Monday, December 06, 2010


By George Mann
Pyr Books
236 pages

If anyone doubts there is a major renaissance in pulp fiction going on today, then let them pick up this old fashion thriller.  George Mann has delivered a very typical pulp avenger story with an added twist of steampunk.  If you are unfamiliar with the term, steampunk refers to a technology based on steam power as was first developed in the 19th century focusing in large part to Victorian Era Britain.  It is a subgenre of science fiction and often used in alternate world settings. 

The year is 1926, shortly after World War One.  All transportation is steam powered including automobiles.  Tesla coils light up cities and viewing tube-telephones are familiar household appliances.  Police dirigibles patrol Manhattan’s canyons and bi-planes docked on rooftop rocket launchers are part of the city’s skyline silhouette.

Gabriel Cross is a disillusioned, wealthy veteran living on his vast estate on Long Island.  Bored with his life and the shallow social circles he inhibits, Cross dons special night goggles, rocket boots, a dark trench coat and slouch hat and becomes the urban vigilante known as the Ghost.  It would be impossible for any pulp fan not to recognize the Ghost’s pedigree, he is an heir to such classic pulp avengers as the Shadow and the Spider and dozens of others who emerged from pages saturated in purple prose.

Of course you can’t have a good pulp hero without an equally impressive pulp villain.  In this tale he is a mysterious fiend known as the Roman.  The police christened such because he leaves Roman coins on the eyes of his victims, all of whom are prominent public figures.  As the Ghost begins his hunt for the Roman, he finds himself distracted by two other players in the game.  One is the tenacious police detective Felix Donovan who has been charged to apprehend both the Ghost and the Roman.  The other is a beautiful jazz singer named Celeste Parker with whom Cross is enamored.

At first Celeste appears to be merely a love interest whose insight into Cross’ wounded soul slowly begins to heal him.  But when a group of the Roman’s henchmen attempt to kidnap her one night, the Ghost is dealt another mystery. Who is she really and what is her importance to the Roman?  These are but a few of the elements that add cleverly written layers of suspense to an action packed adventure.   

GHOSTS OF MANHATTAN, with its colorful steampunk setting, wonderfully echoes the exuberant fun of the original pulps.  In the end it is a romantic tip of the fedora to those times long passed but never forgotten.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


By Joshua Reynolds
Pulp Work Press
171 pages

Jonas Cream is a former British spy who now works for himself, selling his deadly services the highest bidder.  When an old colleague named Harry Lime offers him a lucrative job of collecting a wooden box from a Rumanian auction house, Cream, although weary, accepts the assignment. Shortly thereafter he is approached by the Psychic Branch of the British Secret Service.  They want Cream to act as a double agent, carrying out his mission for Lime while actually obtaining the box for them instead.  Then he is attacked by a group of foreign assassins known as the Order of the Dragon.  They make it quite clear they do not want him to succeed, let alone continue breathing.

The first half of Joshua Reynolds’ fast paced thriller reads very much like any modern day spy versus spy novel with all the traditional elements of a Robert Ludlum and John LeCarre espionage mystery.  Then it gradually begins to morph into a horror tale as Cream learns exactly what it is all these different factions are after.  The box contains the skull of Vlad the Impaler, better known as Dracula.  Now Cream finds himself caught in the middle of a deadly tug-of-war between those who want to see the skull destroyed and those who believe, through black magic, the Lord of the Vampires can be brought back to unholy life.

Reynolds keeps the action moving at hyper-speed and clearly has fun toying with his all too familiar cast of characters.  It takes a great deal of panache to swipe a character from a classic movie.  For the uninitiated, actor Orson Wells portrayed American spy Harry Lime in the film THE THIRD MAN.  Which is why he is portrayed on the book’s cover, a really wonderful painting by M.D. Jackson.  Other players in this book are also named for well known literary spies while others like Ms. Harker are taken from the original DRACULA novel by Bram Stoker.   

The only weak part of this thoroughly enjoyable book is the fact that it is but the first in a series and the conclusion doesn’t end the story.  In fact one could look at the entire novel as only the first chapter in the larger saga Reynolds has planned for the blood-sucking Count.  Readers not fond of continued series would do well to avoid this book.  As for the rest of us willing to invest our time in an original, gripping horror adventure, I say bravo Mr.Reynolds and where’s book number two?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Just wanted to post a Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers here at PFR.   I wish you and your families a glorious, fun day.  We are all blessed by God in more ways than we can count.  It is fitting we take just one day out of the entire year to pause, consider those blessings and give thanks.

And as this is the start of the Christmas season, allow me to suggest something to help your gift giving.  Give books as gifts.  If you've devoted readers in your life, then make them smile with the gift of a book by one of their favorite writers, or better yet, if you know their taste, help introduce them to a new writer.  And let's not forget the little ones.  Giving a child a book and helping them discover the joys of reading will enrich their lives for years to come.  Reading is the one habit I want everyone to have.  Again, Happy Holidays to you all, and God Bless.


Friday, November 19, 2010


By Kevin Noel Olson
Cornerstone Book Publishers
153 pgs

Several years ago, Kevin Noel Olson wrote one of the most imaginative Young Adult book I’d ever read, “Eerey Tocsin in the Cryptoid Zoo.”  In it the world met Eridona “Eerey” Tocsin, a precocious red headed girl with a knack for meeting and making friends with all manner of weird creatures.  From her black widow spider, Eight Ball, to the Loofah, the half centaur/half orangutan, this girl was a magnet for some truly amazing adventures.

Olson has since written two sequels that have been sitting on my To-Read stack for some time now. Sadly we reviewers do not spend all day reading, as much as we’d like to.  There are things like gas and light bills to pay, i.e. the regular obligations of life.  Whereas ever day more and more books arrive and that stack never seems to dwindle at all.  So it is just matter of spacing out titles and offering myself and you a diverse line-up of reading experiences.  It was time for Eerey’s second book.

At the end of that first tale, Eerey and her strange companions were flying off to try and locate her missing parents.  Along with them was her cousin Edict, a boy covered with hair and Guy, the invisible lad who buzzes whenever he comes under harsh lights.  They crash land near a dormant volcano in the middle of the ocean and soon find it leads to the underwater city of Kanute.  There, the group is caught up in a battle between the green skinned humanoid Kanutians and the amphibious Ottermen.

Once again, Olson delivers a completely original story filled with giant robot sharks and an even bigger, miles long crustacean known as the Kraken.  The action never stops as Eerey and her pals find themselves in one cliff-hanger peril after another, all the while relying on their courage and friendship to see them through. Which is the true heart of these adventures; that no matter how amazing or frightening life can be, we all do succeed with a little help from our friends.

Today’s Young Adult book market is overflowing with hundreds of titles but very few are as creative, exciting, original and as much fun as this little known series.  It truly deserves a much greater audience and hopefully this review will guide more readers to it.  I’ve already purchased a second set of all three as a gift to one of my granddaughters for Christmas.  If you’ve dedicated young readers in your family, you’d be smart to do the same.  They’ll thank you for it.  Finally, with a little luck and free time during the holidays, I’ll be digging into that third volume, “Eerey Tocsin and the Invisible Tower.”

