September 2022

ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE April 1967. Overall rating: ***

JULIAN SYMONS “The Crimson Coach Murders.” Novelette. First published in The Evening Standard, 1960, as “The Summer Holiday Murders.” A detective story writer seeking background material takes a tour through southern England. Murder gives him a chance to try his abilities. (3)

ROBERT BLOCH “The Living Dead.” A World War II vampire story; not too imaginative. (2)

EDWARD D. HOCH “The Spy Who Came Out of the Night.” Rand of Double-C is sent to Berne to decode a message. His bitterness is forced to light. (3)

JACQUELINE CUTLIP “The Trouble of Murder.” A murderer burns down his inheritance unknowingly. Dry and confusing writing, but ending is good. (4)

CORNELL WOOLRICH “The Talking Eyes.” Novelette. First published in Dime Detective Magazine, September 1939, as “The Case of the Talking Eyes.” A paralyzed woman, able to communicate only wth her eyes, overhears her son’s wife plotting to kill him. Unable to stop the murder, she manages to avenge his death. Who else could attempt such a story? (4)

RHODA LYS STOREY “Sir Ordwey Views the Body.” Anagram-pastiche [by Norma Schier] of [Dorothy L. Sayers’] Lord Peter Wimsey. (1)

DOROTHY L. SAYERS “The Queen’s Square.” First appeared in The Radio Times, December 23, 1932. Lord Peter Wimsey solves a murder no one could have committed. A red costume in red light would appear white. (3)

JIM THOMPSON “Exactly What Happened.” Man disguised as another is killed by the other disguised as him. (1)

H. R. WAKEFIELD “The Voice of the Inner Ear.” First appeared in The Clock Strikes Twelve by H. Russell Wakefield, Herbert Jenkins, 1940, as “I Recognised the Voice.” A “psychic” detective solves mysteries. (2)

L. J. BEESTON “Melodramatic Interlude.” Revenge is thwarted by the victim’s wife. Obvious but still exciting. (3)

CHRISTOPHER ANVIL “ The Problem Solver and the Burned Letter.” Richard Verner reads a clue from a typewriter ribbon. (2)

LAWRENCE TREAT “P As in Payoff.” Mitch Taylor of Homicide Squad solves a hotel robbery as he tries to gain a favor. (3)

–January 1968


CORNELL WOOLRICH – Manhattan Love Song. Gregg Press, hardcover, October 1980. Pegasus Books, paperback, 2006. First published by William Godwin, Inc., hardcover, 1932. Film: Monogram, 1934.

   The first-person narrator, Wade, has been married to Maxine for eight years and suddenly becomes enamored of one Bernice Pascal. He destroys everything, including himself, in his quest to make her his own. Wade is what was once popularly known an a cad as far as his doting wife is concerned, planning to take all their savings and leave her behind for another woman.

   What he is unable to discover is why Bernice is being kept in her sumptuous apartment, and by whom. What is her secret, and why does she suddenly become so frightened and fear for her life? The inevitable murder leaves Wade the perfect patsy.

   Woolrich’s sixth novel contains the element of suspense which was to characterize his later novels, starting in 1940 with The Bride Wore Black. There are also many other Woolrichian hallmarks present in this early work, such as the use of the small apartment atmosphere, the important play of light, and the pervasive background music of the period (“Why Was I Born?” is an example here). And no one — but no one — can evoke the early New York subways like Woolrich.

   This beautiful photographic Gregg reprint of the original novel contains a valuable introduction by Woolrich admirer and authority, Francis M. Nevins, Jr., who is no stranger to readers of The Poisoned Pen.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 4, Number 3 (June 1981).


Reviews by L. J. Roberts


C. J. BOX – Shadows Reel. Joe Pickett #22. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, March 2022; paperback, August 2022. Setting: Contemporary Wyoming.

C. J. BOX Joe Pickett

First Sentence: Lorne Trumley had called dispatch to report a dead moose on his ranch.

