Last Update 3/25/23

Condominium by John D. MacDonald, Lippincott, 1975

MacDonald took a break from Travis McGee to write his longest novel, which makes use of his increasingly common theme of poor real estate development in Florida. A rapacious developer has built a string of condominiums that make him rich and he finds innovative ways to extort more money from the residents. Unfortunately he also skimps on construction quality and the buildings are decaying almost from the day they open. A tenants' group organizes to fight back, but both sides are going to be caught up when a violent hurricane threatens, with winds the condominiums can not withstand. 3/25/23

Seven by John D. MacDonald, Gold Medal, 1971 

Seven stories of suicide, murder, betrayal, adultery, lust, arrogance, hyper rectitude, and other often ugly human emotions. I didn’t think this was as good as his previous collection, End of the Tiger. A couple of the stories have very weak endings and none of them have the kinds of clever plot twists that made so many of his short stories sparkle. They are generally a bit longer. “The Willow Pool” is quite good – a college student is traumatized and may have committed a murder. 3/18/23

End of the Tiger by John D. MacDonald, Gold Medal, 1966 

This is a quite varied collection of short stories, adventure, crime, and the mundane. Several of them are quite clever – I had not read much of his short fiction before this. The emotional punches are sometimes more intense than in his novels, and some of the plots are quite complex. A common theme is trouble averted by observing a bad example. Bullies frequently get trounced. Bad decisions come back to haunt people.  Settings include race tracks, fishing boats, and picnics. The one novelette included is actually the least interesting story in the collection. 3/15/23

Harry Heathcote at Gangoil by Anthony Trollope, Dover, 1874 

After visiting Australia, Trollope wrote this story of a young English immigrant who married and operated a small sheep farm in a remote area. Harry is rather pugnacious and irritates his neighbors, including one family who would be called rustlers in the American Old West. The conflict rapidly boils toward a violent conclusion. This was comparatively short for Trollope and can actually be read in one longish sitting. It is entertaining but lacks the depths of character and situation which characterize his more significant novels. 3/9/23

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith, 1766

I had never read this before and found it pretty dull and occasionally over the top. A family has various problems with money and other circumstances, aided and abetted by the activities of an evil squire. Their house catches fire, a daughter disappears and is assumed dead, and the father is sent to debtors' prison. It all comes out well in the end thanks to the arrival of a friendly man of means. This felt more like a soap opera than anything else and I found the prose leaden. 2/27/23

The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope, 1864 

The fifth book in the Barset series. A widow and her two daughters live on suffrage from a rich uncle. He favors the older daughter and wants her to marry a cousin whom he also likes, but she is not interested. He has little interest in the younger, who is engaged to a man who expected a substantial amount of support from the uncle and begins to have second thoughts. He marries someone else from a distinguished family, but the marriage is a disaster. The older sister eventually marries a poor doctor whom she loves, the younger sister's admirer has several successes, but he does not convince her to marry him and she has no suitors as the story ends. The uncle realizes the error of his ways and corrects them. This was a very long novel but seemed to pass relatively quickly. 2/26/23

Fangs by William Dobson, Signet, 1980

There was a brief popularity of nature gone wild novels in SF back around this time. This really isn't one of them. It's a straightforward suspense adventure story about a deadly king cobra that gets loose in a major city. It insinuates itself into buildings and kills a few people before the protagonist is able to track it down. The suspense is minimal and the story rather flat. Dobson is British writer Michael Butterworth, who produced several tie in novels for the Space 1999 television show. 2/6/23

Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope, 1861

A very long novel not in a series with a large cast of characters and a very large number of subplots. The main one involves a codicil to a will that leaves a small farm to a dying man's younger second wife and her son. The rest of the estate goes to the son by his first wife. The son is ignorant, intolerant, and holds a grudge because he failed in his challenge to the codicil, even though he was left well off. The other plots mostly involve complicated love affairs and triangles, and some tension between generations, one a young man who is too lazy to work hard, one who is too industrious to relax or consider other people's viewpoints. There really is not enough story for such a long book, so there are extensive accounts of Christmas parties, fox hunting, and other social events. Halfway through we learn that the codicil was in fact forged, and that removes any element of mystery. This is not one of my favorites of his novels. 1/31/23

The Star Stalker by Robert Bloch, Pyramid, 1968 

I think this is the only mundane novel Bloch wrote. Despite the title, it is not about a psychopath. It is not a suspense novel. Set during the era of silent movies, it follows the career of a young writer who wants to work in the movie business. Through luck and hard work, he manages to enjoy a fairly successful career, but at times he has doubts that he has made the right decisions in his life. More of interest because of the era and situations it evokes than anything else. 1/12/23

A Key to the Suite by John D. MacDonald, Gold Medal, 1962 

Although there is a murder at the end of this short novel, it is not a mystery or even a suspense story. The setting is a business convention where some of the attendees have conspired against an executive whom they believe is going to recommend the elimination of some jobs. They hire a prostitute to seduce him, planning to use quiet blackmail to alter his position. The seduction works, but an angry boyfriend complicates the issue and the executive is not inclined to allow his weakness affect his professional decisions. The murder is inadvertent but also unprovable and the killer gets away with it. 1/3/23