Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Story by Rob Howells
Art by Nikola Radulovikj
A “Between Your Toes” Creation
28 pages

There are times in all our lives when our souls need a very strong dose of absurdity and silliness.  It’s a playfulness small children understand all too easily and the real genius behind great children’s books such as this one.  The story is simple enough, our hero wakes up one day decides he no longer is going to wash or bathe. With each new passing day of his steadfast new resolution something very strange begins to occur.  A rather peculiar odor begins to emanate from his body causing lots of weird reactions by the people around him.  This pungent new smell continues to grow until the ultimate conclusion is revealed.

From page to page, I chuckled and marveled about both Howells’ inventiveness and artist Radulovikj’s wonderful illustrations. This is easily one of the funniest books I’ve ever read and I am going to be showing it to all my friends, young and old alike.  If you have small children, or simply want to remember what true silliness is, you so need to pick up, “Me And My Smell.”  Honestly, you’ll be so glad you did.

Monday, June 25, 2012


By Max Allan Collins & James L. Traylor
McFarland & Company, Inc.
210 pages

Scholarly treatises such as this volume, which examines the film and television adaptations of mystery writer, Mickey Spillane, run the risk of committing the most ironic literary sin of them all; producing a boring book about an entertaining subject. A large part of Spillane’s success, beside devising clever plots, was his gift of writing  stories that brought a great deal of joy to his readers. Perhaps no other popular writer of the 20th Century ever connected so powerfully with the American post World War II psyche as did Spillane, which in itself is no great puzzle.  Spillane was very much a product of his times, a veteran and every day working stiff who saw returning GI’s with true empathy. He was one of them.

By the late 1940s Spillane was writing about a tough guy private eye with an Old Testament philosophy.  Sickened by the horrors of a world war, Mike Hammer, had had a belly full of evil and injustice and wasn’t going to take it anymore.  His singular voice was one of righteous indignation unwilling to capitulate to the powerful elite eager to profit from a society weary of conflict.  These were the new carpetbaggers whose target of their greed were the innocent, decent people trying to build new lives. Without being asked, Hammer found himself the wolf at the door, protecting the sheep against all the other wolves.

By the time Hollywood came knocking, his books were world wide best sellers and Spillane’s legions of fans were anxious to see his rough and tumble tales brought to the silver screen. Sadly, the results of those adaptations weren’t always pleasurable either to Spillane or his devotees.  Some went on to achieve cult status while others drifted into TV late night obscurity barely remembered today. In this extensive and wonderfully presented study, Collins and Traylor set the records straight, giving each Spillane film and television series a thorough and insightful inspection.  Their unbiased criticisms of the good, the bad and the ugly are all well researched reports from cast bios to screen writers’ credits.

Some of the surprises contained detail the ideological differences between conservative Spillane and left-leaning producer Victor Saville and his partner director, Robert Aldrich. Both Saville and Aldrich clearly despised the character of Mike Hammer and attempted to paint him in a negative light via their version of “Kiss Me Deadly,” with actor Ralph Meeker as Hammer.  Yet, as explained in the book, it was this very antagonism that ironically resulted in perhaps the finest Mike Hammer movie of all time.  Go figure.

Another highlight is their look at “The Girl Hunters,” a British black and white production in which Spillane took on the role of his most famous creation and played him to screen perfection; perhaps the only writer to ever do so in film history. 

This and other installments offer long forgotten vignettes from both Spillane’s associates and often relate Spillane’s own documented opinions of these adaptations, pro and con. We especially appreciated their closing the book with reprinting one of the last interviews Spillane gave to Collins, neatly summarizing his own personal and caustic observations on these various teleplays.

“Mickey Spillane On Screen,” is a thoughtful examination of one of the greatest mystery writers in American history and the celluloid treatment of his works.  It should have a place of honor in every film and mystery lovers’ library.

Monday, June 18, 2012


By W. Peter Miller
Uchronic Press
55 pages

Recently I reviewed a short digest novella from Moonstone Books and mentioned liking this handy format for a quick, enjoyable reading experience. Well, California based writer, W. Peter Miller has launched his own series of such small paperbacks called “Unchronic Tales,” and the first one is entitled, “The Zeppelin.”

