Saturday, July 07, 2018

Bentley Goes To School


BENTLEY GOES TO SCHOOL
Story by Kellie Lambert
Art by Jeff Slemons
Paws Publishing
24 pgs

We love children’s books and though this is not the first such we’ve reviewed; it has been a long, long while since the last. What brought about this review is the amazing artwork of Jeff Slemons, a fellow Coloradan who we know mostly for his automobile cartoons and comics work. Quality children’s books are artistic gems, both for their succinct economy of storytelling and their imaginative illustrations. This book has them both.

The plot is simple enough. Bentley, our hero, is a big 200 pound brindle, English Mastiff. Brindle refers to the striped cologing on his body. He belongs to Kellie, a school principal and one day she takes Bentley to work with her. He immediately falls in love with all the kids. So much so that he wants to go to school every day. He learns that would be possible if he were a Therap Dog. Bentley immediately goes to training school to learn this very important job, working very had to achieve that goal and get his wish; to go to school every day.

“Bentley Goes To School” is a charming, delightful story that will entrance both young and old alike. Kellie Lambert and Jeff Slemons have given us a treat with this fun story about a pretty amazing dog. We loved this book and if you’re an animal lover, so will you.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

CUBA : Sugar, Sex, and Slaughter.


CUBA : Sugar, Sex, and Scandal
Edited by Robert Deis & Wyatt Doyle
# new texture
159 pages

Once again Bob Deis & Wyatt Doyle have released a new anthology from their series; “The Men’s Adventure Library Journal” titles. As ever, they’ve dug into their amazing collection of vintage Men’s Adventure Magazines (MAMS for short) and put together a series of articles, fiction and illustrations all focused on the theme of Cuba and its bloody history.

It’s a truly weird approach telling the history of people via such articles, but in its own way the tropical island’s very make up seems soaked in pulpish gore and horror; never mind the action and adventure. The pieces are typical sensationalist exposes such as “Havana’s Amazing Flesh Market,” to “Castro’s Commie Blueprint to Take Over Latin America.”

Fiction wise there’s “Bayamo’s Night of Terror,” by Don Hogan. A ghastly account of life in one of Cuba’s worst prison hell-holes.  As for special features, the book offers up some truly wonderful examples of artist Norm Eastman’s work for the MAMS and then there is an all too short pictorial featuring the lovely model Eva Lynd recounting her own one time trip to Cuba.

Beautiful assembled and laid out, “CUBA : Sugar, Sex and Slaughter” is representative of a time when drugstores magazine racks were filled with some of the most lurid, explosive stories ever to grace a pulp page. This book is just another lesson delivered by two experts who really know their stuff.  A welcome addition to any pulp library.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

THE GHOSTS OF KARNAK


THE GHOSTS OF KARNAK
By George Mann
Titan Books
271 pages

George Mann’s steam-pulp hero, the Ghost, returns in this, his third outing. When Gabriel Cross’ girlfriend, Ginny Gray, fails to return from her sight-seeing trip to Egypt, he is a bit concerned. That feeling of tread is only magnified when his friend, police detective Felix Donovan informs Garbriel that he’s been investigating a series of gruesome murders wherein the bodies are left with ancient Egyptian symbols cared into their flesh. Donovan suspects a group of fanatical cultists who worship ancient gods.

At the same time, a local crime boss whose enforcers wear mechanized armor is somehow involved and Gabriel and Donovan soon discover there is turf war going between the mobster and the cultist. The mystery continues to lead them in various directions, but all eventually coalesces to the point where the Ghost discovers Ginny may be in the hands of a madman who plans on using her body to host the spirit of a long dead Egyptian diety.

As ever, Mann spins a fast pace action tale with colorful characters who easily could have stepped out of the pages of any classic pulp magazine. The Ghost series is one of his best and something every pulp fan should pick up.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF DOC ATLAS


THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF DOC ATLAS
By Michael A. Black & Ray Lovato
268 pages

Over the years there have been way too many Doc Savage clones created by want-to-be pulp writers; some good, some atrocious. Before going any further, let’s get one thing straight, Doc Atlas clearly resides in the good camp. In fact, his exploits, as penned by Misters Black & Lovato far exceed mere pastiches, giving Doc and his supporting characters their own unique identies and clearly establishing them as some of the finest heroes created in the New Pulp era.

