Friday, October 22, 2010

Danger in Paradise by A.S. Fleischman (Stark House Press)

Growing up, I was a fan of author A.S. Fleischman's work, only I didn't know it. At that time, Fleischman was going by his middle name of Sid and mostly made his living writing works for children, including the "Bloodhound Gang" mysteries on the PBS TV show 3-2-1 Contact ("Whenever there's trouble, we're there on the double"). My friend Bryan McCarter and I loved these so much that we formed the "Bloodhound Gang II" and solved mysteries around the neighborhood of our own devising.

As Sid, Fleischman won the Newbery Award for his novel The Whipping Boy. As Albert Sidney Fleischman, he wrote the screenplays for both Blood Alley (from his novel) and Sam Peckinpah's debut feature The Deadly Companions (from his novel Yellowleg). But before he was either of those, Fleischman began his writing career as A.S. Fleischman, author of a couple of thrillers for Gold Medal Books set in the Malay Peninsula and published in the early 1950s.

Danger in Paradise and Malay Woman have not been in print since then. And now they're paired in a new trade-paper edition from Stark House Press.

In Danger in Paradise, oil geologist Jefferson Cape is ready to leave Indonesia after having made some good money and then spent it. But when he stops for a final bottle of arrack, a White Russian girl stops him at the bar. Nicole Balashova wants him to carry something on board for her, and like a sucker, Jeff agrees.

Jeff is chased and misses his boat, and that's only the beginning of this tropical thriller from 1953. Before his life is normal again, he will learn of Nicole's death, get (almost) caught up with maneater Regina Williams, be pursued by a Pith-helmet-wearing, Malacca-cane-carrying skinny threat, and get knocked out a few times.

Danger in Paradise is a blazing read, with Fleischman throwing one thing after another at his hero. The exotic setting (and women) only make the reading that much richer. I'm already looking forward to diving into Malay Woman, based on reviews of that book from James Reasoner and Bill Crider. It sounds even better.

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