Now from the back cover copy, we’re told that these books will be set in an alternate world which is much like our own but then again different in some pretty startling and unique ways.  And make no mistake about “Unchronic Tales,” they are definitely part of the New Pulp Fiction movement sweeping the literary world today.

The hero of this first novella is American Agent Clark Tyler who has gone over to England at the start of World War One to enlist and do his part.  When a super Zeppelin, the Eisern Feist, attacks London one night, British Intelligence learns the bombing raid is actually a cover up for a more sinister German mission.  The Germans have kidnapped the daughter of famous scientist and are bringing her back to Berlin to utilize the special formula she now possesses, a formula that bestows her with a rather unbelievable ability.

Thus it is that she must be rescued at all cost and Tyler and his team fly off in modified tri-planes to overtake the dirigible, get aboard her and find the young lady before the massive airship can cross the channel and reach Germany.

Miller’s writing is pulp-perfect and the action nonstop from beginning to end. Tyler is a great, stalwart champion and the young, lovely scientist a spunky spitfire capable of holding her own when the action kicks into high gear. But before they can successfully complete her rescue, both of them will have to battle their way through an entire crew of German airmen and a team of highly trained, deadly German Commandos. 

Having relished this great little book, this reviewer is looking forward to digging into the second titled, “The Horn.”  If it is as good as, “The Zeppelin,” we pulp fans have much to celebrate.


Tales of the Rook
Edited by David White & Barry Reese
Pro Se Productions
Reese Unlimited Imprint
Guest Review by Kevin Rodgers

Barry, Reese, the creator of the Rook, recently invited his New Pulp colleagues to enter his universe and take turns with his iconic character.  Five writers accepted his invitation and allowed their creative talents and imaginations to propel the Rook into dangerous predicaments and thrilling plots. I’d been waiting impatiently for “Tales of the Rook,” to arrive because I knew this anthology would be well worth the money and I was right.

Barry Reese rightly anchors the collection with his newest Rook tale called, “The Killing Games.” Reese’s story interrupts a sea voyage for Max Davies, and his wife, Evelyn, who are forced to journey to a mysterious island after their ship is damaged in a storm. Ruthless Nazis, a mysterious castle and other devilish surprises await them on this island.  Reese’s exciting tale sets the tone for the rest of the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed “The Miss Beantown Affari,” by Ron Fortier.  Fortier uses his keen eye for detail and his mastery of action sequences to turn a beauty pageant into a wild shootout and abduction. I can’t say too much more because I don’t post spoilers in my reviews. Still Max Davies/the Rook definitely finds a way to expose the sleazy underbelly of old-school Boston and pinpoint the reason for all this chaos.

Up next is Bobby Nash who really knows how to turn up the heat and compel the reader to feel claustrophobic in his brilliant tale, “Where There’s Smoke.” I felt sympathy for the Rook when he steps into a trap and realizes there’s no escape from an arsonist’s inferno.  What follows is a fast paced sequence of events involving a well-equipped, hard to defeat villain.

Reese, Fortier and Nash rely heavily on action and adventure in the first half of this volume.  The second part of the book, which features stories by Mike Bullock, Percival Constantine and Tommy Hancock showcases the supernatural aspects of the Rook’s crime fighting saga.

Bullock lures the Rook into a labyrinth of demonic intrigue in, “Onyx Raven,” an imaginative, well written tale which introduces an intriguing, new character named Xander Janus.  We will be seeing more of his adventures in the future.

Percival Constantine ups the ante with the Family Grace’s connections to vampires and zombies in an entertaining contribution called, “The Curse of Baron Samedi.” The fun of this story is Constantine’s Rook is not Max Davies, but a future hero wearing the bird mask.

At the end of the anthology, Tommy Hancock pits the Rook against the classic pulp villain Doctor Death in a highly descriptive page turner called, “The Rook Nevermore,” which sets the stage for future Rook novels to be penned by Hancock.