This collection, first published back in 2011, features five highly charged adventures and is a wonderful introduction to the series.  Doc Atlas naturally is the hero; a man of both science and action. He’s aided and abetted by fancy lawyer Edward “Ace” Assante and Thomas “Mad Dog” Deagan; both former military officers he served with in the past. And lastly there is the lovely spitfire reporter, Penelop “Penny” Cartier whose affection for Doc is a cause of concern as she is forever wanting to join him and the others on their dangerous missions. Author Lovato kicks off the volume with a wonderful introduction explaining how to childhood pals grew up to become pulp addicts and ultimately writers. It’s a intimate peek at what wonders are possible when conceived in friendship.

“The Riddle of the Sphinx” has Doc, Ace and Mad Dog journeying deep into Mexican jungles in search of a missing archeologist. In this one Doc is reunited with an old flame much to Penny’s chagrin and as ever, the action is hot and heavy throughout.

Next up is “Desert Shadows.” Shortly after spotting weird lights in the sky, several planes crash in desert near the small town of Roswell, New Mexico, and Doc and company head west to find the truth amidst the quickly growing hysteria of visitors from outer of space. Naturally the real answer is more realistic but equally sinister.

In the third story, “Killer Gorilla,” a vicious gang boss about to be electrocuted in prison vows to return and wreak vengeance on those who put him away. Days later several of these men are found brutally murdered as if torn apart by a wild animal. Could the dead man’s brains have been transplanted into the body of a mountain gorilla?

With “Artic Terror” the authors tip their hats to Howard Hawk’s monster flick, “The Thing.” A supposed alien spacecraft has crashed landed in the frozen north sending Doc, his team and a group of soldiers to the aid of a research facility. By the time they arrive, half the scientist are dead, victims of a bizarre, glowing creature.

And finally we have, “The Satan Plague,” in which our heroes cross paths with Senator Joe McCarthy and his notorious public witch hunt for communist spies. Truth is, a group of ex-Nazi scientists are about to unleash germ on an unsuspecting public unless Doc can foil their insidious plans. A powerful, gripping finale to a great collection.

Doc Atlas is a terrific New Pulp hero and if you remain unfamiliar with his adventures, now is the time to jump on board. Airship 27 Productions recently announced they will soon be publishing the brand new adventures of the Golden Avenger courtesy of Misters Black & Lovato. Something truly special to look forward to.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT


THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT
By Terrence McCauley
Polis Press
336 pages
Release date – June 5th
Guest Reviewer Andrew Salmon

EVERYTHING NEW IS OLD AGAIN

And that's a good thing!

Terrence McCauley's new novel, THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT, turns the old saying on its head. You see, McCauley got his start prowling the fictional mean streets of the 1920s and 30s when he broke onto the scene with PROHIBITION - a must read. If you haven't got a copy, stop reading and pick one up now. He followed that up with SLOW BURN and AGAINST THE ROPES before launching his James Hicks series of contemporary thrillers. So McCauley knows the vintage back alleys well.

THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT also heralds the return of Charlie Doherty, disgraced cop now working as a Private Investigator for Mr. Harriman Van Dorn. It's a sweet set-up that takes care of Doherty's needs while giving him the freedom to pretend to care about his clients. In this case, a wealthy woman who believes her husband, Mr. Fairfax, did not commit suicide but, rather, was murdered. As the dead man and his wife were associates of Mr. Van Dorn, Doherty just may put a little more oomph into going through the motions. And that's what he believes he's doing. The Fairfax case is suicide - straight down the line. Or is it?

It's difficult to discuss what follows as spoilers would really detract from the narrative here. There's a lot more going on that meets the eye and McCauley keeps things moving at a brisk pace. The deeper Doherty gets into the case, the wider his horizon becomes as the reader is drawn into a darker world just starting to show its teeth. The revelations are well thought out and should surprise readers. And the end is, really, just the beginning - there he goes turning things on their heads again! McCauley also provides an interesting palate of characters devoid of black and white stereotypes. Not knowing what the characters are capable of is half the fun!

THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT brings a lot of McCauley's fiction together. As a prequel to his University series (SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, A MURDER OF CROWS, A CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS), the connection is obvious, but sliding Doherty into the mix brings in PROHIBITION, THE DEVIL OF BELLEAU WOOD and SLOW BURN. What begins to take shape is an intriguing blend of past and present - a patchwork quilt (or should that be a shroud?) with depth and breadth well worth exploring.

THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT delivers. If you haven't read any of McCauley's work this is a good place to start. I highly recommend it.



Tuesday, May 08, 2018

THE CHAMELEON THIEF OF CAIRO


THE CHAMELEON THIEF OF CAIRO
By Stephen Jared
Solstice Publishing
127 pgs

It is 1948 and actor turned adventurer, Jack Hunter, longs for nothing more than to settle down with his wife and kids. When an old CIA spymaster named Kitchener shows up on his doorstep, he knows his quiet life is about to come to an end. Kitchener has come looking for Jack’s best friend, former fighter pilot, Clancy Halloway. It seems one of Clancy’s old war buddies, on assignment in Egypt, has mysteriously vanished and Kitchener is hoping to recruit Clancy to find him.

What sounds like a simple enough mission is anything but. All of Egypt is in turmoil. The British having finally left and various political factions; both old and new, are vying for control of that ancient land. Somewhere in that chaotic brew, spies come and go with allegiances changing constantly. Knowing Clancy is heading into a world of constant danger, Jack decides to accompany him, much to his wife’s displeasure. But he truly has no other choice. Having become a man of honor, there is no way he can abandon Clancy when he is needed the most.

Once in Cairo, the last known location of the missing spy, Bounce Cavanagh, the duo find themselves frustrated at every turn. Then a dead Egpytian youth is found in their hotel room and both are questioned by the authorities. It is through them that Jack and Clancy learn of an elusive former Nazis named Krueger said to be operating in the area and affiliated with certain revolutionary groups. But does this German spy have anything to do with the fate of the American agent and if so, how does it relate to the plans of the fringe radicals?

As ever, Stephen Jared spins an old fashion, colorful tale of intrigue, mystery and the noble sacrifice of loyalty. In a world where no one can be trusted, Jack and Clancy’s unyielding friendship may be the one real advantage they have of completing their mission and surving it. This is a well plotted thriller that moves at a comfortable pace, eschewing cheap stereotypical action for skillful characterizations. In the end, it is a classic tale of romantic adventure that does not disappoint. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

KILLING TOWN


KILLING TOWN
The Lost First Mike Hammer Thriller!
By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
225 pages

Sometimes Christmas comes early. That was our first reaction upon learning Max Allan Collins and the folks at Titan Books were about to publish the first Mike Hammer book by the late Mickey Spillane. In his introduction to “Killing Town,” Collins explains the history behind this “lost” manuscript that predates the 1947 release of Spillane’s “I, the Jury,” which first introduced the tough-guy New York P.I. to the reading public and forever set crime fiction on its butt. It’s an introduction Spillane fans will appreciate.

As for the tale itself, it kicks off with Hammer arriving in a small Rhode Island burg named Killington under the cover of darkness. He is on a private mission and does not want his presence known save for the one person he has come to find. That’s mystery number one. Then, within a few hours of his arrival, he is assaulted by the local police and arrested. The charge, the rape and murder of a young woman. Mystery number two.

It quickly becomes clear to the ex-Marine, that he is being framed and the cops are working for the town’s real authority, one ex-Senator Charles Killington. But why? Hammer’s mission has nothing to do with the Killingtons who own the two biggest companies in the hamlet; a cannery and glue making factory.

With one legal setback after another, witnesses paid off to indict him; Hammer is close to revealing all when he is saved by the Senator’s beautiful daughter Melba who provides him with a false alibi. Upon his release from jail, she then tells him the price of his freedom is that he has marry her.  Mystery number three.

“Killing Town,” like all Spillane thrillers, has more twists and turns then a San Francisco street. While along the route we encounter familiar landmarks; brutal corrupt cops, deadly mob assassins and sexy women with devious agendas. This is Hammer country and before once can even begin to decipher the puzzle, bullets start flying and bodies begin piling up like Lincoln Logs. We gratefully tip our pulp fedora to Misters Spillane and Collins and the good folks at Titan Books. This indeed was a special kind of gift you don’t want to miss.