Monday, November 15, 2010


By William Speir
Eloquent Books
214 pages

In the past five years, since I started to examine and review the pulp genre field, it soon became clear that there were only two really different types of pulp stories.  The first is that of the lone avenger/vigilante who works outside the law to battle the bad guys.  The second is the team approach wherein we are given a group of characters who act in unison to achieve the same noble goals.  Generally, when reading a new pulp title, I can easily drop it into one of these two branches.  It is not often that a book comes along that doesn’t fit in either of those molds as much a break them completely and provide us with a brand new spin on things.  KNIGHTS OF THE SALTIER is such book and thus an eye opening pleasure for this reviewer.  It is something new under the pulp umbrella and extremely well realized.

Secret fraternal organizations ala the Masons have been around for hundreds of years and have been the fodder for many a pulp adventure.  From the Illuminati to the Harvard Skull and Crossbones club, the idea of a group working in the shadows to bring about political and social change has been a well worn plot device to entice paranoiac readers of every generation.  What Saltier proposes in this, the first of a trilogy, is that a modern secret society has come into existence with the sole purpose of aiding the police in helping to bring criminals to justice.  The group is based on the old English order of chivalry and its members, called Knights and Dames, take an oath of loyalty and secrecy to the group when being inducted.  At one point in the story, the Grand Master explains to the protagonist that the only way the group can exist, per its own ideals of civilized jurisprudence is to support the legal system and never usurp the goals and authority of the police. To do so would make them no better than the people they investigate and capture.  Their role is to gather evidence, behind the scenes, that will convict the law breakers, then apprehend them and deliver them, along with that data to the police.

Thus the public remains totally unaware of their existence and operations, continuing to believe that the established legal system works as it should.  Thus the secrecy element is crucial as is their group loyalty.  No single individual is unique or exceptional, each Knight and Dame is a vital component of the group.  Which is why this particular concept is original to pulps and cleverly thought out.   The philosophy behind the Knights of the Saltier (a symbolic cross shaped like the letter X) is central to the book’s plot and the hero’s reaction to it.

Tom Anderson is an ex-military engineer looking for a cause to give his life purpose.  It isn’t enough to work, get paid and socialize with friends.  Anderson, in part due to his inherent patriotism, believes he has more to give his country, but as a civilian is stymied in finding an answer to his moral quest.  When he is approached by the Knights, he is reasonably suspicious of them and their stated mission.  Most secret organizations are radical in nature, which is why the Knight’s tempered existence intrigues him and he ultimately comes to accept their offer.  Once an active member of the Knights, Anderson also discovers the groups singular vulnerably, their exposure to the criminal world that they are helping the police combat.

When one of their members turns traitor and gives up the Knights to a brutal mob boss, Anderson and his new found brothers find themselves in a pitched battle for survival. The repercussions are savage and their very struggle to survive challenges the Knights with their greatest dilemma of becoming the very things they abhor. 

KNIGHTS OF THE SALTIER is a fascinating book.  Speir’s writing is competent enough, although I hope as it matures; it will take on more color and verve that comes with confidence.  I sense he is still feeling his way down this new literary path he’s taken on.  I strongly recommend KNIGHTS OF THE SALTIER to all pulp fans.  It’s not often we get something this original in the genre, don’t let it pass you by.

Friday, November 12, 2010


By Elmer Kelton
Forge Books
284 pages

The writing in this book is so lean, it becomes a literary illusion as it packs so much story in those economic words.  That is the hallmark of a veteran writer who has truly mastered his craft of storytelling.  Whereas I do not read many westerns, it is both a joy and sad event to come to this dance late, as Kelton passed away in 2009 at the age of 83 with over fifty novels to his credit, among them seven winners of the prestigious Spur Award.

TEXAS STANDOFF is one of two books being posthumously published.  It is marvelous example of excellence in the genre.  The authenticity of the setting, the language of the characters and their laconic, leather tough personalities open a window to a way of life and culture that forever shaped this country’s identity.

Veteran Rangers Andy Pickard and Logan Daggett are sent to a small town in the central Texas country to investigate an increasingly dangerous feud building up between two cattle ranchers, the Teals and McIntoshs.  The patriarchs were old foes in the Civil War and remain stubbornly unwilling to put their past prejudices aside, each accusing the other of starting the ruckus with the intent of driving out the competition.  The two Rangers soon discover a volatile atmosphere in which the smallest spark could ignite a bloody range war that would decimate both families and kill many innocent bystanders caught in the middle.

No sooner do Pickard and Daggett start nosing around when a series of violent attacks by hooded riders known “regulators” begin targeting both ranches.  Both sides vehemently accuse the other of these raids whereas Pickard begins to suspect a third group is actually manipulating events to pit the cattle ranchers against each other.  Pickard, the younger of the two lawmen, is the thinker, slow to act but nonetheless lethal with deadly marksmanship when required.  Daggett is older and a bulldog of man who believes in swift and permanent justice to all outlaws, no matter the severity of their crimes.  His philosophy is hang them all and make room for the decent folks to settle the land.  Much of the fun here is seeing how both men, despite their differences, have to learn to work together in completing their assignment and uncovering the truth behind the entire affair.

TEXAS STANDOFF echoes classic westerns such as the Virginian and Lonesome Dove but it also brands itself with a fresh, honest originality by portraying these characters as the true, tough and independent pioneers they were.  If you’ve a hankering for an easy paced western that delivers so much more, then saddle up and enjoy the ride.  This one has your brand on it.

Friday, November 05, 2010

THE ROOK Vol. Five

THE ROOK (Vol Five)
By Barry Reese
Wild Cat Books
303 pgs

This is easily one of my favorite on-going pulp series.  The Rook, an Atlanta based avenger a new pulp hero who, over the course of his four previous outings, has battled some classic pulp villains and teamed up with well known 30s heroes along the way.
Note, this is not a novel, as the Rook’s adventures generally run in lengths of ten to fifteen thousand words and each volume is a collection of four or five of these long tales.
This one follows that format and offers up four new Rook thrillers and wraps with a bonus story by writer Stacy Dooks.  I’m going to “hazard” a guess and say this is the first Rook story ever penned by someone other than Reese and it’s really very good, adhering a great deal the established style Reese created for this series.

The recurring theme of this collection focuses on the Rook establishing a new team of heroes he christens the Claws of the Rook, and they include a pastiche female Phantom type warrior known as the Revenant, who leads them.  Others include a master of the  mystic arts, ala Doctor Strange, the Frankenstein monster who is, in this incarnation, a decent fellow named Vincent and the Golden Age comic book battler, the Black Terror, to name a few.  During the course of the book they go up against some of the Rook’s old foes such the Warlike Manchu and Doctor Satan while being challenged by new evils ala a wooden fiend known as the Stickman and a resurrected vampire Hitler seeking to rebuild the Third Reich.

As you can see by these colorful personages, these are off-the-wall pulp exploits in the finest sense.  There are times when Reese spends a little more time on the new team then he does with his principle hero and all too often, despite their myriad talents and powers, the group can’t seem to win any decisive battle without his coming to their rescue.  Obvious the challenge here is when to shine the light on the Max Davies, the Rook’s secret identity, and when to actually let him take a back seat.  The few times this doesn’t work properly makes for awkward sections that slow down the pacing a bit.  But that’s a truly minor flaw in what is another excellent entry into this fun series.

