Friday, December 13, 2019

GAUGE BLACK - Hell's Revenge


GAUGE BLACK – Hell’s Revenge
By Mark Justice
Self-Published
Available at Amazon
128 pgs

Revenge plots are a standard in westerns but in “Gauge Black – Hell’s Revenge,” author Mark Justice rips the format to shreds in this unforgiving tale. A Corporal in the Union Army during the Civil War, Gauge Black wants nothing more than to return to his life as a farmer once peace is declared. He is savagely robbed of that goal when several privates, in retaliation for a few disciplinary reports, accuse Black of torturing and killing a captured Confederate officer during the final days of the conflict.

Scared the news of the atrocity will reach Washington, the Advocate General and his staff opt to ignore Black’s pleas of innocent and with only unsubstantiated testimonies, find him guilty. He is sentenced to serve three years in an Arizona federal prison known as Hell.

Run by the sadistic Warden Peck, Black endures the worst depravities imaginable and uses his obsessive desire for revenge to survive. He endures each attack and brutally murders other inmates at the Warden’s pleasure. No sin is too perverse to stop him. The three years pass and finally papers arrive officially sanctioning his release. What leaves Hell is not the wronged army corporal, but a violent killing machine with absolutely no conscience left. Gauge Black has only one desire, to make those who stole his life suffer and die…as painfully as possible.

Justice prose is knife sharp and by the time his protagonist has begun his mission of vengeance, the reader soon learns there is not a single ounce of redemption left in this story. In the end, Gauge Black is a heartless monster who lives to destroy his creators.
This is rough stuff, pulp readers. You’ve been warned.

Monday, December 09, 2019

TARZAN AND THE LOST VALLEY


TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD
By Fritz Leiber
From a Screenplay by Clair Huffaker
ERB, Inc.
320 pages

Clair Huffaker was one of the finest American writers to ever work in Hollywood. In 1965 he was hired by producer Sy Weintraub to write a new Tarzan film which would feature a modern sophisticated version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s classic hero. It would be the first of three to star former football pro Mick Henry as the new, suave and debonair Ape Man. “Tarzan and the Valley of Gold” was released in the summer of 1966.

The plot has Tarzan flying to Mexico in answer to a summons from an old friend who works for the government. A treacherous villain, whose hobby is blowing people up, has located the whereabouts of a lost civilization and is going there at the head of his own private mercenary army. Tarzan’s job is to stop him and save the lost city of gold. Eschewing the previous Tarzan movies, Weintraub and Huffaker purposely ignored any references to Jane, Boy or any other trappings that had been added over the years. Trappings that had turned Burroughs savage champion into a middle-aged, family man as exciting as a bowl of porridge.

Henry not only looked the part as envisioned by readers, but this Tarzan was also intelligent, multi-lingual and resourceful. The movie moves at a fast clip and the action never stops. It remains one of our favorites. It wasn’t till years later that we discovered sci-fi writer Fritz Leiber had written a paperback novelization of the screenplay. It was the first authorized Tarzan novel by an author other Burroughs and was officially listed as the 25th book in the series. With only one printing, the book soon disappeared and became a unique literary treasure sought by many fans over the years. Now ERB, Inc. has produced a beautiful hardcover edition which features a gorgeous cover by Richard Hescox and three black and white interior illustrations by Douglas Klauba.

Known for his creation of the sword and sorcery characters Fathrd and Gray Mouser, Leiber took Huffaker’s lean tale and turned it into a full blown, detailed novel that in the end had very little resemblance to the actual movie. In the book most of the story takes place in the jungle of Brazil and is purposely adjusted to the Tarzan canon as written by Burroughs. Thus there are footnotes galore referring to past Burroughs books and the missus is mentioned, though never by name. Leiber even alludes to his hero’s supposed longevity as having to do with the supernatural.

Where Leiber’s story shines is his complete characterizations of all the principles from Tarzan to the villain Vinaro. No longer cookie-cutter Bond-like figures, each of them is fully realized adding great depth to the adventure. We’re even given Tarzan’s personal self-refection as he continually struggles with his duel natures; one civilized and the other a primitive beast. All in all, the book is truly something unique and a wonderful read. Thank you ERB, Inc. for rescuing it from the obscurity and giving all us Tarzan fans this beautiful edition.

