Wednesday, May 08, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "Choke Hold" by Christa Faust

Angel Dare Holds On For Another Adventure,
& It's Even Bedher Than The Faust!
(And Gats'a No Choke!)

A Keeper In Krime

Reviewed by Don K. Barbecue

Ya know, anymore I really miss the old days of getting the new Hard Case Crime via book club, 'steada having the latest arrival club me in the head to the sudden sound of a shouted “Incoming!” from my old skunk of an uncle. Just as I begin picking the book up Unk hollers, "Hey kid, I wouldn't mind picking up that Angel 'dere my own self.”

Ow. Friggin' Unk got me right in the dang Temple! One more like that, I'm gonna really tell him to Schlock off!

Unk spots me rubbing my crumpled cranium. “Aw, ya big baby,” he yells from the fridge area. “Ya act like a woman never made yer head ache before."

Ummm, niiiiiice cover by Glenn Orbik, who did HCC's first Angel adventure, Money Shot. Guy knows how to make us believe our not-so-little Angel's just the kinda fast-paced, lust-faced gal to spend a few dollars over, purr laps for one lonely night of spill layin' arowlnd.

I rub my ear. No wonder, cuz when I originally encountered Angel Dare and her style of hip-shootin' Money Shots it was indeed lobe at first sight. Hmm, lemme think, when last scene Angel D. was really in some kinda tight spot, charged up on all types of seriously murderous mayhem and snuff.

Unk snorts. “More like may her, not 'im. And don't forget, our little Angel makes her ever-lovin' livin' from her having felon her knees.”

Sigh. Anybody wanna remove from my hands a troubleshootin' troublemaker of a risky business relative relatively cheap? Days like this I might even provide ya a free bier with the take-out.

No, sorry, I take that back. I can still remember when I was but a, as they say over in Coletown, mere yute, when Unk let me read his beat copies of the layfest adventures of The Lady from L.U.S.T., one Foxy superspyette you'd all ways need to post more than one Gardner.

Something falls in the wayback'a the fridge with a big bang of a clang, right before Unk lets loose with “Yeah, coupla leers ago I saw Eve, she wanted to Kiss My Assassin.”

Pause as I roll my eyes heavenward, thinking how Unk saved young assassin from a slaughter-bent snack van once, the truck. “Dammit, lad, where the seven hells ya hide the barbecue sauce for my Eve Drumm stick?”

Okay, that did it. Pardon me a sec. Kick, push, shove, SLAM. Hah! Unk's afely, for now at ... nerk nerk nerk! ... L.U.S.T., stashed inside the fridge awhile, I got him cold Yeah, yeah, I know he always claims to have been trained by master escape artists, but f. n. when he breaks out ready to kill me I'll just calm him down with the offer of a free Houdinner.

Alright, now down to the business of reviewing this book. Okay, now ... hold on, what's this piece of paper inside Choke Hold already? Unk's handwriting for sure:

“Proposed by the pros caption for cover, above Angel's head and gun:

'Yeah, tough guy, this is Thick Vick's kid, and I'm his new guardian ANGEL.You want him, come try to get him, I DARE ya!'”

Hey, that's not too bad. Good ole Unk, maybe I should let him outta the fridge. Naw, I just remembered that live skunk he put in my sleeping bag when I was a young squirt.

Now, finally, Faust things. Christa Faust first came to me and Unk's attention in a handfull'a stories in the old pback HOT BLOOD series of erotic horrors. All recommended even when money'$ getting “Tighter.”

Then there was her contribution to the much-missed Gabriel Hunt paperback original series, Hunt Among The Killers of Men, one fine lost worlds kinda adventure Savage enough to send ya running to the safe arms of your nearest Doc.

In fact, Killers of Men also featured a spiffy cover from Glen Orbik. Lost world adventure is fright! I mean, the ole witch in that artwork, man, does She ever look friggin' Haggard.

By witch I mean, in Hard Case ya haven't read Angel Dare's first Ms.-adventure yet, do so. I guarantee that when you finish, you won't think yer Money Shot.