And Dooks tale starring the Rook Jr. is a really nice bonus to the entire package.  If you are a Rook fan, you won’t be disappointed.  If you aren’t, then time to get on the pulp bandwagon and discover this truly excellent series.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Greetings one and all.  Just wanted to post a quick message here to apologize for the lack of new reviews here.  The move from New Hampshire to Colorado was a radical operation and although we've settled in nicely to our new Fort Collins home, I'm still playing catch up with most of writing obligations and thus my own personal reading has taken a back seat.  Sorry about that.  I'm currently reading Barry Reese's fifth ROOK adventures and will post a review soon as I can wrap it up.  In the meanwhile, one of my own stories has just been released in Moonstone's new GREEN HORNET CHRONICLES.  I hope you'll pick it up, as aside my humble entry, it truly has some memorable tales of the verdant clad hero and his kung-fu sidekick, Kato.  Thanks for stopping by as always and Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010



Hard Case Crime Returns!

Titan Books to Relaunch
Acclaimed Pulp Paperback Series

“Wickedly voluptuous.”
--Janet Maslin, New York Times

“Hard Case may be the best new American publisher to appear in the last decade.”
-- Neal Pollack, The Stranger

One hell of a concept. Those covers brought me right back to the good old days.
-- Mickey Spillane

New York, NY; London, UK (October 19, 2010) – Titan Books and series creator Charles Ardai announced today that they are teaming up to relaunch the popular Hard Case Crime series of paperback crime novels.  Nominated five times in five years for the Edgar Allan Poe award, the mystery genre’s highest honor, Hard Case Crime has published such luminaries as Stephen King (the book that was the basis for the new TV series “Haven”), Mickey Spillane, Ed McBain, Donald E. Westlake, Lawrence Block, Pete Hamill, Max Allan Collins, Madison Smartt Bell and Roger Zelazny, to name just a few.  Each book features new cover art in the classic pulp style, including covers painted by Robert McGinnis, the legendary illustrator who painted the original James Bond movie posters.

Hard Case Crime has won praise from dozens of major publications ranging from Time, Newsweek and The Atlantic Monthly to Entertainment Weekly, Playboy and Reader’s Digest, and has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR’s Fresh Air, and in every major newspaper in America (including repeated coverage in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and USA Today).

First launched in 2004, Hard Case Crime published 66 titles through August 2010, at which time its long-time publisher, Dorchester Publishing, announced it was exiting the mass market paperback publishing business after nearly 40 years.  After receiving offers from five other publishers (including two of the largest in the world) to continue the line, Charles Ardai selected UK-based Titan Publishing as Hard Case Crime’s new home.

“Titan has an extraordinary record of creating beautiful, exciting books with exactly the pop culture sensibility that Hard Case Crime exists to celebrate,” said Charles Ardai, founder and editor of Hard Case Crime and an Edgar Award-winning mystery writer himself.  “Titan is one of the few publishers that loves pulp fiction as much as we do.”

Titan’s first new Hard Case Crime titles, scheduled to come out in September and October 2011, include QUARRY’S EX, a new installment in the popular series of hit man novels by “Road to Perdition” creator Max Allan Collins; CHOKE HOLD, Christa Faust’s sequel to her Edgar Award-nominated Hard Case Crime novel MONEY SHOT; and two never-before-published novels by major authors in the crime genre (both recipients of the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America).

Additionally, Titan plans to acquire all existing stock of Hard Case Crime’s backlist titles from Dorchester Publishing and resume shipping those titles to stores immediately.

“Hard Case Crime has done a remarkable job in a very short time of building a brand known for outstanding crime fiction and stunning artwork,” said Nick Landau, Publisher of Titan Books and CEO of the Titan Publishing Group.  “We are thrilled to partner with Charles and look forward to bringing Hard Case Crime to a wider audience around the world, not only through the novels themselves but also through an innovative merchandise program.”

For more information, call Hard Case Crime on 646-205-2181 or e-mail; call Titan (US media) on 914-788-1005 or email; or call Titan (UK media) on +44 (0)20 7803 1906 or email

About Hard Case Crime

Charles Ardai founded Hard Case Crime in 2004 through Winterfall LLC, a privately owned media company responsible for a variety of print, film, and television projects.  The series has been nominated for and/or won numerous awards since its inception including the Edgar, the Shamus, the Anthony, the Barry, and the Spinetingler Award.  The series’ bestselling title of all time, The Colorado Kid by Stephen King, was the basis for the current SyFy television series “Haven,” on which Charles Ardai works as a writer and producer.  There have also been a number of feature film deals involving Hard Case Crime books, including “The Last Lullaby,” based on The Last Quarry by Max Allan Collins and starring Tom Sizemore as the titular hit man, and more recently Universal Pictures’ purchase of the film rights to Little Girl Lost and Songs of Innocence by Richard Aleas. 

About Titan Publishing Group

Titan Publishing Group is an independently owned publishing company, established in 1981. The company is based at offices in London, but operates worldwide, with sales and distribution in the US & Canada being handled by Random House. Titan Publishing Group has three divisions: Titan Books, Titan Magazines/Comics and Titan Merchandise. In addition to fiction, including novelizations of films such as Terminator Salvation, original novels based on TV shows such as Primeval and Supernatural and the popular computer game Runescape, and the celebrated Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series of novels launched in 2009, Titan Books also publishes an extensive line of media- and pop culture-related non-fiction, graphic novels, art and music books.

Friday, October 15, 2010


(A Barker & Llewelyn Novel)
By Will Thomas
Touchstone Books
289 pages

When a notorious Italian assassin and his wife are found stuffed in a barrel and floating down the Thames River, Scotland Yard puts out a call to Inquiry Agent Cyrus Barker to assist them in foiling a bloody gang war for the control of the London docks. A new criminal element has arrived from Sicily known as the Mafia and they want nothing less than complete control the entire London underworld.

THE BLACK HAND is the fifth in this series of mystery adventures starring the enigmatic Barker and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn. Like the others that preceded it, the joy of this volume is the amount of historical research Thomas embellishes the background. He has a fondness for history and it shines throughout the book, as his accurate depiction of London during Victoria’s reign is vibrant and mesmerizing. He relishes offering up tidbits of long forgotten lore that adds a true richness to the world in which our heroes operate.

From the first time Llewelyn met Barker, he has been slowly piecing together his employer’s colorful and mysterious background as a ship’s captain in the Far East. In this book more is revealed about Barker’s past, filling in the gaps to a man who is clearly Sherlock Holmes’ equal and not some half-baked copy. Both Llewelyn and Barker are original characters and their exploits a joy to read. This time the body count mount quickly as the mysterious unknown agents of the Black Hand attack ruthlessly, brutally eliminating anyone in their path. In the end Barker must form a coalition of London gangs to challenge the Sicilians and put an end to their vicious threat.

If you’ve yet to pick up this series, I would urge you to do so immediately. Historical mysteries simply do not get any better than the Barker & Llewelyn books. I cannot wait for number six.

Monday, October 11, 2010


By David Weber
Tor Books
381 pages

Alien invasions are nothing new to both the science fiction and fantasy genres. Books like H.G.Wells WAR OF THE WORDS and Ron L.Hubbard BATTLEFIELD EARTH have all demonstrated the horrors of such a catastrophic event. In reading David Weber’s OUT OF THE DARK, it is impossible not to recall these previous exercises in intergalactic terror and the penultimate B-movie experience of INDEPENDENCE DAY.
They are all evoked wonderfully throughout this gripping adventure.

