John Lange

"Zero Cool"

(Reviewed by Guy Savage JUN 14, 2008)

“I am now an integral cog in the machinery. I have been primed and filled with information. I am a living set-up.”

Zero Cool was written by John Lange in the 60s and recently released by Hard Case Crime. This is a publisher whose goal is to select and release new fiction—along with difficult-to-find classic, hard-boiled crime novels—to the legions of fans who love pulp fiction. If you enjoy pulp or noir fiction, then check out the Hard Case Crime Book Club; it’s a hell of a deal.

The protagonist of Zero Cool is Peter Ross, a serious young American radiologist who decides to take a much-needed vacation in Spain. He’s slogged away at medical school for years never once raising his head from his caseload. While he’s due to deliver a paper for the annual meeting of the American Society of Radiologists in Barcelona, Ross is also lured by the rumor that the sunny beaches are packed with bikini-clad beauties. So it should come as no surprise that on his first day in Spain, Ross, our "innocent abroad," meets bikini-clad Angela Locke, a luscious big breasted, leggy English stewardess.

But what is surprising about Ross’s vacation is that on his first night in the hotel he’s approached by a group of men who attempt to pressure him into performing an autopsy on a stiff headed for burial in America. The men urge Ross to agree, arguing that in order to satisfy “rules and regulations” the autopsy must be performed by an American doctor, and while that perhaps sounds reasonable enough, the request turns ugly when Ross refuses. Ross may think his refusal is a way of avoiding trouble, but the refusal is just the beginning of a web of deceit, murder and crime. Trapped in Spain, he becomes increasingly involved in a bloody game of greed and revenge.

This crime novel tends towards the fantastical. I prefer my crime the darker side of black, so Zero Cool was a little too creative for my taste with lost treasure, a vengeful sicko midget count and a burly henchman who reminded me of Jaws in the Bond extravaganza The Spy Who Loved Me. But that criticism aside, the elaborate plot involves double—even triple-crossing dames, a Doberman named Franco, and a transvestite sneaked into the story for good measure. In Zero Cool, Ross finds out the hard way that love is just a dirty word to cover life’s real lust and passion: money.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 16 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Zero Cool at Hard Case Crimes

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*reprints from Hard Case Crime


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John Lange is an early pseudonym for Michael Crichton. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014