In the end, “Tales of the Rook,” is a satisfying blend of well written, carefully crafted stories which held my interest from beginning to end. Fans of New Pulp should add this book their libraries without hesitation!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

MERKABAH RIDER - Have Glyphs Will Travel

Have Glyphs Will Travel
By Edward M. Erdelac
Damnation Books, LLC.
338 pages

In his two previous books in this series, writer Edward Erdelac established a sweeping tableau that encompasses the American southwest in the years following the American Civil War.  His hero is a Jewish Mystic known only as the Rider. He is a veteran of the war between the states whose one-time religious teacher, Adon, betrayed him and his fellow students to become the agent of ancient alien gods. The Rider chases him across the frontier, his goal to kill him and end the threat he poses.

“The Long Sabbath,” picks up where volume two ended with the Rider and his African ally, Kabede, being chased across the desert by an army of zombies led by three of Adon’s renegade riders. They come across a small U.S. Cavalry outpost and hope to find refuge and support. Instead they are taken prisoner and thrown into the stockade as wanted felons. When several soldiers suddenly commit suicide, the others turn to the Rider and Kabede for succor. Then some of the troopers begin painfully morphing into strange monstrous creatures at the same time the fort is set upon by the legion of undead.  “The Long Sabbath” is a relentless horror-fest that once begun, never lets up and easily one of the scariest tales I’ve ever read.

This is followed by “The War Shaman,” where the Rider and his companions are enlisted by a traveling salesman to help prevent an alien entity from persuading various Indian tribes to ban together and use black magic to annihilate all whites and Mexicans. To stop them, the Rider, working through body of friendly Apache brave, must convince Geronimo of the shaman’s true identity and goals. Another rousing battle between good and evil with the Rider being aided by the Indian spirits of the mountain; a truly imaginative yarn.

The third tale is called, “The Mules of the Mazzikim,” and revolves around the Rider’s obsession with a demon succubus he encountered in a previous battle against the forces of evil. According to Satan, Nehema is being punished by her mother, Lilith, for having aided the Rider. Now our hero feels compels to seek her out and rescue her. Unfortunately the celibate warrior is tricked by his own naïveté and by the time he realizes his folly, he has been manipulated into a trap and finds himself sentence to the newly constructed Yuma State Prison. This is a tale of twisted love in its most perverse disguise and easily the best crafted story in this collection.

Next up is the most pivotal chapter in the saga thus far. “The Man Called Other” finally has the Rider coming face to face with his renegade teacher, Adon.  Only now Adon has inhabited and is controlling the body of the Yuma Prison warden where the Rider is being held for having slain the woman succubus Nehema. Alone and at the mercy of his arch enemy, Rider must fall upon his faith as never before to shield him against Adon’s manipulative abilities and their confrontation in the dream world.

By the fifth and final story, “The Fire King Triumphant,” the Rider and his handful of allies have discovered they possess the an arcane document that will allow the Old Ones to breach the wall between dimensions and achieve their ultimate goal, the invasion of the Earth and its utter subjugation.  But no sooner do they uncover this final piece of the puzzle then the Rider is shot down in the streets of Tombstone by a “blue” gunslinger who then steals the sacred scroll and rides away leaving our hero bleeding to death.  Now that’s what I call a cliffhanger.

“Merkabah Rider – Have Glyphs Will Travel,” is a fine addition to the previous volumes but more than ever begins to weave a tight pattern giving the readers a closer glimpse of the overall series.  In the process the stories become episodic in nature and though I’m still going to recommend the book, I do so with the caveat that you pick up volumes one and two first.  Otherwise you are going to find yourself both enjoying this feast but still feeling like a whole lot has been left out. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

THE SPIDER - Wings of the Black Death

Wings of the Black Death
(An Audio Book)
6 CD Set
4 hrs. 46 min.

With the expansion of the increasing popular New Pulp movement, it was only inevitable that the audio book industry would enter this exciting new field.  One of the most aggressive to do so in the past year has been Radio Archives out of Spokane, Washington, headed by the wonderfully creative and energetic Roger Rittner.  Working with noted pulp writer and historian, Will Murray, Rittner and Radio Archives have began doing expansive audio book versions of classic pulp thrillers with the feel of genuine old time radio melodramas.  It is important to note that these are not exact, full cast recordings, but by adding brilliant sound effects and period background music, Radio Archives provides such marvelous audio atmosphere as to beautifully mimic those old radio plays.