The plot is direct enough. The setting is the very near future, by only a few years. A warrior race known as the Shongairi have been given the permission of a space United Nations known as the Galactic Hemegony to invade and subjugate the Earth, based on early exploratory by other races of the Hemegony. Their reports indicated the planet’s inhabitants were a savage race and as the majority of the alien council was made up of peace loving beings, the Shongairi seemed the perfect choice to handle the Earth situation. Early on in the story, the commanding officer of the invading fleet espouses his own theories on the politics behind his people having been granted this so called privilege. He full suspects the Hemegony are hoping the Earthlings will prove difficult to the point of inflicting enough damage to weaken the Shongairi thus making them easier to handle. The Hemegony are all too aware of the Shongairi’s unbridled ambitions to expand their empire.

Of course the commander and his officers consider this a ridiculous idea as their own hubris is blinding them to the fact that all their previous victories were of Class One civilizations with no technology to speak of. Whereas the Shongairi scouting probes report the Earth has developed to a Class Two status to include nuclear capabilities that suggest other technological advances, particularly in military fields. Still, having never known defeat, the Shongairi launch their invasion by bombarding the Earth’s major capitol cities and within hours decimate a quarter of the world’s population.

Weber is a skilled military writer and he describes the destruction from outer space clearly and economically. Then he begins to introduce us to several strong willed individuals throughout the world who will be the book’s protagonists. A couple of former marine survivalists living in the mountains of South Carolina, an African American Marine Sergeant trapped in Romania with a handful of soldiers, a Russian engineer from Moscow and a U.S. Navy fighter pilot who manages to shoot down the Shongairi troop shuttles within mere hours of their attack. It is his actions that set the tempo for the remainder of the book, as his effective retaliation is the first actual loss the enemy aliens have ever encountered and all too soon pockets of human resistance begin popping up everywhere, striking back at the invaders with effective armament the likes of which they had never encountered before.

Weber lays it on fast and furious all of which leads to a dead road culmination for the Shongairi. If they cannot successfully defeat the human race, then they will merely retreat and bomb the planet to oblivion. The question then becomes, will the humans survive and is there any way they can possibly turn the tables and actual defeat the invaders? Therein lays the resolution that caught me by surprise because for the most part the book is science fiction and Weber’s solution strays afar into that other genre we alluded to earlier. In a way that some readers may not appreciate and I can sympathize with them. On the other hand, I was delighted with it and applaud Weber for having the literary bravado to pull it off, particularly in his being able to subtlety play on the book’s very title with that particular climax.

Bottom line, OUT OF THE DARK is a terrific read that had me from the first page and kept me enthralled to the very last. If you are willing to have fun with fiction of this type, then hang on and enjoy the ride. It’s a wild one.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Dynamite Comics
Writer Matt Wagner
Artist Aaron Campbell

In the three years I’ve written Pulp Fiction Reviews, I’ve never bothered to shine a light on comics. I am making an exception here because of the quality and pulp strings attached to this marvelous title from Dynamite Comics. Okay, so the Green Hornet was never a pulp hero, having been born on the radio along about the same time as the Shadow and other great melodramatic heroes. He would also make the jump to the movie serials and comics casting him clearly in the same mold as the glorious pulp characters of his day.

Earlier this year Dynamite opened the Green Hornet floodgates and inundated the comic world with more Green Hornet titles than ever put by a single publisher before. There was Kevin Smith’s supposed old unused movie script and individual books featuring the various Katos etc.etc. For the most part most of these are lackluster affairs truly not worth any fans time or hard earned coins.

Almost lost amongst this plethora of mediocre fare was one singular gem, GREEN HORNET – YEAR ONE. Conceived and written by veteran scribe Matt Wagner, it tells the story of the original verdant clad avenger and his Asian side-kick in a historically accurate time frame. It is the late 1930s and Germany and Japan are dicing up the world map to their own gratification and dreams of empire building. Against this background, Britt Reid, the bored, educated son of a Chicago newspaper publisher, decides to answer the call of wanderlust and go traipsing around the globe. He wants to have one big glorious adventure before he resigns himself to filling his father’s shoes and spending the next twenty years of his life behind a desk.

Meanwhile in the Land of the Rising Son, Hiyashi Kato has been raised by his noble sire to be a modern Samurai and live by their strict code of martial honor. When he is summarily drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army and becomes part of the invasion of China, he witnesses acts of brutal atrocity that challenge his very moral core. He deserts, choosing in the course of right and ultimately crosses paths with the young American, who saves his life in a freakish accident. Kato vows to accompany Reid and be his companion until his debt his repaid.

Wagner, realizing today’s audiences need action, jumps back and forth between these events and those occurring after the duo’s return to Chicago. Here they discover Reid Senior has died and left the running of the Daily Sentinel to his son. Once in this lofty position, Britt will come to understand the dept of the corruption infecting his beloved city by the criminal gangs, all of which will lead him to become a masked crime fighter with his loyal Kato ever at his side in the livery of a masked chauffeur.

Aaron Campbell’s art is so evocative of the times this story unfolds in, one has to wonder if he doesn’t spend every waking second in a library reference hall. His work captures not only the look but the atmosphere of these unsettling days when America, having just survived the Great Depression is on the brink another world conflict, unsure if the future spells doom or glory for the brash young country.

GREEN HORNET – YEAR ONE is a terrific comic series and does justice above and beyond to one of the great classic radio heroes of all time. Any pulp fan worth his fedora would be wise to pick it up.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


By James Rollins
Harper Books
506 pages

When a book mixes science, religious philosophy and secret societies dating back to the Nazis, you can expect a real spicy pulp stew. Veterinarian turned thriller novelist James Rollins delivers just that and the meal is absolutely scrumptious for the first page bite to the last closing line morsel. Easily one of the best modern pulp adventures I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

The adventure opens during the closing days of World War II when allied forces are racing against each other to lay claim to Germany’s scientific innovations developed during the war to include everything from rocket propulsion to medical experimentation.
Amidst this chaos, one German commando unit is attempting to flee the invaders and smuggle out the results of an amazing breakthrough in quantum physics that could alter the shape of mankind forever. Along with these papers and artifacts is a baby unlike any other in the world; the first of a race of true supermen.

Like any good thriller writer, Rollins then jumps ahead in time to the present where members of a special Washington based group known as Sigma Force are involved with what they believe to two distinct missions. The first is an antique book auction being held in Copenhagen and the second is a distress call from a Tibetan monk residing in a monastery located deep in the Himalayas. Commander Gray Pierce follows the European case which centers around a group of killers eager to get their hands on Darwin’s Bible. It supposedly contains secret runes put their by a former German scientist involved with a secret project known only as the Bell. At the same time, Sigma Director Painter Crowe arrives in Tibet, only to find the monks have somehow gone insane and murdered each other. No sooner does he uncover this horror then he is captured and taken to a hidden mountain lair operated by the descendants of the very same German researchers who developed this mysterious Bell.

Rollins’ genius is that he keeps both plot threads moving at breakneck speed, constantly putting Pierce and Crowe in cliffhanger perils and then deftly jumping from one to the other. Thus the action seems to flow non-stop, scene after exciting scene. He also glues these action set pieces with thought provoking debates on what is evolution and where do science and religion meet in its process. Is there a grand design and will quantum physics someday open the blueprint to creation? That these weighty dissertations occur while men are being shot at, mountains exploding and mutated monsters roam the jungles of South Africa is all part of the roller-coaster ride BLACK ORDER delivers.

Recently a friend wrote asking me to passing along names of people I considered to be top-notch modern day pulp writers. James Rollins was at the top of the list I passed along and BLACK ORDER reaffirms that choice beautifully.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


By Barry Reese
Wild Cat Books
149 pgs.