   Game Warden Joe Pickett goes to the scene where allegedly a moose has been burned. Instead, he finds the tortured and burned body of a local fishing guide. Librarian Marybeth Pickett receives an anonymous package containing the photo album of a former Nazi officer. The Pickett’s friend, falconer Nate Romanowski, is tracking the man who attacked his family and stole his falcons. “This won’t end well.”

   It is challenging when an author whose entire catalogue of books one has loved, writes one that is painful to read, and not in a literary sense. All the elements one normally loves seem to be missing. What happened to the warm, supportive relationship between Joe and his wife, Marybeth? Where is the subtle humor that has been a trademark of Box’s writing?

   Political viewpoints seem to be the theme de jour and certainly not everyone will agree with various points of view. However, a writer is usually expected to maintain some degree of objectivity or, at the very least, do their research. Box missed both these marks by an extremely wide margin. The author’s usual high-quality storytelling is painfully absent. The crass, sexist descriptions of the woman in the bar would embarrass pulp fiction authors of 1940s.

   Shadows Reel could have been a good book with an intriguing plot, particularly as related to the photo album. The one and only bright spot was the Pickett daughters. Unfortunately, there was so much about this book that was cringeworthy, it wasn’t worth spending the time to finish. The worst part is that it causes one to question even reading the next book.

Rating:  DNF (Did Not Finish).



CHARLES WILLEFORD – Kiss Your Ass Goodbye. Dennis McMillan, hardcover, 1987.

   What Willeford left us with is a series of novels demonstrating the psychopathology of everyday life. The anti-heroes that populate his books aren’t weirdos. They are more often than not quite socially acceptable. Even exemplary. They’re not the ex-cons of Jim Thompson who the reader can always dismiss with a: “well — of course there ARE psychos out there—I’m just lucky I’ve never met one of these crazy people.” Willeford’s psychopaths are frequently very successful in business: art critics, pharma executives, preachers, used car salesmen. Even the most successful.

   Add to this that unlike Jim Thompson’s anti-heroes, who nearly always perish at the end (with a nod to the Hays Commission) — Willeford’s psychos are frequently still out there. There’s no justice in Willeford’s world. Just ick. You’d better watch your step.

   Willeford shows us that rather than being the exception to the rule; rather than being a hindrance to social climbing — sociopathology is a time-worn path to success. And it’s out there. Objects appearing in the mirror are closer than you think.

   Here Willeford excerpts and amends Hank’s story from The Shark Infested Custard. Where Custard is a woven narrative of four friends in Miami and the dark side of the wild oats they sow, Kiss Your Ass Goodbye focuses only on one of the players: Hank. My understanding is that Willeford was having trouble finding a publisher for Custard — so this constitutes a pared down version (in word count — not misanthropy) for Dennis McMillan Publications.

   It’s got a great first paragraph:

   â€œI had been running around with Jannaire for almost six weeks before I found out that she was married. At ten p.m., Sunday night, when I started to leave my apartment house, planning to buy the early edition of the Monday morning Miami Herald at the 7/Eleven store a block away, I knew that her husband, Mr. Wright, meant to kill me.”

   When Hank, a highly successful big-pharma sales rep (and renowned cocksman) first encounters Jannaire he finds himself ineluctably drawn to her reek “of primeval swamp, dark guanoed caves, sea water in movement, armpit sweat, mangroves at low tide, Mayan sacrificial blood, Bartolin glands, Dial soap, mulberry leaves, jungle vegetation, saffron, kittens in a cardboard box, YWCA volleyball courts, conch shells, Underground Atlanta, the Isle of Lesbos, and sheer joy”.

   Jannaire has a big surprise for Hank, however. And not the kind he’s hoping for.

   It’s very Willefordian. But it’s not my favorite of the Willefords just because Hank is so unlikeable. I felt the same as I did reading Custard awhile back. I grew up in Miami in the 80’s and I knew these guys and I hated them then. I hate them now. I hate that there’s frequently no justice in this world and this book only serves to remind me. None of the characters are likeable. I’m rooting for no one. And I’m left not giving a shit one way or the other.