“Wings of the Black,” was written by Norvell Page, writing as Grant Stockbridge, and appeared in the December 1933 issue of “The Spider” magazine. This exciting audio adaptation produced and directed by Rittner, features Nick Santa Maria as both the narrator and primary male characters to include Richard Wentworth, aka the Spider, and Police Commissioner Stanley Kirkpatrck along with Robin Riker who takes on the role of Nita Van Sloan, Wentworth’s paramour.  They are absolutely marvelous, each evoking these well known characters as we all imagined they would sound…and act towards each other.

The plot centers about a fiendish villain calling himself the Black Death. He has managed to get a strain of the Bubonic Plague and is systematically unleashing it on the people of New York City. He will only stop when they pay him a billion dollar ransom.  As if that were not horrendous enough, this merciless fiend has managed to convince the police that it is the Spider who is responsible to the point of leaving the Spider’s telltale crimson seal on the foreheads of his policemen victims.  Now, for the first time ever, Commissioner Kirkpatrick finds himself believing the Spider is in reality a heartless monster and he proceeds to hunt him down with all the resources at his command. Suddenly Richard Wentworth is battling both the fiendish mastermind and the police, frantically trying to evade capture until he can solve the mystery of the Black Death and bring him to justice.

Rittner’s direction is pace-perfect as he leads both Santa Maria and Riker through each chapter hitting all the right beats, from moments of intense action scenes to those of quiet, anxious reflection as the pair, depending on each other as never before, endure the Spider’s greatest challenge of his crime-fighting career.  Radio Archives’ “The Spider – Wings of the Black Death,” is a winner from the opening scene to the last. It pulls the listener into the raw, brutal, fantastic world of the classic pulps and in the end provides such a unique, rewarding experience as to delight both old and new fans alike.

Finally, this audio book is available both as a digital download and in the 6 CD set, both reasonably priced.  For those into new fangled digital toys, this reviewer would imagine the digital version would be their obvious choice. Whereas the legion of audio book listeners who prefer enjoying books while on long road trips will find the CD set much to their liking.  Either way, this is a package you will be thrilled with.  And if you aren’t familiar with audio books, this is easily the right book to begin with.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


By Howard Hopkins
Moonstone Books
124 pages

It is somehow appropriate that the very first title in Moonstone Book’s new line of small paperback novellas would be the late Howard Hopkins, “The Lone Ranger – Vendetta.” Howard, who passed away unexpectedly last winter at the age of 49, though a versatile writer in all genres, was primarily known for his western novels under the penname of Lance Howard. Thus when Moonstone acquired the rights to produce new prose adventures of the famous Masked Man and his Indian companion Tonto, it would be to Hopkins they would turn first.

“The Lone Ranger – Vendetta,” is Howard at his finest, at ease narrating a fictional adventure of the old west that is still deeply rooted in the authentic aspects of that setting. Hopkins knew western lore, culture and lingo.  His delving into the Native American spiritualism that motivates the Ranger’s companion is brilliant and adds as yet another layer to a character many of us have known most of our lives. Hopkins also has no difficulty accepting this hero’s old fashion moral code about never taking a life, of always wanting to serve justice and never capitulating to his own personal desires for vengeance which is the theme of this short novella.

From out of the Ranger’s tortured past comes as yet another monster in human form seeking to wreak pain and suffering on our hero and all those he holds dear.  This time the villain is none other than the widow of Butch Cavendish, the outlaw who ambushed the six Texas Rangers in Brian’s Gap and in the process created one of the most iconic legends ever to come out of the old west.  Unbeknown to the Ranger and Tonto, Cavendish had been married and now this female murderer launches an insidious plan to find, capture and kill the Lone Ranger. But before she does so, she and her gang of cutthroats invade the town of Coopersville and proceed to butcher its citizenry.

All too quickly the Lone Ranger discovers for himself that female species is often deadlier than the male. But to stop her will he have to sacrifice his life and at long last fill the empty grave that awaits him in Brian’s Gap? “The Lone Ranger – Vendetta,” is a fast paced, thought provoking action western that looks beneath the man named John Reid and his history, revealing a heart big as the west and just as noble.  That it would mark the final chapter in a gifted writer’s stellar career is truly fitting, as Howard Hopkins the man was as large a talent as the hero he loved so much.

This is a book to own and treasure for all western fans; young and old.  Thanks Howard, and until we meet again, happy trails.