Modern day pulp writer, Barry Reese, eschews the traditional hero avenger fare for something much darker and violent with this thriller that borders on the sensational. One has to imagine he dove into this adult orientated tale with both trepidation and a palpable sense of unfettered freedom. There is plenty of gore, sexual brutality and blatant acts of depravity all meticulously embellished with not a gruesome detail omitted. If you’ve the stomach for it, Rabbit Heart is a savage reading experience but it is not for the timid.

The adventure begins with the death of the protagonist, a young girl named Fiona Chapman. She’s murdered by an outdoor serial killer who fancies himself the next Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. But Fiona doesn’t die, or at least in the same way normal people expire. Instead she somehow biologically evolves into another state of being, one in which she is incredibly strong and powerful. She soon learns that she is one of a handful of mythological spirits who have roamed the world for centuries known as the Furious Hosts.

These semi immortal deities exist only to kill and be killed. They are all players in a bizarre, savage game known as the Hunt. Each is filled with an unquenchable lust compelling them satiate their dark passions by preying on innocent humans while at the same time battling each other until eventually only one will remain. This is of course reminiscent of the Highlander movie series, but with a neat twist. When a Furious Host is killed by another, he or she will be reborn into another body at a later date to resume the contest. Thus killing them permanently is a problem.

Fiona, whose archetype figure she becomes when fighting is that of a sexy bad-girl warrior, is different in that she is actually repulsed by her new supernatural identity. She truly wants to no part of it but doesn’t know how to escape her fate. Then she meets an occult detective from the past who has been tracking the activities of the Furious Host and has come to her with an offer. His name is Ascott Keane and he wants to help Fiona take on the task of finding and destroying all the Hunters, ridding the world of them once and for all.

RABBIT HEART is by far the most accomplished of Reese’s writing to date. Unlike his earlier, fanciful pulp adventures, there is a steadier prose here that is precise and confident. The excess sex and violence is never gratuitous, serves the plot and avoids being pornographic by that masterful writing. I strongly recommend this book to my adult readers looking for something new. Final warning, this is a superior effort but NOT for the squeamish.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


By William Dietrich
Harper Fiction
380 pages

In the year 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt in an obsessive wish to make himself a modern day Alexander the Great. What he did was not so much a great military achievement as much as it an academic watermark for history. As writer William Dietrich marvelously depicts, Napoleon actually help create the archeological science of Egyptology.

It is against these world altering events that Ethan Gage, the protagonist, finds himself ensnared and sent on the adventure of a lifetime. A former protégé of the late Benjamin Franklin, young Gage, a one-time frontiersman, returns to Paris as an entrepreneur with the goal of makingt himself rich. He is acting as an agent between various companies in both the newly independent colonies and their ally France. But this France is one still governed in post-revolution chaos, the memories of the blood stained guillotine still fresh in every citizens’ thoughts.

When Gage wins a very odd looking medallion of Egyptian origin from a luckless soldier in a card game, he soon finds himself the target of deadly, mysterious factions. His favorite brothel mistress is murdered and evidence planted to indict him. A journalist companion suggests he join a group of scientist traveling with Napoleon to Egypt for the grand invasion and Gage is only too eager to accept the protection of the little corporal to evade the Paris police.

Once in the land of the Pharaohs, he becomes even more ensnared in the mystery of the medallion and that of an exotic beauty who may hold the key to its meaning. But is she a friend or foe? Does the medallion contain the means of unlocking the power of the great pyramids and if so, can this power be harnessed by human will? NAPOLEON’S PYRAMID is a wonderful historical adventure and Ethan Gage, surviving by his wits and courage, proves to be a bona fide colonial version of Indiana Jones. The story is a mystery, thriller and historical travelogue all rolled into one glorious package. It is a fun read that delivers what the title promises; an original, one of a kind adventure.

Friday, August 13, 2010


By Dan Schwartz
142 pages

This is easily one of the funniest and most original takes on superheroes I’ve ever read. Dan Schwartz, in this little self-published gem, delivers a twisted tale of heroics, dastardly villainy and outrageous puns that had me crying in tears.

In the wondrous city of Utopolis, crime has all but vanished completely thanks the Seven Deadlies, a super hero team formed by the mental wizard, Mind Manners. And it is the most eclectic group of costumed characters ever assembled, from Tidal Rush who controls water, to the genius British caveman Shrunk or the hermaphrodite Shocking Parts, a gorgeous woman…then again not. Her name says it all.

And as much as the comedy is prevalent, the action and mystery are equally realized. When a mysterious villain appears on the scene and begins to target the members of the Seven Deadlies, the suspense cranks up a notch. This new threat is one by one murdering the superheroes with apparent ease and the key to his insidious plot is tied to his true identity. By the time it is revealed, the plot takes a whole new twist. One that left me shaking my head and thanking the stars that I came upon this truly unique book.

SUPERHERO’S WELCOME isn’t for everyone. But if, like me, you grew up addicted to comics, this book is going to make you laugh and maybe even think a little. Dan Schwartz is a talented writer. One you should really get to know.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Star Trek-New Frontier
By Peter David
Pocket Books
436 pages

The only problem I ever have with Peter David’s unique and original Star Trek paperback series is that they appear too infrequently. Of all the literary spin-off series based on the late Gene Roddenberry’s science-fiction adventure television series, New Frontier is simply the best. All due to David’s easy style of writing and his marvelous ability to interweave characters from the other media with his own creations, chief of amongst which is Captain McKenzie Calhoun of the starship Excalibur.

At the end of the last book in this series, MISSING IN ACTION, we discovered that Xy, the half-breed son of Vulcan medical officer, Selar, suffered from a rare malady that caused accelerated growth and within weeks of his birth he had become a fully matured adult. The obvious implications being that he would reach old age quickly and die. As this new novel begins, Selar is contacted telepathically by an unknown race of aliens who claim to have the ability to slow down Xy’s metabolism and thereby save him. But they will only share this knowledge with her if she will kidnap another baby of mix heritage and bring it to them. The child they want is the half human/Thallian son of the late Si Cwan, ruler of New Thallon and his widow, former Star Fleet officer, Robin Lefler.

And if this wasn’t enough drama, once Selar flees with the baby aboard an ultra sophisticated Romulan spy ship, the ghost of Si Cwan somehow possesses the body of his young sister Kalinda and begins to advise Calhoun on how to pursue the renegade Vulcan and reclaim the stolen heir. The pacing is frantic and as always, David brings his colorful cast to life, injecting each with a truly singular personality that makes them stand out. Because he subtly allows us to see their inner motivations, dreams and fears, we become instantly invested in their predicaments when the action heats ups. Which is quite often in this runaway sci-fi thriller. As always, he delivers such a solid reading experience, the ending arrives too soon, even after four hundred pages, and has us wanting lots more.

Even if the Star Trek franchise is not your reading cup of tea, I still recommend you sample New Frontier. It’s truly a cut about the others and one of the finest continuing sci-fi series on the market today.

Friday, July 23, 2010


A Dirk Pitt Novel
By Clive Cussler & Dirk Cussler
Berkley Novel
593 pages

Once again civilization is on the brink of collapse. Global warming is increasing to the detriment of the environment and all life on the planet. When an American research scientist discovers a way to artificially create photosynthesis, the process by which plants transform harmful carbon dioxide into oxygen and water, a glimmer of hope is found. But this amazing planet saving solution depends entirely on a rare mineral known as ruthenium which then becomes the treasure target of an unscrupulous Canadian businessman who controls most of the gas and oil production in the northern latitudes.

