Wednesday, June 16, 2021

MEN'S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY # 2

 

MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY

Vol 1 No 2

Edited by Robert Deis & Bill Cunningham

Pulp 2.0

153 pgs

So here’s our question. When is the second issue of a magazine not only equal in quality to the first issue, but even better? Well, for the answer to that you’ll have to query editors Robert Deis and Bill Cunningham. You see, that is exactly what these two imaginatively creative fellows have gone and done with the second issue of their “Men’s Adventure Quarterly.”

Once again they have jampacked seven stories, three introductions, a MAM’s cover gallery and a pictorial look at the sexiest femme spy gals ever to grace the silver screen neatly between two covers. Oh, and as westerns were theme of issue # 1, this one aims the spotlight at the Cold War spy tales inspired by the literary and cinema exploits of the one and only OO7, James Bond. There’s even an article detailing the adventures of the Scotland Yard detective rumored to have been the “real life” British super spy. Honestly, this package is so much fun. The stories are all classic examples of the best such yarns featured in the now defunct Men’s Adventure Magazines of the 50s to 70s that spilled over drugstore shelf racks across the country.

Not only has Deis cherry picked the finest art illustrations to grace this volume and given us wonderful biographical insights into the talented artists who produced them, but Design Maestro Cunningham skillfully lays out every single page to evoke the maximum pleasure and impact, i.e. each is a work of design delight.

We read through the entire package in just two days and the second we finished we found ourselves hungry for more. Bravo gentlemen, you’re on a streak to the benefit of all pulp fans, old and new. Thank you so very, very much.

 

Friday, June 11, 2021

THE FATEFUL EIGHT

 

THE FATEFUL EIGHT

By Mark Allen Vann

Xepico Press

293 pgs

Last year writer Mark Allen Vann impressed us with the debut of his first collection of new pulp tales, “Eight Against the Darkness.” In it, Vann introduced eight distinct heroes all molded on established pulp genres and each was a gem. Enough so that we were only too happy to nominated that book for the Pulp Factory Awards. That it didn’t win doesn’t seem to have fazed this talented scribe as now we have a sequel and once more eight brand new stories featuring his wonderful characters.

“Written in Stone,” features the stone-skinned private eye Thomas Greyscale as he hunts a frustrated pulp writer who is using a magic book to murder the editors who rejected his fiction. Maybe a bit of wish-fulfillment for some colleagues here.

“The Toll of the Demon Bell” has Puritan adventure Alistair Synne come upon a town haunted by a supernatural horror only he and his magic flintlocks can battle. This is a great character, though we found the ending a wee bit rushed.

“The Dagger’s Curse” has Corr, the Barbarian Prince, continuing his assignment for his mother, the Witch Queen Azura to retrieve a magical dagger little realizing its properties to change men into monsters.

“Whence Darkness Comes,” features a mixed up Mary Minerva out of the asylum and living as a stage magician. Whereas as a mentalist, she is capable of great power against the forces of darkness an somehow able to discern between dimensions; including viewing other heroes found in this collection. Now that’s a neat little twist.

“Sky Shadows” sees the return of Redd Havik, captain of the air-pirate ship as she hunts down her uncle, the cruel One-Eyed Jack employed by the empire to hunt down Redd and the crew of the Scarlett Mistress. One of our favorites from volume one and pleasure to see her in action again.

“Home In Time For Dinner.” Nathan Porter, aka the Revenant not only has to battle Big Tony’s mob of goons, but a shambling zombie killer that is targeting someone he loves. Fast paces, well delivered tale.

“Eye of the Tigermen,” finds Red Bannon and his pal Tolliver off to India to find a stolen gem supposedly containing unimaginable power. Move over Doc Savage, this one is major fun.

“Nightmares of Steam and Steel.” The longest tale in the book, it stars the King’s Agent Blake Spector as he teams up with Wizard Karkas Blackwell and inventor Dr. Archie Livingston to thwart a monstrous attack on the empire.

Finally Vann wraps it all up with the two page finale, “A Simple Game” in which he underlines the fact that all these different stories and heroes are actually a part of grant mosaic he’s brilliantly created. Overall, this second tome in his “Eight” saga is superior to the first and now happily indicated a third volume is in the works. All we can say is bring it on. Van writes as if he were actually eight writers in one. Amazing!

