Friday, January 23, 2009

THE ROOK

THE ROOK –Vol. One
By Barry Reese
Wild Cat Books
157 pages

Before you start thinking this is a very small book because of the page count, let me add that the book’s format is 7 x 10 inches, much like the original pulp magazines. The pages feature a double column layout and there really is substantial text between the two covers. I’ll discuss the book’s design later, but first the contents.

The Rook, an original character, exist in the time of the classic heroes and in this, his first collection, crosses paths with several popular figures. The first is Richard Benson, the Avenger, and the second, with whom he shares a case, is the weird Moon Man from Ten Detective Aces. The Rook’s real identity is that of wealthy playboy, Max Davies and as this first volume begins, he’s transplanted himself to Atlanta, Georgia to escape the scrutiny of the New York police force. Of course trouble is going to follow him, no matter where the Rook sets his nest and soon he’s knee deep in zombies, vampire queens and ancient Egyptian magicians. There’s no lack of exotic, over the top villainy in these tales and Reese is clearly having much fun putting his hero through his paces.

At the same time there are allies, the most prominent being Hollywood B-movie star, Evelyn Gould, who, as the book transpires becomes the Rook’s lover and partner, sharing his wild and wooly adventures side by side. She’s a great character and marvelously realized. All the trappings of solid, classic purple prose are present in these five stories and except for a single misstep, Reese proves to be a masterful story-teller. My one and only critique is his permanently altering an established pulp hero. It was a joy to see Steve Thatcher, the Moon Man, team up with the Rook in the books’ fourth chapter, The Gasping Death, but when Reese ends the tale by having Thatcher marry his sweetheart, Sue McEwen, I cried foul! Classic characters should be kept as the writer found them, and thus available for future pulp-scribes to play with. Changing them is petty and selfish. Again, the only sour note in a truly sumptuous composition.

Finally, if you are going to paint a sexy woman’s image on the overhanging moon of the cover painting, then don’t go covering her up with the book’s logo! Storn A. Cook’s beautiful cover deserved much better respect than what it was given. Somebody at Wild Cat Books dropped the ball on this one.

Bottom line, The Rook – Vol. One is an excellent pulp offering and you should not miss it. Reese has already released a volume two and just recently a number three. I’m thrilled, and you can expect to see both of them reviewed here in due time.

6 comments:

barryreese said...

Thanks for the review, Ron. I strongly feel that the later volumes (3 & 4, coming out later this year) are the strongest in the series. Hopefully you'll agree.

As to the Moon Man, if I were working in a shared universe environment, I would not alter pre-established characters. But my work doesn't impact other writers or what they decide to do with public domain characters so I feel free to do things within the Rook universe that slightly alter the characters' status quo. The characters, in their original pristine form, will always be there for others to use as they see fit, of course.

And I agree that it's a shame to have lost any of the cover art but I still think it's pretty spiffy looking!

Ron Fortier said...

Thanks for writing, Barry, and let's agree to disagree. Anything you write will impact another writer. Imagine a young writer wanting to write a Moon Man story reading your tale. He or she could very easily find themselves being thus influenced, "Gee, the Moon Man married Sue. Guess I'll have to make sure I add that in my story." A huge congratulations on the release of Vol 3 and I'm thrilled to know there's another on the way. Pulp readers can rejoice! Thanks again, Barry.

Steven Hager said...

I have been waiting to see a review of The Rook. Since I am not familiar with Barry Reese's writing I was a little hesitant to purchase it. If Ron says it's worth reading that's good enough for me! I will pick it up with my next LULU order. Hopefully there will be a new Airship 27 title soon!

barryreese said...

Wild Cat Books is slowly moving away from using Lulu as their printer -- they're primarily with Booksource now, which means most of their titles are amazon exclusive (though you can get them through amazon partner sites like target.com as well). Here's the amazon links

Volume One of the Rook
http://www.amazon.com/ROOK-One-Barry-Reese/dp/0982087217/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232826521&sr=8-2

Volume Two of the Rook
http://www.amazon.com/Rook-Vol-2-Barry-Reese/dp/0982087225/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232826617&sr=1-1

Volume Three of the Rook
http://www.amazon.com/ROOK-Three-Barry-Reese/dp/0982087284/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232826521&sr=8-1

Ron Fortier said...

Hi Steve, thanks as ever for stopping by. And I'm sure you'll enjoy the Rook. Barry's a pulp writer after my own heart. As for Airship 27 Prod., stay tuned. We're going to be releasing Weird Horror Tales any day now. Horror done the pulp way. If you enjoy H.P.Lovecraft, this book will appeal to you big time.

Paul Brazill said...

this sounds fab!