Through the use of government bribes, murder and extortion, this greedy megalomaniac is willing to let mankind face global destructions rather than give up his bloody wealth.
He devilishly orchestrates a conflict between Canada and America which soon has both suspecting the other of harboring militaristic goals. Into this convoluted plot of evil twists and turns arrive the brave men and women of NUMA, the National Underwater and Marine Agency, led by Dirk Pitt; the most popular pulp hero of current literature.

Created in 1973, Dirk Pitt and his NUMA crew have traveled the seas of the world battling some of the most colorful villains ever invented all in defense of mankind and the world. It is no wonder that ARTIC DRIFT, their twentieth outing is a big, fat, rollicking adventure set against the topical themes of global warming and the world’s oil and gas addiction. Leave it to a master storyteller like Cussler to inject a real world crisis into an over-the-top thriller that had me whipping through the pages non-stop. There is plenty of action, death-defying escapes from impossible traps and an ancient sea mystery to be solved before the final chapter is closed.

This is also the third collaboration between the senior author and his son, Dirk, who shares the same name as his dad’s enduring hero. I have no idea what their routine is like but Dirk Pitt fans should take heart that their seamless prose melding should herald the continuation of the series long after Clive hangs up his thesaurus. And that, for pulp fiction fans, is the best news ever.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


One of the most respected publishing companies in the world is celebrating it's 75th anniversary with a truly wonderful contest. Go to the on-line site and register and you can win 75 old and new classics from this distinguished house. Tell them Pulp Fiction Reviews sent you. (

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


By Percival Constantine
Pulpwork Press
210 pages

When this book first arrived, I was really eager to dig into it as I’ve generally enjoyed most of the titles put out by this loose outfit of writers. Sadly the book disappointed me greatly and the first warning it would do so was in the introduction wherein the writer gives us a detailed history of the book and how it came to be and how much he loves these characters. In the future, allow the readers to make their own judgments and leave the histories, if you feel they are warranted, to the end of the book as an afterward.

Only in science fiction movies and comics do characters die and then come back again and again and again. It has become such a trite norm all of us have come to expect it in these medias. But not in literature, which truly should be held to a high standard than a B movie gone direct to video.

LOVE & BULLETS takes place in the world of super secret, deadly assassins who are suppose to be the most elite killers in the world. Angela Lockhart, described as "beautiful, deadly and cunning" is the best of the best. We are given a few glimpses into her training with Agency, another ultra-secret government group, and she excels in all facets of mayhem. Her teachers claim she is not only the most adept assassin they have ever trained, but her intelligence IQ borders on genius. Angela is the perfect killing machine. If all this sounds a wee bit cliché, that’s because it all is and had it actually been realized as a comic book, would have worked extremely well. But this isn’t a comic.

When Angela’s husband is murdered, the Agency refuses to help her investigate his death and punish his unknown killers. Angela quits the Agency to go solo and find the bad guys all on her own. But before she can do so, she immediately comes under the radar of a colorful, master villain known as Dante. Dante offers her assistance in finding her husband’s killers if she in turn will come to work for his ultra-secret organization known as the Infernum. If this sounds a little bit like Spy vs Spy, well, that’s perfectly legitimate as espionage thrillers have always stretched credulity to the max.

Unfortunately Constantine seems unable to resist the temptations of making Dante all things in one. A man of mystery, a man of the arts, an expert on pop culture, a movie fanastic, oh, and a deadly martial artist. All the while being this mysterious spy master with a world wide network under his command. A little would have gone a long way here, but that’s not what we get. These characters are exaggerations and when they begin to act illogically, one can only sigh with resignation.

We are told Angela has a brilliant mind but from the first page to the last she is completely manipulated, first by Dante, then by the Agency spy who falls in love with her and then again by Dante. Brilliant, hardly. Naïve, completely.

Throughout the book it is made blatantly clear that Angela and Dante will invariably have to fight each other to the death. Which is as good a point as any to applaud Constantine’s technical writing skills. He is a good writer in that his prose is precise, economic with excellent dialogue and creates some truly amazing action sequences. For this he gets top marks, but that cannot save his unimaginative storytelling. Once again he eschews logic and commits the final, major sin with the outcome of that battle royal.

Following the book’s own logic, Dante is a superior fighter and should kill Angela with little difficulty. But she’s the protagonist and we hope she will figure a way to survive. This is classic thriller suspense, rooting for the underdog. And that’s exactly what happens, in that Angela manages one final trick and gets the drop on Dante and stabs him in the back with his own Katana blade. At which point, she would have then found a pistol and put two slugs into his head to make sure he is truly dead. Kaput. That’s the cold, methodical professional we are told she is. But Constantine doesn’t want Dante to be dead and so Angela simply walks away from his body, steals some money and flees. In other words she acts totally uncharacteristically.

The final chapter arrives and lo and behold Dante walks out of a hospital all smiles and good cheer. Surprise. Hardly. Good writing is about discovering who your characters are and then being faithful to them, regardless of how painful the outcome. The lack of this realism is evident on every page and like Angela, we readers are manipulated with a heavy hand that serves no one but the writer. Despite this misstep, Constantine is talented and it is my hope he’ll forgo any plans for a sequel and instead challenge himself to give us something totally new.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


By Preston & Child
Vision (Hatchette Book Group)
566 pages

Here is a reviewer’s riddle. When is a big book like a little book? Answer; when it’s so well written you breeze through it in no time at all. Which is what happens with each new Speical Agent Pendergast novel from the extraordinary imaginations of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Individually both are extremely popular and talented thriller writers, but when they join forces to chronicle the adventures of the FBI’s most brilliant sleuth, the prose rises to an entirely new level of excellence.

When a famous New York City journalist is brutally murdered in his own apartment, it is cause of enough to stir up both the police and the press. But when the overwhelming evidence gathered points to the perpetrator being a fellow who died two weeks earlier, things suddenly take a turn for the macabre. Enter Special Agent Pendergast and his long time friend and colleague, Lt. Detective Vincent D’Agosta of the NYPD.

Are there zombie killers loose in the city and if so, what are their connections to a secretive cult that meets in an abandoned old church in the woods at the north end of Manhattan? As Pendergast and D’Agosta dig deeper into history of the area known as the Ville, they uncover allegations of voodoo and ritualistic animal slayings. But what was the dead man’s connection to the cult and the motive for his grisly slaying? Before any of these questions can be answered, the body of the slain journalist vanishes from the city morgue. Several days later it reappears at a Press Club function and in front of hundreds of witnesses, stabs a young woman to death on the stage before escaping through a backdoor exit.

The city is locked in a grip of fear, as the news of the walking dead begins to spread and Pendergast and D’Agosta find themselves in a desperate race to solve this bizarre puzzle before others are targeted by the undead. CEMETERY DANCE is the thirteenth Pendergast thriller and I consider this the finest modern pulp series being written today.
Typical of the classic pulps, they feature a colorful, nearly super human hero pitted time and time against the most exotic crimes by fiendish masterminds of villainy.

Were Walter Gibson, creator of the Shadow, alive today, these are the kinds of stories he would be writing. Here’s a big tip of the pulp fedora to Misters Preston & Child and there amazing Special Agent Pendergast and here’s hoping he’s around for another lucky thirteen.