Friday, November 29, 2019

THE MADNESS OF FRANKENSTEIN


THE MADNESS OF FRANKENSTEIN
By Derrick Ferguson
Pulp Work Press
138 pgs.

New Pulp writer Derrick Ferguson is best known for his action packed adventures, be they the exploits of Dillon, Fortune McCall or Sebastian Red. All of these should already be on your reading list. But back in 1914, Ferguson wrote this truly amazing novella, “The Madness of Frankenstein” that is his homage to the great Hammer horror flicks of the 60s and 70s. Having finally picked up a copy, we were eager open its pages and discover what special grisly treats Mr. Ferguson had whipped up for his unsuspecting readers.

The book is a non-stop, frantic, over the top story with enough colorful characters to cast a dozen movies. A young scientist named Peter Holden is imprisoned because of his fanatical obsession with the infamous Doctor Victor Von Frankenstein; the monster-maker. But Holden isn’t the only person seeking the notorious villain. The Holy Mother Church has inaugurated a group of warrior clerics calling themselves the Justicers and their singular mission is to find Frankenstein and put an end to his blasphemous career.

When a ravenously beautiful young woman named Angelique appears with news of Frankenstein’s whereabouts, a Justicer named Christopher Wrightson has Holden released in his charge. Angelique’s information has Frankenstein somehow connected to an insane asylum located far in the northern woods. The party sets out immediately unaware of the true horrors that await them in this damp, dark fortress of madness.

Aside from the sheer brutality of Ferguson’s prose, there is also a strain of black humor evident as he peppers his tale with some very recognizable names. These are his personal “Easter eggs” and makes the story that much more fun. Not a word is wasted, not a classic action ignored as “The Madness of Frankenstein” delivers a truly unforgettable reading experience.

Our only request; when is the sequel coming?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

MIDNIGHT GUARDIAN - Annihilation Machine


THE MIDNIGHT GUARDIAN
(Annihilation Machine)
By John C. Bruening
Flinch Books
328 pgs

John Bruening’s second novel in his Midnight Guardian pulp series answers the question; Can one have too much of a good thing? Sadly the answer in this case is most definitely. We recall reviewing the first book in this series, “Midnight Guardian – Hour of Darkness” and at time thinking it was a bit long for a pulp thriller. We were concerned about Bruening failing to understand the basic tropes of what made the pulps work. If he continued to produce overly long books, then they would only serve to deaden the impact of his fiction. Which is exactly what has happened with “Annihilation Machine.”

The basic plot is a familiar one with most pulp readers. It is 1938 and a mad, disfigured German scientist calling himself Sensenmann has been smuggled into the U.S. and is threatening to destroy Union City with a powerful machine that annihilated buildings from miles away with uncanny accuracy. Naturally he’s working for Hitler and the Nazi High Command. That’s it. Nothing overly complicated. Then it is up to Assistant District Attorney Jack Hunter to stop him as the masked vigilante, the Midnight Guardian.

John C. Bruening is a very good writer and he has created some really terrific characters with this series. Unfortunately he falls into the trap of being so meticulous in his storytelling that he has to put down every single incident, conference meeting and interview as if each were so vital to the overall book. Not true. Had Bruening had the benefit of a veteran pulp editor, he could have easily trimmed his massive tome by a hundred pages and still told his story; only a whole lot faster and meaner. Pacing is a crucial element to any pulp thriller and most of this book’s middle section seems to be locked into Snail Gear.

Another irksome point is the writer’s refusal to name his hero. Let me clarify. In the majority of classic masked avenger pulps, the classic writers understood the duality of the hero once he, or she, assumed and second identity. Thus when writing his Spider adventures, Norvell Page would not call his hero Richard Wentworth, while he was in action as his crimefighting hero. He would call him The Spider. Whereas throughout “Annihilation Machine,” Bruening eschews calling his protagonist anything but his Christian name. Thus it is always Jack Hunter in action and never the Midnight Guardian. We have no clue what the author has against calling him by his colorful title? It’s almost as if he were embarrassed to be writing pulp.

In the end, “Midnight Guardian – Annihilation Machine” is a good book by a good writer. We simply believe it could have been better.

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.