Friday, May 26, 2023

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades: John Corabi

Written by John Corabi, with Paul Miles. I imagine Miles did the heavy lifting with the prose and based it on Corabi's stories. Not completely sure. I really liked it. One of the better rock biographies I've read. Corabi comes across as a down to earth sort of fellow, a decent sort who is not afraid to tell the stories that make him look like a flawed human.

I'll admit I bought it primarily for the connection with Motley Crue, but I enjoyed the whole thing. Corabi was in Crue for five years and they did their self-titled album with him as the singer. That's a really good album, although not my favorite by the Crue. Corabi has also been in many, many other bands. I had no idea how many until I read this. He's mostly been a singer but also a guitar player.

One thing I particularly liked is there's a real focus on the music and his experiences on the road without dwelling on groupies and drugs. In fact, he says he never did hard drugs, although he apparently drank quite a lot. And he wasn't the kind of person to try to sleep with as many groupies as possible. Overall, a good book.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

#1: Donovan’s Devils

#1: Donovan’s Devils: The Assassination is Set for July 4…”, by Lee Parker. 1974. Award Books.

This is the first in a series that only went to three books. Book #2 is Blueprint for Execution, and #3 is The Guns of Mazatlan. The author is Lee Parker for all three books, although “Glorious Trash” suggests that the author is either Larry Powell or Robert H. Turner. It’s a “Dirty Dozen” kind of book in which a group of hardcases and misfits are put together for a mission that no one else wants—to rescue some hostages from a local strongman/rebel in Paraguay.

I actually liked the writing here. The book read smoothly. My main issue was that over three-quarters of the book is just putting the team together. We get to meet James Donovan first, an Army captain getting ready to leave the military, who is recruited by his former commander—Brigadier General Lucas Blaine—to take a very special assignment for the POTUS. Rescue an ambassador, a famous doctor, and the ambassador’s daughter from a Guatemalan strongman called El Tigre. The team he puts together, and with whom he has worked before in Vietnam, contains Oliver Bogan (tough black guy), Nathan Carey (sociopath who learns the meaning of friendship), Arthur "Houdini" Gibbs (good natured conman), Francis Quinn (deadly warrior), Irvin "The Bear" Randolph (muscle and dumb jock), and Joseph Teal (Mechanic and chick magnet).

Gibbs, Bogan, and Quinn get a full introduction of their back story and skill sets. I’m guessing book 2 might do the same for the other three. And by the time we get to Paraguay and the actual rescue, there’s only a little over 30 pages of this 154 page book to describe it. It really got the short shrift, and the death of El Tigre was pretty anticlimactic.

I liked the writing well enough that I might try book #2 if I can find it cheap, but I hope we get a little more story and action in that book and a little less background.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers

With a title like Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers (SSGR), you might assume this book is space opera. It’s not. It’s a parody of space opera, which is horse of a different color. Specifically, it seemed to parody most the work of E.E. Doc Smith in his “Lensman” series, which, admittedly, is not the best space opera ever written.

To me, Space Opera and Sword & Planet fiction (like John Carter of Mars) are the purest forms of sheer entertainment out there. They do, however, contain certain tropes that invite some writers to lampoon them. That doesn’t mean the lampooning works.

Harry Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey, 1925-2012), who wrote SSGR, was a talented writer. He’s best known for his “Stainless Steel Rat” stories but I’ve generally preferred other works of his, including “Make Room, Make Room,” which became the basis for the movie Soylent Green, and the Deathworld stories.

However, humor is difficult to write for even the most talented author. In my opinion it’s the most difficult emotion to create in writing. And I, personally, am pretty difficult to please on the humor front. I like humor in my fiction. Just not all humor all the time. I prefer dark humor, and humor when it comes out of the circumstances and the characters. I don’t generally like it when it’s layered on with a spatula and drowns every line.

While I chuckled here and there through SSGR, I didn’t get any belly laughs and I pretty quickly became bored. I mostly sped-read the last 100 pages. Too often, humor turns characters into caricatures. It defuses tension in order to get in a zinger. It becomes predictable because you know the writer is going to choose the most ridiculous option in any situation. It also makes it difficult to maintain any suspension of disbelief in the actual story. And primarily, it is the “story” that I want when I read.  The story in SSGR was weighed down by so many stabs at humor that I just couldn’t get into it.

SSGR is a well written parody. If you like such pieces you’ll probably like this one. I didn’t care much for it and was rather happy when I was done so I could move on to a different book. Of course, please remember that these are my opinions and your own might differ.