Friday, July 02, 2010

SUN-KOH Heir of Atlantis

SUN-KOH (Heir of Atlantis)
By Dr.Art Sippo
Age of Adventure Press

Dedicated pulp fans are aware of the fact that the concept of hero pulps was not limited to the United States. During the 30s and 40s, pulp magazines were popular all over the world and there were hundreds of original crime fighting heroes created in England, France and Germany. One such foreign star was Sun-Koh, Heir of Atlantis written by German writer Paul Muller and clearly intended to be an Aryan version of America’s Doc Savage. Like Savage he was larger than life and throughout his hundreds of adventurers was accompanied by a group of loyal, unique individuals.

Beside the similarities there were also major differences and these were what have created an on-going controversy over this character. Whereas Doc Savage was a man of science and his companions all experts in various technical fields, Sun-Koh was slanted towards mythology and magic. He was supposedly a time-traveler from the sunken continent of Atlantis, a member of the royal family and master of mystic abilities. And although there was plenty of super scientific gizmos in his adventures, it was the magic that took center stage. His aides were also magicians, immortals and religious Hindu assassins. Quite an eclectic mix.

Still the biggest divergent was Sun-Koh’s political philosophy. It reflects the superman philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Muller easily adapted it into his character, a near perfect specimen of man. Yet these stories were being written at the same time Adolf Hitler and his Socialist Democratic Party were manipulating the philosophy to suit their own claims that pure blood Aryan supremacy was destined to rule the world. Initially the pulp writer and the new German administration were raising the same platform but in the end, unable to make allowances for anything they did not consider intellectual superiority, the Nazis shut down the flamboyant pulps for being cheap entertainment. Thus ended Sun-Koh’s adventures.

Today’s pulp fan have a natural disdain for the Sun-Kon tales and it is to Dr.Sippo’s credit that he chose to bring this volatile character back in this new collection. Sippo believes there were real ideological differences between Muller’s creation and Hitler’s Aryan propaganda and this is what he explores further in his own original adventures. SUN KOH-HEIR OF ATLANTIS features five of Sippo's original Sun-Koh tales, the first three had been published previously and set up the series and introduce this marvelous cast and the last two are brand new, continuing the adventures. The transfer is seamless and I was very impressed in how Sippo captured the over-the-top plotting of classic pulp writing. There is nothing small in these adventures, from invisible super planes run on cold fusion, to super-powered armored warriors battling each other like the knights of old.

There’s also a very large dose of violent Tantric sex thrown in which is brutal and savage and not for the timid. This is adult fare and although not lascivious in any way, the reader should be wary that these tales are not sanitized for some PG rating. In the end, this is a truly remarkable book and one no true pulp fan should pass up. Sun-Koh remains one of pulp history’s most remarkable figures and now, thanks to Dr.Sippo and Age of Adventure, all of us are discovering him for the very first time.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


By Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime
210 pages
Available Sept.28

Max Allan Collins started writing his Quarry books back in 1976 with The Broker. It was the first time we were introduced to the Vietnam vet turned paid assassin. In that tale, we learned how Quarry, not his real name of course, came home to find his wife in bed with another man. He murders the guy by dropping a car on him and then, because of his service record as a war hero, is acquitted by jury. Shortly thereafter he is recruited by a man known only as the Broker to become a professional killer.

In the books that have appeared since that stellar debut, that opening scenario has often been retold many times to bring the new readers up to speed. Recently, since becoming affiliated with Hard Case Crime, Collins has begun filling in specific details of Quarry’s life, each more compelling than the last. In this particular book, we are told what happened to Quarry’s ex-wife after they divorced and parted. But Quarry’s personal life is, as always case, only the subplot of the story.

Quarry has come to a small Arizona town where a movie studio is shooting an action B movie. When he discovers that the director of the film is the target of a hit, Quarry approaches the man and offers his own lethal services to both eliminate the threat and discover who put out the contract in the first place. It is this neat little twist combination of mystery and crime thriller that makes this series so original and fun. Quarry is no knight-in-shining armor private eye out to save the world. He’s a killer who makes a good living taking out other killers.

Once the first part of his contract has been efficiently resolved, Quarry is a master of death-dealing, he then becomes a detective chasing down the person who put out the contract on the moviemaker. As always, there are plenty of juicy suspects from the mob boss who is financing the project to the director’s wife who inherits all if he dies. The problem is the woman is Quarry’s ex-wife. The second he lays eyes on her, old familiar feelings he thought long dead begin to resurface, complicating an already precarious situation.

Paying homage to the potboilers of the 40s and 50s, Collins laces his tale with the most outrageous sexual encounters; all done with a sly, sharp wit that is ingratiating. At the same time he balances that adult humor with explosive violence that is as mesmerizing as it is ugly. His prose falls into place with the deft touch of a contemporary poet, each line awakening a new possibility in how we see the world. Reading Quarry is an education in human psychology taught from the barrel of a silenced automatic.

Monday, June 21, 2010


By Van Allen Plexico
White Rocket Books
252 pages

The planet Earth is under attack by a mechanical space faring super entity known as the Worldmind. The only thing between us and total annihilation is a group of super powered humans and their android allies known as the Sentinels. But before the group can deal with the Worldmind, they discover it is but one of three god-like space conquerors known as the Three Rivals and the other two are in fact on their way to our Solar System to do battle with the Worldmind.

So even if the Sentinels can miraculously defeat the Worldmind, it still leaves them with two other equally powerful threats to defeat. All of which are almost impossible for this brash young band of heroes, considering their own leader, the tactically brilliant Ultraa has been kidnapped and is now facing something known as the Galactic Council to defend the existences of the human race.

If all of this strikes you as cosmic melodrama, you are totally right, as Plexico’s continuing Sentinels saga was inspired by the outlandish, imagination rich comic books he read as a child. Here are all the colorful characters with their amazing abilities. Here are noble alien beings and dastardly, soulless foes that devour worlds as if they were on a fast food menu. There is absolutely nothing reserved or moderate about these over-the-top adventures and they are bloody addictive.

SENTINELS – WORLDMIND is the fifth book in this fun series and as such suffers the same weakness in being totally dependent on those volumes that came before it. Oh, sure, a reader might be able to understand some of the conflicts that occur in this book but in the end confusion will reign. Plexico’s cast of characters is extensive and each is unique and captivating story in themselves, ergo he could possibly recap all of them with each new chapter or the books would become thousands of pages long. I am particularly taken with the teen-age boy from Tennessee who has been grafted into an alien suit of armor to become the Star Knight.

Still, if you truly love wild space action, terrific characters and nail biting suspense, you must read these books. They are like nothing in heroic fiction ever done before. And let me add this incentive. Like all true talented writers, Plexico’s storytelling skills get better and better with each new book so that by the time you reach WORLDMIND, you are in for a tremendous, satisfying experience. THE SENTINELS is a truly wonderful homage to the comics we all grew up and should not be missed.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Editor Daniel Werneck
Poeira Books
118 pages

In its glory days, the pulp fiction monthly magazines were the repositories of thousands of fantastic short stories. It was a time unparalleled in America when reading was a national pastime, long before television and computers captured our imagination. Editor Daniel Werneck expresses this feeling aptly in his end of the book essay which is a nice concise history of the pulps, past, present and future. It is Werneck’s love the genre that propelled him to create his own homage to those long ago mags.

Startling Adventure Magazines contains an editorial, the previously mentioned essay, and five pieces of fiction. They are all short and the entire book/mag can be read in a leisurely ninety-minutes. The stories are as diverse as the originals which they wish to mirror and although the quality of each is evident, the effects are a mixed bag.