Okay. When we L.U.S.T, dangit, last saw Ms. Dare, porn princess and all-ROWLnd trouble magnet, the law had her in enough cliff-hanging Pearl to turn a casual reader's hair White. One had to almost figure ... and if there's one thing Angel has, it's a figure, all tight! ... she was in such dire straights she'd never see the light of day again. In fact, it was enough to compare hers with other literary thriller heroes left in the lurch from one book to the next, such as:

A certain Dying Detective who, it seemed, would never see his hearth and Holmes again, no matter what, son.

Or James Bond at the end of From Russia With Love, poisoned and falling flat on his fate and left for Klebb. Double naught to worry, by the next book he Rosa-gun.

Bond agun, at the finish of You Only Live Twice, bereft of memory and heading for employment, he hopes, in Soviet Russia at the height of the Cold War. Trust me, back then the wait from book to next book, on top of Ian Fleming's death, was simply un-Bering-able, see?

And then there's characters we've yet to hear from agun, period,like Hard Case Crime's own John Blake, as last appearing in Songs Of Innocence. Fear not, though, Unk sez “Ah, that guy'll just bust outta there using some handy Aleas!”

Yeah, Unk, like you in the Frigidaire, huh? Rotsa ruck! And speaking of our own Dare in question, turns out Angel's outta stir, gainfully employed in a middle of nowhere eatery out west. Incognito, as it were. Ah yes, I shoulda known ... any good porno princess oughta know enough to, all ways, use witness protection!

In walks this guy looks kinda familiar. Turns out he's one of Angel's hotter old flames from the X-rated movie business, when he was known as Thick Vic. Okay, I'm not going there ... let's jest say if he'd been in a rock band, he wooda gone over big on organ.

Seed letch to lay, times have sex, I SAID exchanged. Vic's having some, ahem, hard times, and he wants Angel to take care of his kid, a young boxer. Seems some shifty crime types wanna have his wet behind the ears boxed.

Angel, sordid, agrees to take the job on, no doubt outta the goodness of her heart big as all-out whores. A lass, in storms trouble, hot lead and destruction. And since the killers blow away her employer, she's unemployed tomb boot. Vic's apparently not much of a cook, cuz he's, like Unk sez, “kilt,” and in no short order! Meaning, porno famous or not, this time's Vic's reely stiff.

Okay, sounds like I'm down on Angel her own self. Naw.Angel's one tough, funny, narrator, and bedher yet, I'd love to see her and Lawrence Block's “Kat” Getting Off together. That as lay be, Ms. Dare's funniest line Choke Hold? “He smelled like a porn set in August.” Ah yes, to every time there's a sleaze on, churn churn churn.

Geez, good thing this didn't happen in Ms. Faust's Control Freak. And if it ever does in a sequel, here's ropin' it ain't, like, 98 degrees in De Sade.

In other words, Choke Hold's one seems-too-short scorcher of a read, full of characters facing and causing chaos amidst the worlds of boxing, porno and just slayin' crime in degeneral. Add to moll dat & Dare, I jest remembered that dear, hah!, cold Unk recently said he thought “Angel and Spillane and Collin-es Consummata ought gat together sometime.”

He also Sade that “Choke Hold could give a guy whiplash just from turning the Bettie Pages.”

Hah! That's it! Allow me to wrap up this review and overview of one hoot of a hot-blooded, full-bodied blast of a big, broad novel, while I say maybe I won't let Unk out I'll let him until the next slam banging Angel adventure, when he might find it over at Nutsy's News over in Coletown, moll ready, deadly, and waiting Dare ...

Mean time, though, I walk over the to fridge. Yup, chains are Holding fine all around, thanks. I give Unk's cold clammer of a slammer a good kick, start singing “Freeze a jolly bad smeller.”

You think that's cold?

Oh yeah? Try this one! “Hey, Unk, get outta that one, I frigid Dare ya.”

Lessee. Setting's on LOW. That's not good. There. Now it's on HIGH. There, that should get him good and Articked off. Don't worry, I know he can take it. Hell, he told me once he won a bet with Admiral Byrd who could stand cold the better. Claimed he won cuz his Coletown blood “happens to be North Pole-ish.” I chuckle, lean toward the fridge door, staying about a foot from the surface cuz my face feels like it's frozen all deadly.