   Which probably is just the way Willeford wanted.



NEVADA BARR – Firestorm. Anna Pigeon #4. Putnam, hardcover, 1996. Avon, paperback, 1997.

   Barr is one of those authors who seems to have taken the field more or less by storm, and whose first novel commands a ridiculous price from dealers. I’ve only read one of her previous three books, the second, and thought it was well written prose-wise but had an excruciatingly unlikely plot denouement. I felt sort of sad when I started this, because it was a a book that a god friend had harangued me about reading.

   Forest ranger and EMT Anna Pigeon is attached to a firefighting crew that’s battling a monster blaze in the National Forest and Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California when disaster strikes. Just as the fire appears to be winding down, a change in the weather causes a firestorm and Anna and the crew are caught by it.

   Most survive, but most are burned to one degree or another, and they are isolated from rescue by terrain and weather. When they check for survivors, one of the casualties is not only burned, but stabbed. Those that remain must worry not only about surviving injury and the elements, but the presence of a murderer in their midst.

   I liked this. Anna Pigeon is a very engaging character (at least in this book; I don’t remember liking her as well in the other), and here Barr writes a very lean, straightforward style of prose and tells a hell of a good story. The nearest I’ve come to to fighting forest fires is brush and grassland, but I’ve seen firestorms, and if Barr hasn’t been there and done that, she’s listened well to someone who has. The realism of the fire scenes is astounding.

   Barr did a good job with the supporting cast and the mystery was adequate, but this was as much about coping and survival as anything else, to me. Good book.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #24, March 1996.

      The Anna Pigeon series —

1. Track of the Cat (1993)
2. A Superior Death (1994)
3. Ill Wind (1995)
4. Firestorm (1996)
5. Endangered Species (1997)
6. Blind Descent (1998)
7. Liberty Falling (1999)
8. Deep South (2000)
9. Blood Lure (2001)
10. Hunting Season (2002)
11. Flashback (2003)
12. High Country (2004)
13. Hard Truth (2005)
14. Winter Study (2008)
15. Borderline (2009)
16. Burn (2010)
17. The Rope (2012)
18. Destroyer Angel (2014)
19. Boar Island (2016)



BEN BENSON – Beware the Pale Horse. Captain Wade Paris #2. Mill, hardcover, 1951. Unicorn Mystery Book Club, hardcover, 4-in-1 edition. Bantam #1070, paperback, 1953. Wildside Press, softcover, 2018.

   Competent, well clued and thought out police procedural starring State Detective Wade Paris. Paris’s difficulties stem not only from trying to find out who killed both a police colleague and oriental art collector, Charles Endicott, but also from the political pressures that are put upon him to wrap things up quickly and successfully.

   This political angle is brought in most convincingly and the investigation itself is logical and systematic. The clues are spread with care and cunning and the main one I should have spotted deceived me

   Short on humour but otherwise I can find nothing to complain of in this very professional job. A pity (from my point of view) as it’s the first I’ve read of half a dozen Benson’s I own, and I was looking for an excuse to make a small reduction in the overcrowding on my shelves. Now I’ll be looking for even more Bensons!

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 4, Number 2 (April 1981).


DAVID McDANIEL – The Man from U.N.C.L.E. #13: The Rainbow Affair. Ace G-670, paperback original, 1967.

   Some books are great. They are works of art, original, inventive, they speak to the reader as both entertainment and art. Some are tragic, some comic, some make you think, some make you shiver.

   And once in a while, maybe most of the time, a book is just a workhorse, a perfectly predictable escape from the world for an hour or so. Most movie and television tie-ins and novelizations fall into that perfectly respectable category.