Vic’s Night Out by Anthony Abelaye seemed pointless. My high school English drummed the basic rules of writing into our heads long-long ago. For it to be a “real” story, it has to have brought about change by the tale’s ending, something that does not happen here. We meet two losers about to go out on the town. They go to a club, one of them starts a fight. They meet an old prostitute and take her home. She begins an affair with one of the two losers, leaving the other alone in a neighborhood bar feeling sorry for his pal. In others words they were sorry losers when the story started and remain so when it ends. Abelaye has a funky, modernistic prose he should use on something a whole lot more substantial.

Atha and the Green Tower by Eric Orchard is clearly the best action entry here and he delivers a quick, fast moving story much like the old pulps. This one should have been longer. Still my favorite is easily Werneck’s own Automatic Lives which tells the story of DVL-54, worker robot who makes guitars. One day he is informed that the government is transferring him to a factory that produces machine guns. Following DVL-54 as he comes to grip with this change and his bizarre sadness at losing his old job is a very poignant drama that was skillfully handled. This writer had much to offer.

The remainder of this slim volume contains another sci-fi entry, Summer by Colin Peters which is also extremely well done and a neat little one act play entitled Mama’s Boy by Jonathan Wallace where in a gay Devil plays a game of chance with a bar patron with disastrous results. If done on stage, the ending would certainly make folks sit up and take notice.

And there you have volume number of Startling Adventures Magazine. A tip of the pulp fedora to Daniel Werneck and company. This little book isn’t about to conquer the world, but it does entertain and in the end, isn’t that what the pulps were really all about?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


By Derrick Ferguson
Pulpwork Press
280 pages

A few years ago I read and reviewed an adventure novel called DILLON AND THE VOICE OF ODIN. It was my introduction to Derrick Ferguson’s larger than life action hero, Dillon. I recall liking the book a great deal and giving it a major thumbs up in my review. Well here comes the sequel and I have to admit it caught me completely by surprise. I fully expected to enjoy it and I have, just much more than I ever expected. This book is truly leaps and bounds a better read than its predecessor and Ferguson has truly grown as a writer. His prose was always clean, but now he brings a new sense of confidence to every sentence as if he’s finally gotten comfortable with this character and is now just having fun spinning his incredible exploits.

And incredible they certainly are. Dillon, a big strapping African American mercenary adventurer, is asked by his old mentor, Eli Creed, to help save the troubled monarchy of Xonira. A civil war has broken out between a wise and benevolent ruler and a cruel, twisted usurper who is in league with demonic forces beyond this world. The Lord Chancellor hires Dillon and Creed to enter an ancient death-maze known as the Blagdasen Citadel and there retrieve the Golden Bell, an artifact that will hopefully reunite the divided land and bring back peace. It’s a noble undertaking, but accomplishing it proves to be the most daring, dangerous and fool hardy mission Dillon has ever undertaken. Accompanied by the cantankerous Creed, a lovely Xoniran agent named Dagna Summers and Brandon, a specially gifted young man, Dillon sets out to do the impossible.

Believe me when I say Ferguson is a master pulp writer and he lays on the action thick and heavy from page to page. It is a break-neck pace that never slows down from rocket-pack raiders in Manhattan, advanced dirigible warships soaring over foreign lands, to a genetically altered female assassin. He dishes out the jaw-dropping wonders with every new chapter. There’s more action and thrills in this one book than a half-dozen other pulp thrillers I’ve read of late.

One of the sad truths of the old pulp era was its exclusion of minorities by both color and gender. There simply were no major black or female pulp writers, if any at all. Now Derrick Ferguson is among an elite group setting the ship alright, and he does so with a genuine flair and love of the genre. Dillon is part Indiana Jones, part James Bond and a whole lot of Imaro. And one of my personal favorite pulp heroes. He should be one of yours too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


By E. Howard Hunt
Hard Case Crime
206 pages

Long before professional spy, E.Howard Hunt became famous as a member of Richard Nixon’s “plumbers,” he was a talented writer known for his mysteries and thrillers written under various pseudonyms. In 1946 he won a Guggenheim Fellowship for his writing. Hunt was one of the architects of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Castro’s communist Cuba and after that debacle, he and many of his colleagues, were relegated to minor desk jobs in the intelligence community.

He later went to work for President Nixon as a security specialist and along with G.Gordon Liddy and others, was one of a secret team charged with fixing “leaks.” Hunt engineered the first Watergate burglary and in the follow up Watergate Scandal, was convicted of burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping, eventually serving 33 months in prison.

HOUSE DICK was published in 1961 under the pen name Gordon Davis and is set in a fancy Washington D.C. hotel (no, not that one). When a rich woman’s jewels are stolen, it becomes Pete Novak’s job to handle the affair. Novak is the hotel’s security manager. When the woman’s husband convinces him there was no burglary and then later turns up dead in the room of occupied by his mistress, matters quickly spiral out of control. The case turns out to be a whole lot more complicated than Novak expected.

Add to the mix a blond femme fatale up her beautiful lips in blackmail, a violent mobster ex-husband just out of prison and wanting his cut and soon things at the Tilden Hotel are really jumping. Yet Novak manages to keep one step ahead of events, as he manipulates both the police and the suspects until he can solve the mystery and return his life to a comfortable status quo. Although not an exceptional work, HOUSE DICK is a competent example of the paperback thrillers that flooded the drugstore spin racks of the 1960s. It remains an entertaining read from a writer whose real life exploits were far more interesting than any of his fiction.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


By Carol McCleary
Forge Books
364 pages

Nellie Bly was the pen name of pioneer female journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochran. She is most famous for two daring feats: a record-breaking trip around the world in emulation of Jules Verne, and an expose in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from within. Now, firs-time novelist, Carol McCleary, using these two historical events as bookends, weaves a remarkable suspense thriller wherein Nellie crosses the globe in search of a sadistic killer.

The adventure begins in Blackwell Island’s Lunatic Asylum where the intrepid reporter crosses path with Dr.Blum, a monster who murders several of the female patients in his private laboratory as part of some twisted anatomical experiments. Before Nellie can expose him, he fakes his own death and flees to England with the determined journalist hot on his trail. In London he resurfaces publicly earning the name, Jack the Ripper. More than ever Nellie is obsessed with seeing him captured and brought to justice.

Alas the elusive fiend escapes again; this time to Paris, the City of Lights, then in the midst of the grand 1889 World’s Fair. Aware of her own vulnerability in this strange setting, Nellie convinces the famous writer Jules Verne to join the hunt. Soon they are racing to and fro across the great metropolitan city coming in contact with such illustrious figures as Oscar Wilde, Toulouse Lautrec and Louis Pasteur. The duo’s efforts ultimately reveal a grander evil behind the mad killer’s goals, one that will set loose a deadly biological plague capable of wiping out the entire population of the city before spreading throughout the world.

McLeary’s research is impeccable and she marvelously captures atmosphere and mores of the times as the Industrial Revolution was rapidly igniting a class struggle throughout the world. Anarchist of every flag were all too ready to blow things up. It was also a time when the role of women in society had begun to evolve with women like Nellie setting the course. Yet the joy in this depiction is that McLeary doesn’t fall to the temptation of making the feisty reporter a larger-than-life feminist amazon. Instead she brings forth a winning, loveable soul eager to explore all that life has to offer. Her Nellie is both a daring pioneer and at the same time a true product of her times and upbringing. It is this tough-sweetness that comes through and makes THE ALCHEMY OF MURDER a very gratifying experience in so many different ways.