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Super-Detective Flip Book: Two Complete Novels Paperback – March 10, 2008
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Silent Corner" by Dean Koontz
A dazzling new series, a pure adrenaline rush, debuts with Jane Hawk, a remarkable heroine certain to become an icon of suspense. See more
About the Author
John Wooley has written novels, nonfiction, screenplays, journalism, and documentaries. His other books include the seminal horror classics "Old Fears" and "Death's Door", written with Ron Wolfe, and "How to Make It in the Music Business", written with music impresario Jim Halsey. Wooley lives in Oklahoma, where he is working on his next novel.
John McMahan has enjoyed a professional career in real estate as an investment manager; public board member; consultant; educator and writer; and industry and community leader. In the 1980's, he merged his firm with Mellon Bank to form Mellon-McMahan Real Estate Advisors and, as CEO, built the firm into the 16th largest pension advisor in the nation. In 1996 he became Chairman of BRE Properties and led the public apartment REIT in a restructuring and expansion program from $300 M in assets to over $3 B in eight years. He is currently an advisor to California State Teachers Retirement fund and other real estate investment organizations.
In addition to his business activities, he taught real estate at the Stanford GSB for 17 years and at the Haas Graduate School of Business (UC Berkeley) for 5 years. In 2006, John received an award from Harvard University for Lifetime Achievement in Real Estate Education. Previously, he received the Louise L. and Y. T. Lum Award for Excellence in Teaching and the William S. Ballard Award for writing.
He has written four books on real estate including "The McGraw Hill Real Estate Pocket Guide" (1979), "Property Development" (1989), "Cases in Commercial Real Estate Investing" (2005), and the "Handbook of Commercial Real Estate Investing" (2006). He is currently working on "Professional Property Development" which will be published by McGraw Hill in Spring, 2007.
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Top Customer Reviews
The hero of our two stories is Jim Anthony, who bears a striking resemblance to Doc Savage, an even more popular hero of the pulp age. Anthony is wealthy, brilliant and extremely physically fit, with physical capabilities verging on superhuman, though not quite. There are assorted and sundry other characters, i.e. sidekicks, helping Jim in his endeavors.
The first story is "Legion of Robots" that is from the era when Jim Anthony's stories had science fiction elements in them. This story was the second Jim Anthony story, published around 01 November 1940. Anthony's principal foe in the first three magazines was Rado Ruric, a villain with capabilities near Anthony's, which made Ruric just short of a super-villain.
In "Legion of Robots," Ruric has escaped from prison after Anthony had captured Ruric in the first story in the Anthony series. Ruric had two goals. His first goal was to sabotage America, remembering that this story published when the United States was supporting Great Britain even though the United States had not declared war against any of the Axis powers. Ruric's second goal was to get revenge on his nemesis Jim Anthony.
Ruric obtained certain chemicals from a fictional Central American nation that enables him to control men and to give them great strength, thus the name "Legion of Robots." Ruric has also built a serpent-like submarine that can travel on land, spouting chemicals to attack aircraft and people.
Jim Anthony has his hands full as he learns of secrets that threaten his organization and ability to thwart the enemy's of America. Yet, as true American heroes must, we know that Jim Anthony will ultimately prevail, even if it takes a while to figure out how he will prevail.
The second story is "Murder's Migrants" from Anthony's era as a "hard-boiled" detective. This story published 01 March 1943 as the Second World War raged. Once again, Anthony is fighting people intent on sabotaging the American war effort.
Anthony learns of a plot to damage the war effort as he is having dinner. A man who thought Anthony's organization duped him into spending all his money on a bogus trip to California for a non-existent job is preparing to shoot Anthony when someone shoots him.
Anthony begins to investigate and learns that someone has been using his name illegally. Anthony's investigation incurs the wrath of a local police detective who is often annoyed at Anthony's superior investigative abilities. Anthony must overcome all these obstacles to determine who and why people are paying all the money they have to men in the belief they are going to work war jobs in the Southwest, only to be dumped in the desert. What purpose could these men have? How could these actions harm Anthony and his companies? Read on to the exciting conclusion!
These two stories are amazingly entertaining. Given that both stories are from long ago, the style is somewhat archaic and sometimes amusing. The science is often suspect, particularly in "Legion of Robots." Many of the devices described in this story are impossible, which throws many of the elements into either fantastic fiction or science fiction. If you ignore the impossible or implausible aspects, the story is interesting and exciting. I remember enjoying "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," which is a pulp fiction film and it is the closest contemporary example I am able to provide to this book. If you enjoyed "Sky Captain" or just enjoy any story where you need to look past what you know to be able to enjoy the story, then these two stories are a lot of fun.