Okay, now onto that Westlake The Comedy Is Finished review, since all this Unkt-uous comedy's finished here. Only, funny, I feel fuzzy like I been of late doing these things. And, ah nertz, there's that buzzing sound again. And where's it coming from, any which way?

Whoa, wuzzat? Sorry. Some sharp surface's poking my back, like a claw. Or a gun.

From behind me comes a voice: “Hey, kid, the fridge got any more of those cold guts?”

Okay, I know that voice, but that doesn't stop me from moving, fast. So, when I come down from the ceiling I straighten myself a bit, ask him, “Okay, Unk, how'dja get out the fridge?”

Unk ignores me, digs around in the fridge like shelf help, goes “Hey, ordurvies!”

“Dang it, Unk, that fridge was tied tighter than I dunno what knot.”

Unk pulls out a jar of horseradish, unscrews the lid, puts his head back and thump some down his gullet. Burps a discharge smells like Godzilla in diapers. You know, when he was young steada Tokyold.

“Kid,” Unk sez, “rule number one when expecting to ever get locked in a refridgerator: keep handy lots of really good and sharp hot saws!”

I'm about to say but the fridge looks no the worse for wear, but there goes that buzzing again. I start to ask Unk about it, but he's already down on his knees,pulling up a slab of linoleum. Comes up with what looks like a remote, starts pushing buttons. That sound I'd been hearing for months gets even louder, while I notice the zapper, all black mostly, here and there white as bone, is shaped like, nah, couldn't be.

Can't hurt to ask. “Uh, Unk, why's another of yer 'super secrete cell phonies' shaped like the Grim Reaper?”

To which he replies, “I got this for a lady fiend down in Texas, that I visit whenever up Nort' gets Dallas it comes." Now quiet. Change of tone. “Hey, babe, long tomb no hear. Howard ya fixed for Saturday, my little pigeon?"

Suddenly comes a screech worthy of a sorority banned she, a sound to truly make a guy's short hairs not grow any schlonger. Seems like days before it ceases, as a somewhat familiar voice comes over the Reaper Receiver, sexy butt kinda distant, in, out, waverly. “Open Channel Double D., open Channel Double D. nude!”

No, she doesn't say “Now,” she sez “Nude.” Unk pushes buttons. “Double D. open, plowed and leer.”

“Code cleared. Assume auditory input silence.”

Unk goes still. Closes eyes, reminds me of Derek Flint between chairs stiff as a board, acting comfortable as only he wood.

Outside, sounds cease. Inside same. Man, as usual, all this superspy stuff Unk pulls outta nowhere “all at onced” has my heart beating to beat the Bond.

Time passes. Glaciers somewhere melt. Birds learn to swim, fish fly on the fry. In the Middle East, pizza's achieved AND anchovied ...

Suddenly Unk breaks the quiet with a shout. “What? They've got Pyrrholoxia? MY Shamelady? The fiends! What? They sent pictures of her all in chains and stuff on the Twirled-Tight net? Okay, call that writer gal Christa Faust thing, I'll be right 'dere!”

He starts to say “Over and ow-,” stops. “Any clue where they got her?” Pause. "She's in Tai-Wan, where they've really tied one on her, all righty tighty?"

Pause. “Yeah, Dominay schtupp to her old trix again. And Pyrrie's still tied tight as Eve Drumm, same as you said L.U.S.T.?”

Pause. “Okay, on my way. Code H C C you soon, goon!”

Next thing I know Unk's on his knees, replacing the Grim Reaper beeper, but bringing forth that superduper whippy poot raygun he had last time he zapped out here to get the gore done.

Dang, I said I didn't want that thing in here. Dunno how many times I friggin' pistoled him.

He's at the door, not a word to me. "Wait a sec, Unk," I say, giving my ears a few good wax. "Okay, say that again. The lady's name."

"You mean the bird's."

"No, I mean the lady's."

"All my ladies are birds, kid. Real tweethearts. Ah yessss, Pyrrholoxia Shamelady. Her bole .... get it? ... okay, ole man named her after some cardinal ... the bird kind ... or something. And me, I'm her one and bonely woodpeck --"

I hold up my hand. "You've used that line about every one of yer lady 'birds.' Since I dunno wren. Get on with it. And for once make it short and tweet!"

