I finished Gardner Fox’s The Bastard of Orleans the other day. It sure started strong, and in the first 40-60 pages I thought I might be reading another one as strong as The Borgia Blade. It turns out that despite surface similarities (great action scenes and some old-style “spice”) that it was designed with different effects in mind.
As I contemplated this review I remembered to consider what I always wish other reviewers would do and thought about the novel on its own terms. I believe this book was intended to achieve a different effect than the one I enjoyed more. It was a historical intended to have great action scenes and titillating sex scenes, or scenes with sexy descriptions of women. Fox delivered these things very well, and if that’s what you went in looking for, you’d be very happy. Read More
Following up on my post about the strengths of hardboiled fiction I come to the strengths of some of these old historicals. I’m about halfway through Gardner Fox’s The Bastard of Orleans. Maybe the characterization isn’t anything for the ages, but man, am I being swept along by the pace and the surprising turns. Scenes of great color and action, lots of momentum, and plenty of lovely ladies. By page 40 more stuff had already happened than what often happens in a hundred pages or more of modern fantasy stuff. Will I love it as much as I loved The Borgia Blade? I’ll know by the end. Right now I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.
I had it in mind as I was thinking about pacing. I’m always thinking about pacing, but I’ve found myself contemplating it even more in the last few weeks. I’m wrestling with the middle section of my novel and wondering why it’s not fast enough to please me.
I think one of the problems we’ve gotten into is, as I mentioned, a market demand for big fat novels. I tried to buck that trend but the market didn’t like it, so now I’m trying to write novels that, if not fat, are still longer. But I’m also trying to give them the only kind of pacing I can tolerate.
First, I’m overdue pointing you towards a fundraiser for Robert Zoltan’s Literary Wonder and Adventure Show. He and Edgar the Raven are seeking backers to keep bringing you interviews and information about your favorite writers and genres. Check it out! Robert’s a great guy and huge fan of the genre, and very supportive of his guests. And Edgar the Raven is a hoot. Or, rather, a caw.
Second, here’s a cool article written by someone who attended one of the woman-only showings of Wonder Woman. I’ve yet to get to the show (it was sold out BOTH times my wife and I took the kids to see it, this weekend AND last), but I hear good things. This article better made me appreciate how empowering it must feel to women viewers.
Back in 2015 I was pretty thrilled by Gardner Fox’s old historical The Borgia Blade. You can find that review here. I was quite pleased by that one, and a little surprised, as I had abandoned his Kothar sword-and-sorcery stories after several heroic efforts on my part. The Borgia Blade was in a whole different category, as you can see from my review.
I’ve since read another by him still far better than Kothar, but not in the same class as The Borgia Blade, which was so good I’ve continued to search for more gold in his body of work, aided by a list from my friend Morgan Holmes (sword-and-sorcery scholar extraordinaire) that had a whole slew of Fox’s historicals under his own name as well as those written under pseudonyms.
First up (just as soon as I finish some other books) is The Bastard of Orleans. After that will come another Gold Medal paperback, perhaps Terror Over London. I’ve never shared the fascination with Jack the Ripper that many people have, but Chris Hocking tells me that this book is supposed to have a good reputation. Read More
I intend to discuss them, and some of my other favorite Wade Miller titles, with Chris Hocking in an upcoming post. As I think we once mentioned, don’t go reading discussions, because many of those who discuss the novels carelessly reveal the solution to the mystery. And these really are so tightly plotted you’ll be hard pressed to know what’s going on until the end, so that kind of indifference is inexcusable. These are highly crafted mysteries.
I was just eager to read them — I didn’t mind if my editions were mis-matched, hence the different cover styles and sizes. You’re lucky. So long as you don’t mind e-books, you can find the whole set right here.
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