One thing I noticed in both stories is occasional references to bosoms and creamy thighs - and sometimes - other creamy things. I assume that these references are the "lurid" parts of these stories. By today's standards, these references sometimes verge on hilarious and cliché.
I also thought the writing in "Legion of Robots" seemed more archaic than the writing in "Murder's Migrants." I noticed that the author tended to phrase things in a way that seemed to pre-date the 1940's. The author also seemed to rely heavily on the use of exclamation marks. Though I was more amused in "Legion of Robots," I thought "Murder's Migrants" was more interesting and better written.
I enjoyed both these stories from another era and I hope to be able to read more stories like these in the future. Fans of books, pulp detective stories, pulp science fiction, or Doc Savage will likely find these stories as entertaining and amusing as I did.
My thanks to the author's representative for providing me with a review copy.
Pulp fiction seems constantly to be on the comeback. From a publisher entirely devoted to it, like Hard Case Crime, to modern-novel imitations like The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, even to weblogs trumpeting its merits, like the "Pulp O' the Day" feature on I Was a Bronze Age Boy, it seems we just can't get enough of those seemingly undefeatable heroes like The Shadow and Doc Savage, and the hardboiled private eyes that followed in their footsteps after World War II.
During his tenure as star of his own magazine, Super-Detective, millionaire Jim Anthony was both a superhero and a detective. For 10 novels (always written under the house name "John Grange" -- much like The Shadow's author, "Maxwell Grant"), Anthony fought "super-villains" in high adventure tales of science-fiction. Then, for whatever reason (not all that many world-dictator wannabes, I imagine), Jim Anthony became a more traditional shamus against foes with more earthbound ambitions.
Both of these phases are considered by aficionados to be of equal quality, and the Super-Detective Flip Book contains a "novel" (really "novella," as neither exceeds 100 pages) from each period, printed back-to-back and head-to-tail like the old Ace Double format. (Only, unlike the mass-market size that Ace used and that Hard Case Crime recently revived with its reissue of two early Robert Bloch books -- Shooting Star and Spiderweb -- Off-Trail Publications and Reverse Karma Press have published these books in trade paperback.)
First up chronologically is November 1940's Legion of Robots, the second of a trilogy of novels (widely presumed to be the work of pulp sci-fi author Victor Rousseau, though this is still only speculation) featuring Jim Anthony's struggle with Rado Ruric. Don't worry that two-thirds of the story is missing, however: the other two have been reprinted separately since their debut and (at least according to the introduction by John McMahan), Legion of Robots is considered to be better than its brothers (Dealer in Death and Madame Murder).
Turn the book over to find not-so-"super" detective Jim Anthony in March 1943's Murder's Migrants, one of around a dozen Anthony tales written by pulpsmiths Robert Leslie Bellem and Willis Todhunter Ballard (still under the "John Grange" pseudonym). During this era, Anthony's adventures became less kid-friendly (mostly due to his sidekick's eye for the ladies), because comics had taken away much of that audience and the publisher decided to cater to the older readers who had remained.
While Anthony was originally created as an amalgam of other heroes of the time, like Doc Savage, Superman (just check out the "Super" lettering on the cover), and possibly even Tarzan, he has his own admirable qualities -- and a "legion" of fans to support him. But neither of the stories in the Super-Detective Flip Book is what I would call "good." They both have the particular pulp charm of stories that were written in a hurry, but Murder's Migrants in particular is painfully overwritten in spots. (Given its 60-page length, this is rather surprising.)
Before 10 pages have passed, Bellem (who would eventually focus his skills on television scripts) and Ballard (who would stick to novels but switch primarily to Westerns as "Todhunter Ballard," even serving as vice president of the Western Writers of America for a time), have brought out half a dozen of Anthony's superhuman powers (some from his Comanche mother, another from a Hindu yogi) before he has even met the villain. And the finale more closely matches that of the Firesign Theater's detective parody Nick Danger, Third Eye than any other real detective novel. And in case we didn't get the point, there's that passage I quoted at the beginning of this review, which I can only refer to as a sales pitch. (No wonder author Bill Pronzini devoted an entire chapter to the duo in his book an awful crime writing, Gun in Cheek.)
Super-Detective Flip Book is a terrific time capsule of a time when pulp was king, and "escapism" was the name of the game. I'm not sure that it's going to gain the style many new fans; the quality of writing is simply too pedestrian to make a new reader hungry for more. But the pulp fan who needs something besides the same old reprints that everyone else has already done will find it a welcome discovery indeed.