   Created by Sam Rolfe and Ian Fleming over drinks in a New York hotel room, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series ran four seasons from 1964 to 1968. It starred Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo (name taken from a minor villain in Fleming’s Goldfinger) and David McCallum as Russian Ilya Kuryakin, both working under donnish Alexander Waverly (Leo G, Carroll post Topper) for an international crime fighting group with secret headquarters in New York entered through Del Floria’s tailor shop, the United Network Command for Law Enforcement.

   And if you happened to substitute the word Nations for Network in your head it wouldn’t terribly upset Fleming, Rolfe, or producer Norman Fell however much they might deny it.

   The two agents were most often pitted against THRUSH (which doesn’t seem to stand for anything) a conspiracy of spies, saboteurs, assassins, and monomaniacs all at each other’s throats and weekly scheming to behave horridly. Think Fleming’s S.P.E.C.T.R.E. without the founding genius of Ernst Stavro Blofied or a slightly more competent CHAOS.

   Most episodes followed the format of an ordinary citizen being recruited by Waverly to assist Solo and Kuryakin in foiling THRUSH, meaning at least two name guest stars in every episode, and when the series hit that meant some fairly recognizable faces and names passed through each week on NBC, including William Shatner (in an episode with Leonard Nimoy as a bad guy), Robert Culp, George Sanders, Victor Borge, Jack Palance, Joan Collins, and many others.

   For a while stars vied to appear on the series as they would on Batman a season or so later. A few episodes of the series were even fixed up and released as theatrical movies.

   The first season was in black and white, and by far the truest to the original idea, the next three seasons were in color and grew increasingly playful though the final season did try to reverse the trend.

   Designed to cash in on the James Bond craze and with a nod to Doc Savage (which started reprints that same year) from the pulps, the series created a craze of its own, with more merchandise than even the most devoted fan could collect without a warehouse, and a brief golden age of Television spy series that reached its high point with Sheldon Leonard’s I Spy (also on NBC) and Mission Impossible over on CBS, not to forget Get Smart.

   Magazines, coloring books, lunch boxes, toy guns, play sets, your own U.N.C.L.E. brief case,comic books, a spin off series The Girl From … with Stephanie Powers as April Dancer (her name another Fleming contribution) and Noel Harrison as Mark Slade, replete with its own magazine, books, comics etc.  There was also a two year run of a digest with a monthly novel written by Robert Hart Davis who was mostly Dennis Lynds, but sometimes John Jakes and Bill Pronzini, and twenty three original tie-in novels from Ace Books by the like of Michael Avallone, Harry Whittington, and others followed.

   Among those Ace books, with due deference to everyone who wrote them, there is little doubt that the best of the series (certainly the most, seven of the twenty three and an unpublished twenty fourth meant to close out the book and television series) were penned by David McDaniel, who came as close as any writer can to capturing the unique quality of a different media. As Carl Barks was the Good Duck Artist on Dell Comics Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge titles, McDaniel was the good U.N.C.L.E. writer, or at least the better one.

   Even for McDaniel though The Rainbow Affair, number thirteen in the series, is something special.

   After a brief nod to McDaniel’s original contribution to the series, charming THRUSH operative William Baldwin, the only continuing villain in the books, we get down to brass tacks with Solo and Kuryakin none to happy that rather than international intrigue they are being sent to England to deal with a crook called Johnnie Rainbow who operates a highly successful non-violent criminal organization and so successfully Scotland Yard claims he is just a myth.

   But he is a myth THRUSH is interested in, and they can ill afford to let THRUSH recruit such a competent criminal and his organization.

   So, grousing all the way (McDaniel caught the by play between Vaughn and McCallum better than any of the other series writers) the two agents are off to the jolly old UK, but not before a THRUSH agent in London visits a rival of Rainbow’s to do a little recruiting on their own, an elderly Chinese gentleman.