Thursday, June 03, 2021

MOONSTONE DOUBLE SHOT

Edited by Joe Gentile

Moonstone Books

(http://moonstonebooks.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=1240)

94 pgs

Guest Reviewer – Michael Housel

Moonstone Books presents a new Double Shot release headlining those dynamic crime-figthers, the Green Hornet, Kato, I.V. Frost and Jean Moray in two sensational stories.

The Hornet novella springs from Mel Odom, and the Frost short story from Ron Fortier. The tales complement each other well, making this Moonstone submission a literary winner on both counts, abetted by a crackerjack cover from Malcolm McClinton and striking interiror illustrations from Segio Ibanez.

For Odom’s adventure, “The Hornet’s Big Score,” Britt Reid and Hayashi Kato face a killing spree frm the crafter crime lord Kavieff and race forth to snuff the carnage. The Detroit esacpage proves touchy but our resilient duo fights on to right a great wrong in this sizzling exploit. Kato is an admirable stand-out in this yarn, with plenty of Bruce Lee panache to spare, but Odom nails it a hundredfold with the Hornet, capturing the particular essence that Van Williams brought to the suave Britt Reid. On this basis, fans of the classic television series will be more than pleased. But anyone who’s encountered the Hornet & Kato’s adventures, no matter their incarnations or contexts, are certain to give “Big Score” a big thumbs-up.

In Fortier’s Frost caper, “The Vanishing Train,” our cool criminologist and his scrupulous, Harlow-ish confidant, Miss Jean Moray, investigate a missing locomotive. How could an object so massisve just disappear? That’s the clever angle of this crispy written mystery, which will leave readers conjecturing to the hilt. Beyond its nifty slant, the characterizations fuel this entry. Fortier gives a noble job of giving Frost his frosty demeanor, but Moray is the story’s beacon; a woman who’s smart, pretty and tenacious in the best, cool-headed way. Thanks to Fortier’s interpretation, she’s more than a sidekick, but one who possesses forefront, Emma Peel appeal.

Don’t miss out on this momentous debut of new Double Shot series from Moonstone Books.

 


 

SHERLOCK HOLMES VS DRACULA

 

SHERLOCK HOLMES VS DRACULA

By Loren D. Estleman

Titan Books

196 pgs

There have been numerous Holmes pastiches that pit him against the King of Vampires. Some have been decent, others abysmal and a very few extremely well done. This tome falls totally in the latter category and is a great deal of fun. Estleman’s plot is cleverly woven around Bram Stoker’s famous story so that those familiar with it will easily recognize those scenes when intruded upon by Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Which is his main approach sticking to Conan Doyle’s own styling in which the good doctor is our narrator. Holmes is brought into the matter when asked to visit the seacoast town of Whitby shortly after a ship from Transylvania has crashed upon its shores due to a horrendous sea storm. The ship is discovered abandoned except for the dead captain tied to the wheel. Witness also report having seen a massive dog leaping from the craft onto the beach and disappearing into the night.

A few weeks later the famed detective learns of a series of child kidnapping plaguing the neighboring communities reported to be the work of a female like wraith in white. Quick to take up the hunt, Holmes and Watson arrive in time to witness the destruction of the vampire by Doctor Abraham Van Helsing and his allies. And just like that Conan Doyle’s hero collides with Stoker’s masterpiece of horror.

The book is so much fun but its strongest element is how wonderfully Estleman portrays the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Over the years, hundreds of writers have taken on this duo and their amazing friendship. Estleman underscores the loyalty to the max and then gives us insight into how much the Great Detective actually appreciated his true brother in spirit. “Sherlock Holmes VS Dracula” is well worth your time. It satisfies from first page to last.

 

 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

COBRA WOMAN

 

 COBRA WOMAN

By Len Levinson

Rough Edge Press

287 pgs

When he was a young boy, Sam Wishnefsky saw an old 1944 movie called “Cobra Movie” starring exotic beauty Maria Montez. In it the South Seas temptress dances the alluring snake dance and is forever imprinted on Sam’s psyche. Years later, at 26, he’s living in New York City working as copy-writer for a direct-mail outfit called Vortex. It is the late 80s and personal computers are still years in the future. Sam is relatively happy with his life until one night, while attending party of hip, chic, know-it-all bohemians; he encounters a stunningly beautiful Maria Montez look-alike.

