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Tell us what books you are reading right now, find books that every e-book worm could enjoy

Last Build Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2018 19:46:32 GMT


Pat Frank: Seven Days to Never

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 07:11:32 GMT

THERE is a sub-genre of thriller, really a basic plot, that can be described as the ticking time bomb. The bomb is set to go off at a certain time. The time becomes known but where the bomb is constitutes the problem, and of course the hero or heroes finally track it down and cut the red wire at the last minute. You've see it a hundred times on TV. In one memorable MacGyver episode, the bomb was in a mail truck, and MacGyver managed to coax a concrete mixer truckie to empty his load into the mail truck, so the bomb went off with nothing more than a loud "gloop" and wet cement squirting out of the cracks. It's one of those plots which transcends background; it can be set on Mars, in downtown New York, or Victorian London, and work just as well, provided of course the writer comes to grips with it properly. One such author is Pat Frank, best remembered today for his post-apocalyptic novel Alas Babylon (1959). Until recently I had never read Alas Babylon; but many years ago I read Seven Days to Never, (1956), which turns out to be the UK title. The original US title was the rather dull Prohibited Area. I must have read Seven Days to Never some time in the late 1960s. I certainly owned the UK Pan paperback for several years before, no doubt, losing it or giving it away during one of my house moves. I specially remembered the hero, an ex-SAC pilot with an eye patch. I have just stumbled across a copy of the same Pan paperback, It was published in the mid-50s in the days of the Cold War, but the Cold War is just the background: it's definitely the ticking time bomb plot. The UK paperback, by the way, has a great cover by "Peff" (Sam Peffer, an outstanding UK cover artist) and, gosh, it then sold for two shillings and sixpence (25 cents). The centre of the story is a unit in the Pentagon called "Enemy Intentions", an eclectic mix of academics and intelligence types whose role is to analyse and predict what the Soviet Union is up to next. And they come up with a horrifying scenario: a nuclear attack on the USA on the coming Christmas Day. The evidence comes from various sources, including the sudden radio silence and disappearance from contact of a whole fleet of Soviet nuke subs; a spate of accidents to the latest Strategic Air Command long range bomber the B99, which are blowing up for no known reason, and sundry other matters. We, the readers, know that something sinister is definitely going on; specially as the novel opens with a mysterious midnight landing on a remote Floriday beach of an American sedan car from something lurking out to sea; and observed only by two teenagers in the dunes. The Enemy Intentions group scenario, worked out in convincing detail, is presented up the chain of command, to a senior officer who thinks it is dangerous, destabilising trash and orders all five copies to be destroyed immediately. And so the race is on. Somehow, the team must work around the roadblock as Christmas approaches rapidly, unravel the mystery of the exploding B99s, grasp the significance of the belated report of the mysterious landing at Florida, and short circuit the Soviet attack. I remembered it as a hell of a good high-tension, high-speed read, and it still stacks up very well. It is reasonably short (85,000 words), right in the 1950s sweet spot for popular novel length, and Pat Frank's grip of military procedures and Pentagon politics seems authentic. Certainly authentic enough for the novel. The only odd thing that I noticed at the time was there was no such thing as B99s, but I had no trouble imagining them as B52s on steroids. If it pops up for you and you like a brisk action thriller, give it a go.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 19:10:42 GMT

I so recommend. Instead of spoiling it here is a description: Words can not describe how good this is and I normally hate war topics. Based on a true story. A small amount was embellished and made up to fill in gaps but most of the story is completely true. Book is also cheap. $5.99 on Amazon and free on Kindle Unlimited.

Literary The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron

Sun, 11 Mar 2018 18:52:06 GMT

'In 1933 the delightfully eccentric Robert Byron set out on a journey through the Middle East via Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Teheran to Oxiana -the country of the Oxus, the ancient name for the river Amu Darya which forms part of the border between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. His arrival at his destination, the legendary tower of Qabus, although a wonder in itself, it not nearly so amazing as the thoroughly captivating, at times zany, record of his adventures. In addition to its entertainment value, The Road to Oxiana also serves as a rare account of the architectural treasures of a region now inaccessible to most Western travellers.' Goodreads ( This is the MR Literary Club selection for March 2018. Whether you've already read it or would like to, feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time, and guests are always welcome! So, what are your thoughts on it? Attachment 162752 ( 162754 ( 162756 ( 162753 ( 162755 (

