic. So I started again with a better translation. The plot is that a globalist Illuminati has hatched a conspiracy to overthrow France’s rulers and install a godless republican government dedicated to world communism. Bear in mind this was written in the 1850s, talking about the French Revolution. I’ll bet Dumas never expected it to happen again in the 21st century. Great book but slow paced. 8/10
19. Edgar Wallace – The Ringer: A 1920s mystery about a master assassin who has returned to London to claim revenge on a former colleague who betrayed him and now has a strong police guard. Trouble is, no-one knows what he looks like. Bumps in the night and everyone is a suspect. 7/10
20. Luke Short – Hands Off!: A frontier western from the 1950s about gold prospectors in a mining town. The black hat wants to screw the white hat out of his claim. Good stuff, with clear story, good scenes, and a taste of the Old West. 7/10
21. Francis Wellman – The Art of Cross Examination: Probably interesting when first written, a hundred years ago, but old hat to anyone who has watched a few courtroom dramas. 5/10
22. Warren Murphy – Death Therapy: Is it even worth describing the plot? Some larger-than-life freaky bad guys are killing people so Remy is sent in to investigate. He shags the birds and kills the baddies. Childish mindless super-agent thrills. 5/10
23. Peter Cheyney – Another Little Drink: This is a dark subtle counter-espionage story set during the war. The main character is a washed up drunk asked to root out a double-agent in the Secret Service. Very cleverly done and a pervasive air of dissipation throughout. I like Cheyney’s work. 8/10
24. Michael Avallone – The Voodoo Murders: Ed Noon gets drawn into a voodoo troupe’s show at a dance club and threats and murders fly. He winds up in the Caribbean hostage to a cult. Silly action and the second half is a wild departure from the wise-cracking urban sleuthing of the series. 7/10
25. Donald Hamilton – The Menacers: Matt Helm spends a lot of time in Mexico and it’s interesting to read pre-Cartel fiction. This time there’s strange tech surfaced below the border and the Russians are after it. Helm must protect a witness, or off her if the Russians seem likely to capture her. As good as usual. 8/10
26. Dennis Wheatley – The White Witch of the South Seas: Gregory Sallust is in Rio and attends a tribal dance, gets talking to a Raj, and persuaded to help hunt underwater treasure in the Pacific. But wait! Some baddies want it too! A globe-trotting page-turning adventure that blindsides you with twists every dozen chapters. 8/10
27. Alexandre Dumas – Joseph Balsamo vol. 2: This is a long series loosely following Marie Antoinette from her marriage to Louis XVI right up to getting her head lopped off in the final book. The two Joseph Balsamo volumes are probably the highlight, with a mesmerist Count Cagliostro hatching nefarious plans and strong characters throughout. 8/10
28. John Creasey – Thunder In Europe: The sixth Department Z thriller this time with an imaginary East European state (that sounds awfully like Latvia) having it’s top spymaster trying to take over the world. Quaint old-English nonsense from a time before James Bond changed the genre. Rather silly. 6/10
29. Michael W Simmons – The Rothschilds: Reading this you’d think the Rothschilds didn’t do nuffink wrong. They waz good boys. Lots of biographical info showing how the family were dragged out of the ghetto by utilising every Jew’s favourite weapon: ursury. Nathaniel took some outrageous risks but eventually his Jew tricks have European royalty under the thumb and he’s kingmaking and choosing which wars get fought. The author is extremely sympathetic to the subject family but it has me thinking we need a Fourth Reich. 6/10
30. Ross Lockridge Jr – Raintree County: Allegedly a “great American novel” and it’s pretty good. My abridged paperback edition was still a massive 600 pages, that’s after half of it is cut. It’s a gamma male’s long self-indulgent ramble full of purple prose but a sweeping epic nonetheless. Just a shame Lockridge didn’t write it ten years later, when he’d matured a bit. 8/10
June 28, 2019 at 9:04 am
Thanks for the list.
If you could dedicate an entire page on the books you have read so far, would be great. (Liked/didn’t like mark should be enough)
Also, suggestions would be nice.
For example, could you suggest a book or 2 on economics?
July 2, 2019 at 5:33 pm
Do you read like two books every day? Seriously, how do you do that? Even if I had the time, I wouldn’t be able to do that. Even if I read for like 16 hours straight, even if I focused real hard, I’d only be able to do one book of maybe 300 pages. Maybe. It really doesn’t seem possible what you are doing. [Do the maths. 90 books in 182 days is not 2 per day. K.]
July 2, 2019 at 6:49 pm
Yeah I need to go back to school.
But one book in two days still seems like a lot, especially if you have to account for all the other things you have to do. I think I could maybe get through a book in 1-2 weeks and only if I devoted all of my free time to reading. And doing that consistently for 6 months, especially when you’re also writing and working out and everything else… [I have a ton of free time and I think nothing of reading a couple of hours in the morning and a few at night. A standard paperback is only 70k words and some of the trash I read is even shorter. So that balances out the huge Dumas and Wheatley books. K.]
July 3, 2019 at 6:32 pm
Ok, that makes sense. Thanks for the reply.