Friday, November 23, 2012


Deputy Unites States Marshall Bass Reeves
From Slave to Heroic Lawman
By Paul Brady
Milligan Books, Inc.
202 pages

At the age of sixteen years old, runaway slave Bass Reeves left the Texas plantation where he had been raised and fled into the Indian Territories.  There he lived with the Five Civilized Tribes and fought with the Creek and Seminole on the side of the Union in the Civil War.  After that conflict, Reeves married and started a horse ranch.  Shortly thereafter he was recruited by Circuit Court Judge Isaac Parker to become one of the first ever African American Deputy U.S. Marshalls.  In his thirty-two years as a lawman, he achieved one of the most impressive records ever recorded in the annals of west.  He captured well over three thousand felons, was involved with fourteen major gun-battles and was only  wounded once.  An expert marksman with both carbine and pistols, Reeves was also a formidable tracker who knew the frontier lands like the proverbial back of his hands.  

The tragic irony of his life is that as an adult, he served the law believing it would forever change the plight of minority groups for the better.  And it did just that in the Indian Territories where Judge Parker treated all felons to the same justice with no regard to their sex or race.  But when the Federal Government moved in by the late 1890s to accept Oklahoma as a state, it opened the floodgates to allow white settlers to swarm the land like human locust.  Most of them were racist; having no desire to share the bounty of the frontier with either the red or black man.  Caught in the middle, lawman Reeves watched the newly formed state enact equal-but-separate laws that were the legal antithesis of the Emancipation Proclamation and by the time of his passing in 1910 at the age of 72, racism was fully entrenched in Oklahoma.  And with that white supremacist mentality in place, is it any wonder that the remarkable life and career of this man were purposely expunged by white historians chronicling the history of the west?

Thankfully the indomitable spirit of freedom and justice prevailed and by the sixties the Equal Rights Movement swept across the land correcting those injustices once and for all.  With that came two authentic histories of Bass Reeeves.  “The Black Badge,” written by Paul Brady, a respected Federal Administrative Law Judge serving 25 years on the bench and the grand-nephew of Bass Reeves was released in 2005.  It preceded “Black Gun, Silver Star” authored by Prof. Art T. Burton published in 2008.  Both books are excellent and worthy of your attention.  Whereas Burton’s is definitively more complete and scholarly account, Brady’s is wonderfully full of personal anecdotes handed down to him by his elder relatives, many of whom actually knew Bass Reeves personally.  It is interesting to note there are several major discrepancies concerning Reeves younger days in regards to his parentage and name.  None of which is surprising considering the lack of personal records afforded slaves save for very few property accounts found on plantations after the Civil War.

Basss Reeves was the greatest lawman who ever rode the Wild West.  His adventures are legendary and all the more fantastic because they were all true.  If, like this reviewer, you grew up fascinated by the stories of Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickock , Bat Materson and all those others made famous in books and movies, you owe it yourself to pick up this “The Black Badge” and meet the Bass Reeves.  It is an experience that will open your eyes and maybe even your heart.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


By Robert J. Hogan
A Berkley Medallion Book
Cover by Jim Steranko
Dated 1969
142 pages

As most pulp fans know, back in the late 1960s and early 70s, many paperback publishers began reprinting the old classic pulp magazines.  The most popular of these reprint series were the Doc Savage books with the stylized James Bama covers and the Conan adventures as defined by master artist, Frank Frazetta.  Of course many other pulp heroes also received the paperback treatment as the fad caught on for several years introducing a whole new generation of readers to these classic figures.  Among some of the other heroes to find new life in the small softcover market were the Avenger, the Shadow, Operator 5 and the man known as the Flying Master Spy, G-8 And His Battle Aces.

Put out by Popular Publications, G-8 was one of many aviation heroes of the time to include Bill Barnes and Dusty Ayres amongst others.  Yet his magazine was the one with the longest run.  Debuting in October of 1933 it went to produce a whopping 110 issues; all of them written by Robert J. Hogan.  Another uniqueness with this title was the fact that Popular allowed Hogan’s name to be used. The habit of the pulps was to create a bogus house-name for a monthly series so that they could employ multiple writers, as most of them did, without the fans being any the wiser.  Not so with Hogan, who at the height of his career was writing three monthly books and numerous short stories to compile a staggering average of 200,000 words a month; a feat no other American writer has ever equaled. 