Gabriella is a Cuban refugee from Miami. U.S. What Sam isn’t told is that she was once wed to a New York mobster and has two little girls. Oh no, all poor Sam can see is the reality of his lifelong sexual fantasy brought to life right before his eyes. He waste no time in courting the Latin spit-fire whose command of English echoes band-leader Ricky Ricardo of the famous “I Love Lucy” television series. Even though these two star-crossed lovers have absolutely nothing in common, he’s a good Jewish boy while she’s a hoodoo lapsed Catholic, they discover that when in the sack they are pure dynamite. The sex is fiery and all consuming. No surprise, they marry.

Then Sam discovers he has two stepdaughters and a mother-in-law moving in with them over night. The poor sap has tied himself to a temperamental she-devil and before he cut himself lose, she’s pregnant with his child. What is even funnier is that Sam finds release from his daily suffering by using his experiences to write new self-help brochures that are bogus scams meant to solicit money from the consumer for non-existing books. He’s not only good at it, but since his hellish marriage, he unwittingly becomes the Messiah of the Downtrodden and increases Vortex’ profits tenfold. Naturally they don’t tell him any of this, as it is against their policy to reward achieving employees fearing it will simply want to quite to seek employment elsewhere. There C.E.O. is Mr. Saito, a business Samurai who sees honor only in sacrifice.

“Cobra Woman” is one of the most hilarious satires on our times we’ve ever read and Levinson’s insights into the machinations of our material world are sharp and scathing. There is nothing off bounds to his magnifying lens as it scrutinizes our mores and empty lifestyles. The story of Sam Wishnesky still mirrors that of many men and woman today, looking for success by chasing fantasies. And that never ends well.

 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

LIVE FAST, SPY HARD

 

LIVE FAST, SPY HARD

By Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens

A John Sand Thriller

Wolfpack Publishing

263 pgs

The 60s spy-vibes continue in this second John Sand adventures that proved to be so much fun in the first. For those who came in late, John Sand is the actual British agent who inspired the highly popular 007 character that so enamored President John Kennedy, launched a multi-billion dollar movie franchise and tons of literary imitators. Whereas that very notoriety forced the agent into retirement; a not unpleasant affair as it was helped along by his marriage to the beautiful and rich Texas oil heiress Stacey Boldt.

In the prelude to this new chapter, Collins and Clemens go back in time a few years and not only show us their first meeting but also the brutal murder of Stacey’s father, Dutch Boldt, at the hands of his business Jonathan Lonestarr; a death swiftly avenged by the former British spy. Now into their second year as happily married couple, John learns that Lonestarr may still be alive. If true he poses a real threat to both of them. But as a civilian, his access to information sources is severely limited and before he can either confirm or discredit the rumor, Stacey goes missing while on a business trip to Brownsville. Sand immediately goes off in search of her. Thus begins a violent odyssey that will take him from Mexico, to Los Vegas, Acapulco and end on the lush Caribbean island of Curacaos.

Along the way he will survive a deadly street ambush orchestrated by an American mob boss, be recruited into a new top secret spy network, and reconnect with an old flame amidst a brutal betrayal that results in the kidnapping of his former Boss from M16. As ever Collins and Clemens keep the pace moving rapidly while at the same time offering more twists and turns than a dirt road through the backwoods northern Maine. Oh, and did we mention among Sand’s helpful contacts is former colleague who wrote the bestselling thrillers and a certain well known American cowboy movie star? No worries, we won’t spoil the reveals.

While reading “Live Fast, Spy Hard,” we had the feeling that with this second entry, the authors had not only given us a half dozen scenes that purposely echo specific movies moments we’re all familiar with, but Sand’s own personality began to take on a very distinct Sean Connery voice and by the climatic ending, we could easily envision his cool, cruel smirk playing across his lips at what is to come. Another winner from a team that never misses a beat.

Monday, May 10, 2021

GET OUT OF TOWN

 

GET OUT OF TOWN

An Aaron Mackey Western

By Terrence McCauley

Pinncacle Western

341 pgs

This is book three in Terrence McCauley’s series featuring ex-Cavalry Captain Aaron Mackey and is black former Sergeant, Billy Sunday. If you haven’t read the first two entries, we’d advise you to put this volume back on your bookshelf and go do that right now. We can wait.