   Behind this desk sat a tall, thin Chinese, wearing robes of silk which shimmered in the candlelight. His face was unlined, but his eyes were old with ancient wisdom, and seemed oddly veiled, like those of a drowsing cat. Above an imposing brow, he wore a black skullcap with a single coral bead which indicated the rank of Mandarin. A marmoset perched on his shoulder, occasionally nuzzling his ear.


   Shades of August Derleth’s Solar Pons’ Mr. King, I presume? But in fairness this elderly Chinese has gotten around in other people’s books before.

   Then Solo and Kuryakin arrive in London for their appointment at Scotland Yard.

   â€œSolo and Kuryakin,” Napoleon said as they came in. “Here to see Inspector West.”

   â€œHe’s occupied at the moment,” she said. “I’ll tell him you’re here.” She ticked a tab on a shiny intercom unit, and a voice answered faintly. “The men from U.N.C.L.E. are here, sir.”

   â€œExcellent,” said the other end. “Send them right in. Oh, see that Claude gets the latest additions to the Rollison file, will you?”

   â€œCertainly, sir.”

   The inner door opened and a stomach walked out, closely followed by a red-faced man carrying a bowler hat. He glanced at them sleepily as he paused by the desk, and as the secretary flipped through a drawer he unpackaged a stick of gum and engulfed it.

   Solo and his partner stepped through the still-open door into a crisply furnished office which still smelled slightly of paint. Behind the desk a remarkably handsome man rose to greet them.

   Wait just a minute here. Claude, the Rollison file, a handsome West? What is this, a meeting of the Thriller Magazine fan club?

   Scotland Yard isn’t much help, but it does give them a lead and they promptly get captured by the Chinese gentleman from earlier, but they are soon rescued by a dapper, handsome MI5 operative in a bowler hat, expensive clothes, and carrying a lethal umbrella who soon introduces them to his willowy beautiful amateur partner a certain lethal lady.

   He even reminds them Mr. Waverly was a colleague in the War working for a certain Department Zed, or as John Creasey would have it Department Z.

   At this point Solo quips he hopes the Double O guy is out of the country.

   It doesn’t end there either. Following leads the two split up, Ilya ending up stumbling on a heist and finding himself outnumbered four to one before a handsome chap appears out of nowhere, dispatches two bad guys with his twin throwing knives and offers Ilya a ride in his Hirondel.

   No halos are seen, but they are certainly implied.

   Meanwhile a local U.N.C.L.E. operative, the beautiful Joey, arrives on a motorcycle to help out Solo in the suburbs and introduces him to her maiden Aunt Jane of the steel trap mind and her paradoxical guest Father John. Seems Aunt Jane and Father John take a proprietary interest in crime and they can introduce Solo to the oldest member of their little group, a beekeeper in Sussex well over one hundred years old named William Escott…

   Somehow the plot does sort itself out. Solo and Kuryakin meet and are charmed by Johnnie Rainbow who ends up a reluctant ally when THRUSH decides if they can’t have him they don’t want him as a rival, not to mention the deadly explosive ulsenite he has created to aid in his heists, they want to get their grubby thrushy hands on.

   As might be expected things end explosively.

   The ancient Chinese turns THRUSH down for the moment (“an old Chinese with a brow like Shakespeare, a face like Satan, and eyes of the true tiger green, lay dreaming.”), Rainbow’s organization is in shambles and Rainbow presumably dead in his destroyed castle after saving Solo and Kuryakin, but at a dinner at Joey’s cottage with Aunt Jane they get a message…

   The message read simply,

“The Rainbow comes and goes,
“And lovely is the rose
“Waters on a starry night
“Are beautiful and fair.”

   Aunt Jane read it twice slowly, and nodded. Illya said, “I believe the quotation is from Intimations of Immortality. Johnnie seems to have escaped the destruction of his castle, at any rate.”

   â€œYes, I believe he has,” said the old lady. “But I was thinking there was a far, far truer line in the same stanza which he did not quote. Stanza two.” Her darting eyes looked up like those of a little girl who is called upon to recite, but she seemed to be looking at something else – something which no one could see and which none but she and a few others could remember. And she said, “‘But yet I know, where’er I go, that there hath passed away a glory from the earth.’”