New Leaf Book Club • April 2018 Discussion • Making History by Stephen Fry

Sun, 11 Mar 2018 12:36:58 GMT

*Thread locked until start of discussion on April 15, 2018.* *Making History* by Stephen Fry is the April selection for the New Leaf Book Club. Image: ---Quote--- *Making History *(1996) is the third novel by Stephen Fry. The plot involves the creation of an alternative historical time line, one where Adolf Hitler never existed. While most of the book is written in standard prose, a couple of chapters are written in the format of a screenplay. The book won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. ---End Quote--- Kobo UK ( | Kobo US ( | Kobo CA ( | Kobo AU ( | Amazon UK ( | Amazon US ( | Amazon CA ( | Amazon AU (

Edgar Wallace is still a good read

Fri, 09 Mar 2018 03:15:33 GMT

Some time in the 1960s I picked up a paperback Edgar Wallace with the catchy title "The Indiarubber Men". I knew nothing about Edgar Wallace, but enjoyed the book, which was a fast-moving crime/action novel set in London and on the Thames river. The book was first published in 1929, but didn't seem old-fashioned, probably because Wallace had what I call a "conversational" rather than formal writing style, and didn't go into elaborate descriptions of the cars, guns etc., which can rapidly date a book. The "conversational" style was helped by the fact that he dictated his work straight into a Dictaphone, and this no doubt tended to reflect his everyday speech style. It was a fun book, if preposterous overall. There is a crime gang using gasmasks and tommy guns (the rubber gas masks giving the gang its name); a master criminal of great improbability; a beautiful young heiress who didn't know she was one; and the hero/detective is with the River Police. I'd never heard of the River Police, but it really was (and probably still is) one of the Met's divisons. In the grand finale, the master criminal is revealed; he and his gang steal a Navy destroyer (!) to make a getaway down the Thames, only to be blown out of the water by the big land-based guns. The master criminal survives, to be hanged in due course for various murders. It moves along at a very fast clip, and despite numerous plot complications Wallace wraps it up in about 70,000 words. Today's thriller writers would need at least twice that to tell the same story,. Unlike other crime/detective writers of his era, Wallace (1875-1932) saw society from the bottom up rather than the top down. He was the illegitimate son of an actress, and was adopted out. His adoptive father was a porter at the Billingsgate fishmarkets, and they lived in Deptford, then a tough dockside slum area. He eventually made his escape by enlisting in the army aged 21, was in South Africa for the Boer War as a war correspondent, and discovered his gift for narrative. By 1910 he was already famous as a thriller writer, starting off with "The Four Just Men" (1905). I have read probably all his work except the Sanders of the River series, set in Colonial Africa. Much of it is hastily written, and forgettable. Whenever he was short of a few bob, he's dash off another short story and flog it to anyone who wanted to buy it,and then forget all about it, which is why "new" Wallace short stories are still turning up from time to time, having recently been discovered in, say, the "Wantabadgery Gazette and Billabong Bulletin" for March 12 1921, the only place it was ever published. However, he was capable of careful work, and could sustain an entirely different "voice" when needed. "The Adventures of Heine" is a series of chronological short stories written in the first person by an inept, vain, boastful German spy master based in London during WW1. "Master" is a strong word; he is foiled at every turn. The stories are all humorous and entertaining, leading up to poor Heine's final humiliation. Wallace's action thrillers are now the ones best remembered: The Indiarubber Men; The Flying Squad; The Twister; When the Gangs came to London; The Squeaker; The Green Ribbon; The Forger; The Dark Eyes of London; The Crimson Circle― these are some of the better ones. (The Forger and The Crimson Circle both feature strong women). He also wrote hundreds of short stories, often as a series later collected into book form. The Mind of Mr J G Reeder; The Law of the Four Just Men; Again the Ringer; The Brigand; Chick (comedy); Educated Evans; The Mixer, etc Many stand-alone stories have been republished in EQMM etc, and anthologies, ever since. He also tackled a supernatural, sort of, novel: Captain of Souls, one of his longest and most ambitious novels. Wallace is PD in all +50 and +70 jurisdictions. Many of his book are in the Patricia Clark Memorial Library here; al[...]