Okay, we’ll assume books one and two have now been devoured and you are all wondering what comes next. At the end of book two “Dark Territory” the corrupt politician James Grant had been elected the mayor of Dover Station Montana; a fast growing community thanks in large part to the arrival of the railroad. Annoyed that Mackey and Sunday are on to his illegal activities, Grant attempts to have them dealt with by doing away with the sheriff office in favor of a formal police department to be headed up by a former Texas Ranger named Underhill. Whereas Mackey, having been informed of Grant’s ploy ahead of time, sought the aide of a rich railroad financier named Rice, who in turn had a federal judge swear in Mackey as a U.S. Marshal, thus trumping any mayoral decrees from Grant.

Book three opens with Marshal Mackey chasing after the viscious Hancock gang run by Henry Hancock whose base of operation is a nearboring township named after his family, Hancock. As most of the citizens are in one way or another related to the clan headed by the cruel and brutal Mad Nellie Hancock, Mackey is well aware he’s riding into a rattler’s den in which he’ll receive no assistant from any of the residents. But his luck holds true and he manages to locate the gang before reaching the hamlet. What follows is a bloody shoot-out. McCauley is adept at these and there are never any shortages of such scenes in his books.

While Mackey is dealing with the Hancocks, Deputy Sunday finds himself caught up in a brutal and mysterious affair. The bodies of three Chinese prostitutes were discovered in a newly constructed building among the once raucous tent city inhabited by cattlemen and minors flocking to Dover Station to enjoy its many gambling house and bordellos. All three victims had their throats slit. Mayor Grant wants Sunday and Underhill to make the killings known immediately to stir up publicity and give himself a platform from which to rouse his constituency. Billy Sunday is no one’s fool and suspecting a deep ulterior motive behind the Mayor’s request, opts to forestall any such announcement until he has had time to further investigate the murders. All of which leads him to a deadly confrontation with the mad killer and his blood stained blade.

Like the previous two books, “Get Out Of Town” is a wonderfully plotted story with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing. McCauley’s characters are rich and extremely well defined. They all invoke a strong, frontier flavor giving us a glimpse at just how difficult life was in the years after the Civil War and the toll it exacted on the men and woman who went west in order to tame a country and start new lives. Westerns don’t get any better than this series. As ever, the climax is fitting but McCauley’s holding back an ace for that final volume and we can’t wait to see how he’ll play it.

 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

RELENTLESS

 

RELENTLESS

A Gray Man Novel

By Mark Greaney

Berkley

512 pgs

Imagine the cloak and dagger finesse of Ian Fleming’s James Bond spy novels blended with Tom Clancy military techno-thrillers and you get the Gray Man. Author Mark Greaney, according to the publisher’s promotional write-ups, traveled the world to research the locations of his books at the same time studying military strategies and weapons and battlefield medicine with specialist in those respective fields. All to bring a clear authentic background to his wonderfully outrageous pulp hero, the Gray Man.

The Gray Man is the codename of Courtland Gentry, one of three unique and deadly spies known as the Poisoned Apples. They often operate independently of any official government agency, though their Spy Master is the Deputy Director of Operations for the CIA, Matthew Hanley. Gentry’s colleagues are Zach Hightower, codname Romantic and former Russian agent Zoya Zakharova, codename Anthem. Each is a professional provocateur resigned to the life they have chosen for themselves. Each possesses a high moral center, but is not averse to killing those they believe pose a threat not only to America, but the entire world.

In this, the tenth book in the Gray Man series, a cunning Arab Prince has crafted an ingenious plot to manipulate the U.S. into going to war with Iran. His goal is to totally destroy the Shia caliphate. Thus he assumes convinces the current Washington Administration that he is their ally and threw a series of deft clandestine operations prepares to launch his final gambit.

Thick books today tend to put off casual readers. Be aware at 501 pgs, this is not an overnight read, unless of course you are into speed-read. Otherwise prepare to enjoy a full course meal, as Greaney throws in not only his main plot but several juicy subplots each intriguing and complete realized. In all his narrative is a complex quilt filled with tons of exactly written action sequences comparable to any ever done on the silver screen. This is action-adventure with capital As. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the Gray Man and we think you will too.