Archive for the ‘William C. Heine’ Category

the-swordsman-william-c-heine-2The Swordsman by William C. Heine ~ 1980. Alternate title: Sea Lord. This edition: McClelland and Stewart, 1980. Paperback. ISBN: 0-7704-1570-9. 246 pages.

My rating: 2/10

Boo, hiss.

Yes, my dears, this is a deeply baaaaad novel.

So why (I am sure you are asking yourselves) did I read it?

Good question.

And to answer it I must refer you back to this little episode from 2015: .

So, if you followed that link, you will notice mention way down in the comments of William C. Heine’s second (and, small mercy, last) novel, The Swordsman/Sea Lord, which fellow Canadian reader-of-eclectica Brian Busby and I have been discussing tackling for the past year or so. He pulled it off first, and has just posted his own bang-on review, so I’ve had to follow through with my own promise to read the thing as well.

I did, and I conquered it, and I’m now feeling a little bit dirty all over, because it was a nastyish piece of work from one end to the other. And just as stupid as The Last Canadian. Unexpectedly boring, too, because one became hardened to the unlikely sex and gruesome violence early on, and soon came to view the continual bedding and blood-letting with an increasingly jaded eye.

I’m going to pass you over to Brian for a bit: The Sea Lord Unsheathes His Sword.

Got that? Good. I can therefore be brief in my own précis, without having to include any excerpts. (Thank you, Brian.)

We meet our hero Merand as he nearly succumbs to an assassin’s knife in a back alley in old Tyre. Oh, what the heck, here’s an excerpt. It gives a telling sample of Heine’s deeply pedestrian writing style.

Merand soon gained consciousness, but couldn’t shout for help; he was choking on a warm salty liquid he recognized vaguely as his own blood. He crawled, coughing blood, to the nearest door and hit it with his fist before collapsing. The slave who answered took one frightened look and called for his master. The two men dragged Merand to an inner room and lit a candle.

As the blood coagulated in Merand’s lungs, the worst of his coughing and choking stopped. He managed to tell the two men he was a slave of Tehemil, Tyre’s builder of ships. They exchanged glances over the wounded man’s body…

I always thought that once the blood coagulated in your lungs you pretty well stopped breathing, but hey! – Heine’s reality isn’t ours, so there you go.

So Merand is soon up and about, working for his rescuer, a Jewish ironworker with a gorgeous daughter. Merand instantly forms lustful designs upon her as she leans over his bed-of-pain, and, once recovered, he seduces and then marries her, either before or after he receives his freedom from the local ruler. (Some details are a merciful blur.)

There is a long flashback, describing how Merand learned to read, write, murder those who annoy him, stash himself some stolen gold, and become a master ship designer, in between sleeping with a fellow slave girl, and sacrificing his first-born child to Baal in a much-too-detailed episode describing how the wee infant is tipped into the fire to be burned alive. Apparently (in Heine’s version of history), it was mandated that every family’s firstborn be so sacrificed in Olde Tyre. Huh. Who knew?

Moving on.

Merand falls in love with a sword his new master has forged for a disgraced prince. He acquires it, learns to become a stellar swordsman, travels about gaining stunning riches, takes on a beautiful red-headed mistress (because his wife is always pregnant and a man has needs, you know), and eventually sails off into the really wild blue yonder, right across the Atlantic, it appears, fetching up on the shores of South America, where he is welcomed as a god by the local ruler and subsequently given the chief princess as a reward for being big and blonde.

Small digression into vivid descriptions of Heine’s version of Mayan (Aztec? Toltec?) human sacrifice.

Back to the old country goes Merand, lots of gold and doomed-to-die-in-childbirth new babe in tow, where he finds he is persona non grata with the king for various reasons, so he packs up his household, faithful wife Naomi still in the picture, plus Jewish father-in-law, and various offspring by assorted partners (Merand’s), and sets sail back to South America.

The end. With an epilogue describing the imaginary discovery of Merand’s tomb, complete with detailed carvings depicting his adventures, which is how we know the whole story.

Sure.

I truly believe that regrettable books like this only exist to provide a contrast to well written things.

Kind of like never truly appreciating the sun until you’ve had rain for weeks on end. Or how good a simple green salad tastes after having had to subsist on corner store deep-fried thingamajigs for a week or two. (That last bit being strictly imaginary, based on occasional exposure to the scary 7-11 food display when fuelling up late at night when it’s the only gas station open.)

Where am I going with this?

Nowhere, really, so I’ll quit.

William C. Heine: avoid like the plague. (Or a large, blood-dabbled swordsman wearing a skimpy loincloth over a suspicious bulge. Run away!)

 

 

 

 

 

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last canadian heine cover 001The Last Canadian by William C. Heine ~ 1974. This edition: Pocket Books, 1975, paperback. ISBN: 671-78753-8. 253 pages.

My rating: Oh, dear. Maybe a 2/10? But I did read it from beginning to end, so that argues for a certain mesmerizing appeal. After a certain amount of inner argument, here’s the final verdict: 5/10. Because something so strangely bad adds variety to one’s reading life, and Mr. Heine shows vast enthusiasm for his plaguey topic, even if he’s a bit unreliable on his science. And he’s occasionally very funny, though I’m not quite sure if that was by intention or merely happy accident.

Where to start?

Brian Busby and Grady Hendrix have both written gloriously gloves-off reviews on this well-forgotten* 1970s’ sci-fi-ish thriller, and they’ve pretty well said everything I’d like to say, so I’ll just give you my own (probably rambling) overview, then refer you over to them. Perhaps their reviews are best appreciated after reading the novel itself, but, on the other hand, you might find the book less of an awful shock if going into it forewarned.

