Last Update 10/15/17

University by John William Grisham, Aloha Lounge Press, 2013, $16.50

This comedic and nostalgic novel is set in the fictional Metropolitan University, whose current president has highly ambitious plans for his own future. Against this backdrop we follow the adventures of a group of mostly male students most of whom live on the same floor of one of the dormitories. They share the role of protagonist as we follow their various adventures during their college years (which take place during the 1980s). My own college stint was a couple of decades earlier, but while the details are in some cases different, the general tone is quite familiar. The plot is necessarily anecdotal and some of the episodes are more effective than others. The mood is generally light although there are occasional serious undertones. This strikes me as a book to be read in the summer, by the side of a swimming pool, while drinking Sangria. 10/14/17

Rifle Pass by Max Brand, Leisure, 2007

Safety McTee by Max Brand, Leisure, 1999

Peter Blue by Max Brand, Leisure, 2006

Three collections of short western tales from the 1920s and 1930s. A gunfighter conceals the fact that his right hand has been seriously damaged. A roving adventurer finds the unexpected in a small town. The son of a gunfighter has to establish his own reputation. A nine year old girl helps an outlaw regain his freedom. Another gunfighter is famous for wounding rather than killing his opponents. A wastrel is sent to track down an outlaw in an attempt to make him more mature. Brand's short stories are generally very similar to his novels, though more compact. These were all readable but none of them were particularly memorable. 8/29/17

The Thunder Dragon Gate & Old Ugly-Face by Talbot Mundy, Leonaur, 2013

These the two Lobsang Pun novels, set in Tibet, with elements of the fantastic although the stories are basically mundane. They were originally published in 1937 and 1940 and both deal with the power struggle over the fate of the Dalai Lama. They are not among the author's better novels but they have their moments.  In the first a group of outsiders attempt to influence the choice as new leader of the Tibetan people and in the second similar powers maneuver for power within the new court. There are some giant spiders in the first and genuine magic in the second. The first suffers from now telling us enough about the background, and the second from telling us too much. 8/3/17

Other Arms Reach Out to Me by Michael Bishop, Kudzu Planet, 2017, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-933846-65-1

A good many years ago I started reading the occasional short story of a young writer who not only seemed to surprise me with almost every new story but who also usually managed to get me emotionally involved with the characters unusual for SF then, and now as well for that matter. This is a collection of his comparatively recent stories, only a couple of which have any real fantastic content. They are more property speaking a series of stories about life in the state of Georgia, and I am not at all surprised to find the stories filled with characters who are more than just names assigned to plot elements to be moved through their paces. Regional writing is often less than well treated because the major publishers assume that their market is more limited, which is about as short sighted a decision as I can imagine. In any case, these are stories for people who enjoy fiction about real people and real situations, even the fantastical ones, and you're only short changing yourself if you don't read them. 7/14/17

The Frozen Year by James Blish, Ballantine, 1957  

Although this is often listed as SF, and it has a Powers cover, it's a contemporary novel about an expedition into the Arctic. The expedition is badly led and underfunded and a third of the members die the first day they are on the ice. Nevertheless, they uncover evidence that there was once a planet with life between Mars and Jupiter. Unfortunately, one of them declares himself a Martian and destroys the evidence, although it is never clear that he wasn't just crazy. Well written and more engaging than it probably sounds. 7/2/17

The Sacking of El Dorado by Max Brand, Leisure, 1997 

Six short stories of the Old West by one of the most prolific and still popular writers in the genre. Paradoxically the stories generally have better realized characters than many of his novels. The situations are fairly familiar outsiders finding their place, man against the wilderness, etc.  The title story is the best in the collection but all of them are quite readable.  7/1/17