Tuesday, November 12, 2019

BLACK STILETTO - Stars & Stripes


THE BLACK STILETTO
Stars & Stripes
By Raymond Benson
Oceanview Publishing
384 pgs.

In this, the third installment of Raymond Benson’s female vigilante saga, Judy Cooper comes to the aid of a Chinese family in New York, gets in involved with the 1960 presidential campaign and ends up saving both John Kennedy and Richard Nixon from being shot by a Russian assassin. All in a day’s work for the vivacious readhead from Texas.

As in the previous entries, all this is revealed via her diaries by her son Martin. Judy today is an elderly soul residing in a senior care facility suffering from Alzeimer’s. Never having revealed her secret crime-fighting career in the past, the truth revealed in those diaries becomes an unbearable burden to Martin. At the same time, his only daughter, Gina, has endured a rape and assault and is now studying martial arts taking her on a path and eerily mirrors that of her grandmother.

The delight of this series is the humanity Benson infuses in all his characters and allows each to tell his or her story. All of them begin to form the picture of a real family, each member in flux doing their best to make through the greatest puzzle of them all, life. This is such a great series and here’s hoping we’ll soon be hearing Gina’s voice.

Friday, November 01, 2019

UNTOUCHABLE


UNTOUCHABLE
By Geoff Habiger & Coy Kissee
Shadow Dragon Press
200 pgs

Last year we had the pleasure of reading the first book in this series called, “Unremarkable.” In it we met Saul Imbierowicz, a boring postal clerk in 1929 Chicago. By the book’s end, poor Saul had been murdered by Mobster Al Capone who, as it turned out, was actually a vampire. Thus, to his own horror, Saul was turned and rose from the dead as a bloodsucker himself.

This new book opens with Saul having been recruited by Elliot Ness to join his anti-crime task force. Ness is aware of the fact that Capone and many of his gang are supernatural monsters. The G-Man decides that having a vampire on his own team would be beneficial in future encounters. He pairs Saul with a federal agent named Christian Wright who is devoutly religious and has a deep aversion to all things unnatural, including Saul. Thus their working together is contentious from the start with Christian insulting Saul constantly while our naïve protagonist stumbles through his new existence desperately trying to understand everything that has happened to him.

Like the first entry, writers Habiger and Kissee have a wonderful talent for mixing both action and humor. That Saul mentally imagines his Jewish family, mother, father and sister, chastising at the most inopportune moments is really very funny. At the same the authors do an excellent job of weaving their imaginative narrative around actual historical accounts that transpired at the time. What we’ve always loved about New Pulp is its ability to offer new twists to old stories. With both “Unremarkable” and now “Untouchable”, Habiger and Kissee have delivered something truly unique and thoroughly enjoyable.

We have to assume there is a third volume in the works and quite frankly we hope it arrives sooner than later.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

EVA - Men's Adventure Supermodel


EVA – Men’s Adventure Supermodel
Edited by Robert Deis & Wyatt Doyle
New Texture Books
183 pgs.

Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle have devoted their time and energies in preserving the history of Men’s Adventure Magazines that overflowed the newsstands racks after World War II throughout the 50s, 60s and into the early 70s. Their books fall under the appropriate umbrella title of “The Men’s Adventure Library” and their latest offering is a retrospective look back on the career of one of the most successful models of the period, Ms. Eva Lynd.

Ms. Lynd’s career covered a wide cultural spectrum from model, to pin-up, actress, singer, writer and actress. The Swedish born beauty modeled for some of the best glamour and pin-up photographers of the time while appearing in both films and television. Whereas the book’s primary focus is on her adventures as model for the great pulp artists such as Norm Eastman, Al Rossi, Mike Ludlow and even James Bama. It would be fair to say Ms. Lynd’s likeness appeared on hundreds of MAMs both in the over-the-top cover paintings to the black and white interior illustrations. On many occasions she was teamed with Steve Holland, the premier male model for these periodicals.


What is captivating here is Ms. Lynd actually narrates the book in her own words as she recalls many of her experiences vividly with charm and melancholy. It truly was a simpler time in many ways and she describes it with an honest sincerity that infuses the volume with a special, elegant grace.

This is a book long overdue. MAM’s were the evolution of the classic pulps of the 30s and 40s, both in fiction and art. Ms. Eva Lynd, via her natural beauty and charm was clearly one of the movements most endearing pioneers.




There are two different editions available from Amazon, one in paperback and the other a deluxe hardcover. The softcover is focused on Ms. Lynd’s work as an artist model while the hardcover contains an additional 80 pages. These include many of her classic glamour photos and others from her various acting roles.   




Sunday, October 20, 2019

WEIRD TALES No. 363


WEIRD TALES
Vol 68, No.1 -Issue # 363
Editor Marvin Kaye
Weird Tales Inc.
76 pgs.

Reading this “new” Weird Tales had us going backward in time when this pulp monthly was the most popular magazine on the newsstands. Via its pages, the “old” Weird Tales gave the world Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. If that’s all it had delivered, it would clearly have been enough. But it gave the world of American fiction so much more with an endless list of writers and artists today considered cultural legends.

Now a new group of dreamers have picked up the banner, collected a group of talented fantasiest and given us a whole new treasure chest of dark, twisted tales. Here are stories to build nightmares upon, beautiful told by Victor Lavalle, Josh Malerman, Lisa Morton, Jonathan Maberry, Hank Schwaeble and Marc Bilgrey.  Of them, our personal favorite being Maberry’s “Shadows Beneath the Stone,” which is as good a sword and sorcery yarn as we’ve ever read.