Here’s the deal.

Ex-US air force pilot Eugene (Gene) Arnprior is now working as an engineer up in Canada. He likes it there in Montreal quite a lot, and has just received his naturalization papers, the day before everything goes to pieces.

Uncannily fast-thinking and forward-planning, Gene twigs immediately to the fact that something really, really bad is brewing when he hears radio reports of a cluster of mysterious deaths in rural Colorado. The ring of death expands from the centre, rippling outward like the waves created from an emerging underwater volcano, but well before it reaches Montreal, Gene is airborne in his company’s small plane, heading up to a remote northern Quebec fishing camp with his wife and two young sons. A lightning-fast shopping trip has provided the family with all of the supplies they’ll need for a prolonged retreat from the world – golly – I wish my shopping chores were as efficient as our Gene’s – he outfits a family of four with all wilderness survival needs in 40 minutes(!) – yesterday I took longer than this to pick up a few bags of groceries, but I digress – anyway, this guy is organized.

So – Gene and family are safely ensconced in the Quebec woods, in a remote fishing camp which is conveniently stocked with canned good, fuel, and lots and lots of guns and ammo. They pass their time in hunting the various wild critters, making flour substitute from cattail roots – “In a little while they had collected fifty pounds” – whoa – akin to the 40-minute shopping trip – if I didn’t already loathe Gene deeply – the wife-beater! (reference to an incident early on) – this would have done it -learning how to whittle, and, in the case of Gene and his lovely wife Jan, having lots and lots of enthusiastic sex. (Hopefully when the boys are out setting their bunny snares, I found myself thinking.)

Three years go by. La, la, la, la…but who is this coming across the lake? Oh, no – an Indian in a canoe! An alive person is bad, bad news – he has to be a plague carrier – yup – he is – and Gene keels over, as do Jan and the lads, felled by the virulent virus while the paddler is still well out on the lake. Some time later, Gene comes to, to find his little family stiff and cold, and himself now a “carrier”.

After burying his family, Gene fires up the airplane and heads back south, to investigate what’s going on in the rest of North America, now that he’s immune to the killer disease.

Various encounters with other survivors ensue, some ending badly for those underestimating Gene’s amazing foresight and lightning fast trigger finger. He picks up another female partner and proceeds to have lots and lots of enthusiastic sex, until an encounter with evil Russians results in her sudden demise.

Oh yes. There are evil Russians here and there, advance troops spying out the countryside for eventual full-scale invasion, because an America without people is a fantastic land-and-natural-resource jackpot for the greedy Soviets. Interestingly, the Russians seem to be ignoring the also-population-decimated Canada in their explorations, which I thought rather odd, seeing as it is also chock full of natural resources, closer to The Homeland, and much less likely to contain plague survivors. (If there is a certain percentage of natural immunity, wouldn’t that mean that Canada would only have ten percent of the number of roaming survivors as the USA has, based on pre-plague population numbers?)

But the Russians aren’t immune to the disease, as we find out when Gene stumbles onto a Soviet expedition, and, after failing to kill our hero with a barrage of gunfire and missiles(!), every man jack of the Russky battalion suddenly dies.

So Gene starts putting two and two together, and decides that the plague must have come from Russia, part of an evil takeover plot. And by golly, he’s right!

Lots of intrigue, lots of gunfire, the occasional nuclear warhead being detonated (goodbye Denver, Colorado!), the last-few-chapters introduction of a whole new array of characters – British and Russian scientists playing who’s-got-the-killer-virus games – and lots and lots of people dying. Good people, bad people, random in-between people. But Gene keeps plugging along, now single-mindedly focussed on carrying out a single-man invasion of Russia, to infect the population there as revenge for all that’s gone before.

How will it all end?!

Any guesses?

Spoilers coming. Look away now if you’re honestly planning on reading this thing without knowing the final plot twist.

Okay, here it is.

The British have suddenly developed a successful vaccine (never mind the pesky details of how – which bugs me, because I was really curious) and the evil Russian government has suddenly been taken over by a more-cooperative bunch of politicos and the two countries – England and Russia – plus the surviving Americans (the President is in England, and there have been warships cruising the seas for the past three years carrying key US military and political personnel) plus China(!) all decide, in what must be the world’s fastest-ever international cooperative effort, to vaporize Gene, who has managed to evade all efforts to intercept him and has flown one final small plane across the Bering Strait and has now set foot on Russian soil.

Goodbye, Anadyr basin, and everything and everybody living there. Twenty-two missiles should do it. Nice try, Gene.

But hey, it was an exciting time to be alive. (Direct quote, last page, four paragraphs from the end. Here, see for yourself.)

last page last canadian heine 001

Wrapping things up, no need to get into boring detail!

If you’ve made it to here, you MUST go further.

Check out what these other readers thought:

Brian Busby tells it like it is at The Dusty Bookcase

Grady Hendrix is clever and cutting.

So who the heck was William C. Heine?

Here we go:

Everybody needs a hobby.

Everybody needs a hobby.

*Well-forgotten except by a cult following within the “survivalist” community, where it is apparently viewed as a classic bit of prognostic fiction and a useful how-to manual. Paperback copies of The Last Canadian (alternatively titled The Last American, and Death Wind) are listed on ABE starting at $20 and heading into the thousands. (Did this ever come out in hardcover? Methinks not.)

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