   Sunlight poured into the silent dining room through a bank of lace-curtained windows facing the calm sea. A gull wheeled and screamed somewhere.

   â€œYou don’t mean Johnnie Rainbow,” said Illya softly.

   â€œNo, I don’t,” said Aunt Jane. “He is one of the last.”

   Napoleon looked from one to the other of them, and gradually the meal resumed. “He’ll start over,” said the American agent. “And next time I’ll bet he gets his elevator.”

   â€œNapoleon!” said Illya, scandalized. “Surely you aren’t wishing success to him. After all, he is a criminal.”

   Solo quickly and emphatically denied any partisanship, and good cheer was restored.

   You can almost hear the pulsing beat of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme music.

   As I said, literature it ain’t. It is pure pulp rot gut, but the distilled kind not the bathtub variety and intoxicating enough despite any guilty hangovers for enjoying it this much.

   But damn if it wasn’t fun and capturing much of the feel of the best of the television series, tongue in cheek without head up another body cavity. For a fairly late entry in a series of novels based on a television series The Rainbow Affair proves to have ambitions far above its station delving into what today we call Metafiction feet first and with surprising charm.

   Writers like Richard Jaccoma, Philip Jose Farmer, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, and Kim Newman may be more literary and inventive, but McDaniel pulls it off almost effortlessly and was there pretty early in the game.

         Back then in January 1968. I said:

WILLIAM R. COX “They’ll Kill Me!” Novelette. Tom Kincaid has a murderous competition in his attempt to make a movie about gambling. Low grade Hollywood all the way. (0)


   My opinion hasn’t changed one iota, and I’m not sure why this one simply doesn’t work. It may been that there are too many characters – at least a dozen – that the reader has to recognize and assimilate in too short a time, and none of them are more than stock players in a standard let’s-make-a-Hollywood movie type of yarn (with gangsters thrown in as opposition).

   As a matter of fact, though, Tom Kincaid, the leading character, did turn up later in three novel length books written by Cox for Signet as paperback originals between 1958 and 1962. By profession Kincaid is a gambler, but in this story he’s trying his luck as a novice movie producer and director. (He was in fifteen pulp stories in all, all for Dime Mystery in the 1940s.)    (0)

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Julie Smith


WILLIAM L. DeANDREA – Killed on the Ice. Matt Cobb #4.  Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1984.  Mysterious Press, paperback, 1987.

   William L. De Andrea’s career started off with a bang when his first book, Killed in the Ratings, introducing sleuth Matt Cobb, won an MWA Edgar for Best First Novel of 1978. The very next year, his second book, The Hog Murders, won the Edgar for Best Paperback. Since then, his career has continued to blossom, with a couple of historical mysteries, a thriller, and three more Matt Cobb books.

   Matt is an engaging chap who works as a troubleshooter for a TV network; he’s gentle with women (who don’t always return the courtesy) and a good friend to his constant companion, Spot, the attack-trained Samoyed. If DeAndrea’s fans are fond of Matt, they positively adore Spot, the most appealing little scene-stealer since Asta.


   In Killed on the Ice, Dr. Paul Dinkover, “perhaps the most renowned American psychiatrist alive,” is found sprawled on the ice of a Manhattan skating rink, his stomach thoroughly ventilated with a hunting knife. The ice rink is the one where Matt’s network is filming a special on Olympic skater Wendy Ichimi. Wendy has a motive, and also a good start on capturing Matt’s ever-vulnerable heart.

   When she begins to look like a potential victim herself, he has more than a professional interest in finding the murderer. Along the way, he encounters (as usual) Detective Lieutenant Cornelius Martin, Jr., the black cop from Matt’s old neighborhood, and an intriguing new character — the Frying Nun, an assistant D.A. who left the convent for law school. Also offering a good dying message, interesting murder method, and a clever ruse during the climactic fight, Killed on the Ice is up to DeAndrea’s usual high standard.

