Re: RARA-AVIS: Various authors

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 20 Nov 2003

--- Michael Robison <> wrote:
> Just finished ASSIGNMENT PEKING by Aarons (sp?) and
> PETERS PENCE by Jon Cleary. The Cleary novel was
> not
> really bad, but it was more in the thriller category
> and not what I would call very hardboiled. I think
> it
> was an OK book but just not my type. The Aarons
> book
> had a halfway decent style to it. Like Bill Crider
> noted, he is great at describing the setting, and I
> enjoyed that part of it, but the plot seemed
> haphazard
> and sloppy. It felt like he started writing the
> book
> without knowing what was going to happen. That
> strategy might work for some books, but most
> hardboiled has got a well-woven plot and if it
> doesn't, it had better have something else
> commendable. Aarons's skill with the setting wasn't
> enough to make up for an unconvincing and
> ineffective
> story line.

I like Aarons very much, but he is what he is. If you go into him thinking you're going to get depth on the level of Adam Hall's Quiller series or Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm series, you're bound to be disappointed. To my way of thinking, he's essentially very good pulp, and if you take him on that level, quite enjoyable.

I haven't read PEKING, so can't really comment on that one, except to say there's undoubtedly some weak books in the ASSIGNMENT series (which is very very long). Generally speaking ones published before, say, 1965 are the best, although I enjoyed the hell out of ASSIGNMENT: TOKYO, which is one of the last books in the series, which says something about something, I guess.

Recent reads include Ellroy's BLACK DAHLIA (I remain mystified why this book has garnered so much praise); Ellroy's BIG NOWHERE (which I liked much much more, although I think it falls apart at the very end); Charles Williams THE SAILCLOTH SHROUD (not one of his better efforts); and Wade Miller's SOUTH OF THE SUN
(reading it right now, a typically solid perfomance from these guys.)


===== Doug Bassett

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