There is also bizarre poetry we are totally unqualified to judge and artwork we do hardly applaud. Desgin Director Jeff Wong has created such a beautiful package; just looking through the issue was a rewarding experience and his melding of story and illustrations simply inspiring.

So thank you, all who had a hand in bringing back Weird Tales. You’ve done something truly special here and it’s our hope, like the old classic, this new incarnation is around for a very long, long time.

Monday, October 14, 2019

MYSTERY OF THE AMERICAN YETI


MYSTERY OF THE AMERICAN YETI
(A Hollywood Cowboy Detectives adventure)
By Darryle Purcell
Buckskin Editions Westerns
166 pgs

Reading a new Darryle Purcell book is like having your favorite sweet dessert. In this, his latest Hollywood Cowboy Detectives tale, he pulls out all the stops and offers up another fast paced, action packed adventure that is pure pulp. 

In 1929 a newsreel crew disappeared in the Cascade Mountains of northern California while searching for the legendary creature known as Sasquatch. Years later, one of their film cameras is found in a charity auction held in an isolated mountain town. The head of Republic Pictures assigns top press writer, Curly Woods and studio chauffeur Nick Danby to go and investigate. Curly immediately contacts retired silent screen actor William S. Hart known to have a cabin in the area. Then he, Nick and western star Hoot Gibson, drive to up to rendezvous with Hart, who will guide them on this particular hunt.

Upon arriving in the Cascades they are ambushed by several members of the American communist party which only adds to the puzzle. What are Reds doing in the area and what is their connection to the missing film crew? This is followed by an encounter with a smelly, hairy beast and then an attack by a mechanical robot of unbelievable power.

From monsters, to spies and eventually a hidden underground city, our heroes never get a moment of rest as their quest leads them to an amazing discovery that underscores the dangers facing the world. Once again, Purcell invites his readers along displaying a genuine love of his characters, both real and fictional, and his understanding of the times. “Mystery of the American Yeti,” is a rootin-tootin’ gem.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

SABBATH


SABBATH
By Nick Mamatas
Tor Books
302 pgs  

Hexen Sabbath is an 11th Century British knight who enjoys his life of battle and pillaging. He considers himself a Christian warrior and meets his death in combat when he refuses to slay an innocent boy. Centuries later he awakens in modern New York brought back from the dead by an Angel to complete a mission for God. The seven deadly sins have been personified in human form and are planning to destroy the world in a nuclear holocaust. It is Sabbath’s mission to find them and slay them all by decapitation thereby saving mankind.

Before he can begin his gruesome work, Sabbath is befriended by a young woman of Russian descent named Jennifer. Realizing he needs a guide in this new age, he reveals his identity to her and his mission. To his surprise, she reluctantly becomes his ally. By doing so she instantly becomes a target of Sabbath’s most cunning opponents, Pride. In our world, Pride is a powerful politician with aspirations to become the President.

“Sabbath” is dark, humorous romp through today’s sensibilities as it satirically depicts each of the Seven Deadly Sins in all too recognizable personas the readers will be familiar with. There is also lots of blood and gore along the way. It is a daring romp with no quarter given as philosophy meets spirituality head on. This books rocks.

Monday, September 23, 2019


LAST STAGE TO HELL JUNCTION
(A Caleb York Western)
By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Kensington Books
224 pgs

It is always fun to see writers known for a particular genre wander off into unknown territories. Which is exactly what transpired with mystery/crime writer Max Allan Collins took it upon himself to novelize a western movie script by the late Mickey Spillane. The result was four cowboy actioners featuring former gunfighter turned sheriff, Caleb York.

We read book one, a few years ago and thought it a very decent western. Having just finished the fourth in the series (yes, we know, we’ll have to find 2 & 3 eventually) we have to say Collins has adapted to the genre like a cowhand to his Stetson.

At the start of this novel, three of Trinidad’as most well known citizens board a stagecoach for Los Vegas from where they plan on catching a train to Denzer. One is Raymond Parker, an influential business man in the little New Mexico community. The others are rancher Willa Carter and saloon owner Rita Filley. Only a few miles out of town, the stagecoach is waylaid by the Hargrave gang, the driver and shotgun guard murdered and the passengers taken hostage. It is the outlaws’ plan to demand a hefty ransom from Parker’s business partners in Denver.

By the time Sheriff York learns of the incident, it is too late for him to successfully track the bandits. Somewhere in the nearby hills exist an old ghost town and a hotel that offers its services solely to outlaws. The Hargrave gang has made their headquarters and where they are holding their prisoners. Such outlaw lairs were not uncommon in the years after the Civil War. In fact there were actual documented histories of actual “outlaw” towns.

Once York does lean of Hell Junction, the rest of the book is focused on his out-thinking Hargrave and finding a way to rescue his friends, the two women especially dear to him. For a story that is somewhat claustrophobic in that it doesn’t cover a lot of ground, Collins manages to keep the narrative moving forward. As ever, just when we readers need some action, Caleb York’s .44 is there to provide it in a seamless fashion. This is solid story-telling with fascinating characters and could easily be transferred to the big screen by some enterprising movie producer. We can only wish. In the meantime we have the books and that in itself is a pleasure.

+++

Now we don’t usually do this, but with this paperback edition we simply could not hide our distaste for the cover. Having grown up in the 50s and 60s, we were treated to western paperbacks that sported painted covers by some of the finest artists in the world, ala Robert McGinnis and many others. Whereas this title looks totally photo-shopped with the supposed hero looking like a Chippendale model from Beverly Hills. If we were female and a devotee of Harlequin romances, then we might it find it appealing. But not for a rough and tumble, old-fashion shootem-up. Publisher…take note.  Please.