   Matt Cobb’s other amateur investigations include Killed in the Act (l981) and Killed with a Passion (1983).

Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

      The complete Matt Cobb series —

Killed in the Ratings. Harcourt 1978.
Killed in the Act. Doubleday 1981.
Killed with a Passion. Doubleday 1983.
Killed on the Ice. Doubleday 1984.
Killed in Paradise. Mysterious Press 1988.
Killed on the Rocks. Mysterious Press 1990.
Killed in Fringe Time. Simon 1995.
Killed in the Fog. Simon 1996.



KENNETH MILLAR – The Three Roads. Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover, 1948. Also published as by Ross Macdonald: Bantam, paperback, 1960. Many other reprint editions exist. Film: As Double Negative (Quadrant, 1980).

   Lieutenant Bret Taylor returns from WWII, but his memory is shot to pieces. He is physically unscathed; he doesn’t have a traumatic brain injury. But for some reason he can’t remember a damn thing.

   The psychiatrists feel like it’s some kind of guilt complex. His carrier was sunk at Pearl Harbor, and he feels responsible for the ship and the men that were lost. His mother apparently died when he was four years old, and he blames himself for it. And when he came back home from the war, he walked into his house only to find his young wife murdered: assailant unknown.

   He leaves the VA psychiatric facility against physician advice to track down the murderer. He feels that if only he can solve his wife’s murder, his memories will come back to him, and he can finally live again. But be careful what you wish for.

   It’s a pretty good idea for a story. But the book really freaking sucks. It’s got to be one of the worst novels I’ve ever read. I hated it.

   Why, you ask?

   First of all, the thing is terribly overwritten. He even has a character make a denigrating comment about Hemingway’s style — so it’s clear that the verbosity is actually on purpose. He even has the temerity to wink at the reader at one point behind a character’s back saying: “He didn’t know what irony was, but it was irony he was enjoying.” What the hell? You don’t need to be an English lit PhD like Millar to enjoy irony. You don’t even have to know the word. If the character was enjoying the irony he was enjoying the irony. I can die of arsenic even if I don’t know the word arsenic. But let’s all have a little laugh at the expense of the uneducated here folks.

   Secondly, the thing is completely devoted to Freud. Seriously. The title comes from the book’s epigram, and has nothing to do with the story other than some implied Oedipus complex that Bret Taylor is allegedly working through: “For now am I discovered vile, and of the vile. O ye three roads, and thou concealed dell, and oaken copse, and narrow outlet of three ways, which drank my own blood….”–SOPHOCLES, Oedipus Tyrannus. If I were smart I would have stopped there. But hey. Who said I was smart?

   Here’s an example of the horribly overwritten Freudian tripe you’ll be force fed should you choose to treat yourself to this crap:

   “‘I have sometimes thought that we of the Viennese school have paid too little attention to problems of moral guilt. Freud himself was a child of his century. He never quite outgrew the physiological laboratory and its atmosphere of materialistic determinism. It is curious, is it not, that the subtlest introspectionist since Augustine should have under-valued the moral and religious life and seen the human mind in terms of blind forces working in Newtonian space?’ ‘You’re talking like a Jungian,’ she said.”

   The above quote reminded me of a bit from Woody Allen’s Love and Death:

   â€œDon’t you know that murder carries with it a moral imperative that transcends any notion of inherent universal free will?”

   â€œThat is incredibly jejune.”

   â€œJejune?! You have the temerity to say that I’m talking to you out of jejunosity? I am one of the most june people in all of the Russias.”

   It’s enough to make you wish Mike Hammer would show up and start punching people in the nose.

   Lastly, the ending is tremendously unsatisfying. The final chapter is entitled “Doomsday” and is over 100 pages. But Doomsday is an vast overstatement. No justice is served, and everyone is left feeling decidedly mediocre — especially the reader.

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