And before I can get another word out, he aims that gun at me all in a Thrush. Thing looks like it came came from another Galaxy. And boy is it ever pointed at me Derekly.

You know me, dear reader. I try not to punic.

Then, suddenly, he turns, points at the fridge, the gun hums, and the fridge explodes without him ever pulling a trigger. And there goes the appliance where I thought I had Unk captive mere minutes ago. Now, no fridge, and the gun's aimed at me once more. Which is scare I close my eyes, starting to feel real a-trayed.

Silence. Nothing moves. I'm still breathing, that's about it. I can't get any cornea, but I inch one eye oh pun.. Two. Unk's zapped outta here, door's open so far it was the days of Veet Nam since I felt such a draft.

I close the door, but not before yelling “Not thatcha need it, but good luck, Unk. And give 'em unPyrrholoxy hell!'

Then I look down. Wuzz this, a business card?

Holy key-crap. It IS, with Unk's real name, too! Plus an organizational logo: M.A.N.I.C.

Never hoid of it. Manic, huh? Oh, never Coletown mined.

Hmm. Seems Unk belongs to M.A.N.I.C, which it sez here stands for the following:

“Master Assassins & Nukers of International Criminuts.”

Say what? Criminuttly!?! So, Unk's really engaged in the type of activity I always suspected. And whenever I'd ask about it he'd laugh, tell me, “Nah, kid, even yer old Uncle would never stoop Solo!”

Oh sure, NOW I get it. I finger the card, start to yell toward wherever he is agun, when I doorstop, realize what all this means, which is:

I'm now a card-carrying relative of a true red-white & blue Unk from M.A.N.I.C.!

When, whoa, I'm flying! No, wait, not flying, hanging in mid-air by my belt-buckle, making like Angel Dare all whorey-zone-tall

A familiar tatoo-ed hand moves past my head. I read it: SEMPER FU YOU!

Ah, no! It can't be. I start to holler, no good, I'm face first inside the back of the fridge, and the door's gone shut with a hiss of unhotness.

“Trow yer old Unk in 'dere, will ya?”

“Lemme out here,” I could about cry, if my lips would separate from Unk's stack of defrosting Twinkies.

“Ya know, kid,” Unk sez from what moist be heavenly hot outside, “you gave me a good ider there, and like ole Byrdie when he tried it, I do believe it was Yukon'ed me into it.”

I try to yell out. “No, yer the one OUT of it. I'm in here ...”

“ Yeah,” Unk agrees. “Yer rubbin' noses with the Eskimo'ses, while I'm safe as can be. Hey, this button setting here reminds me of yer love life.”

I hear a knob turn even as Icey, uh, I say, “H o oo w's thuh thuh tthhhhat, muh ma fave ritt UNCLE, I'm yelling UNCLE here!”

Unk seems not to hear.“Ya gave me a good idea there, kid. Gonna head on down to Nutsy's news stand and wait there long as it takes for the new Angel Dare book to come out. Might even wait for the Hell Freezes Over chapters in THE BIBLE, PART TWO. Scripturrrrrre, that's it!”

I hear Unk's laugh as the front door slams, and then cold darkness reigns down. I dunno how long. All I know is anybody wants to know if the fridge light stays on when the door's closed, it doesn't. Wait. A door opens, foots step closer. A voice sounds, warmly, “Hey, kid, I see here in yer notes you remembered I trained with Houdini.”

Hard to say if Unk notices my faint, frozen mumble of a “Y y yeah?”

“Well, kid,” Unk continues, “you know me, I always keep things on hand for when I need them. Right now, I'm gonna go sit by the fire and enjoy the new Angel Dare while yer the Frigidaire!”

I want to shout Unk a certain X-sample of an thighly onlickly physical act Angel would probably enjoy, but all I manage is a “Y y ye ahh, so h h owww does duh dat, yer b b bein' wit Hoo duh ini once huh hu help muh, muh, meee?”

“Easy, kid,” Unk sez, turning the dial colder and deeper, “all ya gotta Houdini do is scrounge around in there and find my old carton of frozen locks.”

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