Robert Jasper Hogan was the son of a Dutch Reformer minister born in 1897 and raised in Buskirk, NY.  A graduate of St. Lawrence University, before turning to writing full time, he was a cowboy, a boxer, piano player, pilot and airplane salesman.  Thus his realistic descriptions of G-8’s aerial combats have a ring of authenticity to them.  Hogan became friends with many veteran airmen who had fought in World War One and he based a great deal of his adventures on them and their exploits while at the same adding a heavy dose of the macabre.  Each of his G-8 adventures were an efficient blend of spy thriller, aviation adventure and horror fantasy.

Although aware of the character, I’d never read a G-8 story before and decided to correct that while attending this year’s Pulp Fest in Columbus, Ohio.  Luckily, with the help of pulp fan David Walker, I managed to find three of those Berkley paperback reprints including the very first G-8 novel, THE BAT STAFFEL.  It is a solid, rousing debut of the series introducing us not only to the mysterious G-8, whose true identity we are never to learn, but his colorful supporting cast to include his British valet, Battle and his soon to be arch nemesis, Herr Doktor Krueger, the Kairser’s number one mad scientist.  Krueger has developed a deadly poison gas that, when inhaled, turns its victims into piles of ashes.  The German air corps has built half a dozen flying machines resembling giant bats and fitted them with tanks to carry the deadly fumes.

No sooner does G-8 discover this plot then the Bat Staffel attacks a small French town and completely decimates it.  Infuriated by this merciless savagery, G-8 flies off to combat these bat-planes single handedly and is almost done in.  Fortunately he is saved by two American pilots who come to his aid.  The first is the small, happy-go-lucky Nippy Weston who has a penchant for magic tricks and practical jokes and then there is the former college All American Half Back, Bull Martin is a giant of fellow with a granite-like jaw and the heart of a kitten.

Loyal to a fault, Nippy and Weston, upon discovering they have just saved the famous spy, G-8, enthusiastically sign on to be his wingmen in his campaign to foil the Bat Staffel.  From that point on the three of them escape one dangerous death-trap after another, each using his flying skills and other abilities to stay alive and defeat their enemies.  THE BAT STAFFEL is a fast paced, truly imaginative glimpse back into the heyday of the pulps and a fantastic introduction to one of pulpdom’s all time greatest heroes.  Next time you’re at a pulp convention, follow my lead and hunt up copies of G-8  And His Battle Aces.  You won’t be disappointed.

Friday, November 02, 2012


By Balogun Ojetade
Meji Books
MV Media LLC
145 pages

Since the advent of Sword & Soul, a subgenre focusing primarily on African mythology, we’ve seen many wonderful anthologies and novels come along that are breathing new life and welcomed vigor into fantasy literature.  The two biggest proponents, creators if you will, of this new classification are authors Charles Saunders and Milton Davis.  Saunders is known for his lifelong achievements in authoring some of the finest black fantasy fiction ever put to paper to include his marvelous heroes, Imaro and Dossouye.  Whereas Davis, beside his own amazing fiction, has been the driving force behind MV media, LLC, a publishing brand devoted to Sword & Soul.

Now, from that house, we have ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRICA by Balgum Ojetade; a sprawling, colorful and fast moving adventure that defines the best of Sword & Soul.  It is a tale of whimsy, love, magic and war told with such comfortable ease as to pull the reader along effortlessly.  Now in all fairness, this reviewer was challenged to keep the many characters separate due to their exotic foreign names that twists one’s mental tongue in a variety of unique vowels and consonants.  Thankfully Ojetade does provide a glossary of names at the book’s conclusion which was most helpful.  Despite this minor annoyance, he does distinguish each figure in unique ways that did allow us to enjoy the action without getting overly concerned about proper pronunciations along the way.

Alaafin, the Emperor of the Empire of Oyo wishes to marry off his beautiful but mischievous daughter, Princess Esuseeke.  Seeke, as she is referred to, is very much a “tomboy” who prefers studying martial arts rather than learning sewing or poetry in the royal palace.  It is Alaafin’s prime minister, Temileke who suggest Alaafin sponsor a Grand Tournament to feature the best fighters in all the land brought together to battle for the hand of the princess.  The emperor approves of the idea and dispatches Temileke to the furthest corners of Oyo to recruit only the greatest warriors in the kingdom to participate.

Meanwhile, Seeke, frustrated by her role as the prize in such a contest, accidently encounters her father’s chief general, Aare Ona Kakanfo.  Or so she believes. In reality the person she meets wearing the general’s combat mask is actually Akinkugbe; a young warrior wishing to enter the contest disguised as the general.  When Akin manages to win Seeke’s heart, things start to get complicated.  All the while the real Kakanfo is commanding the forces of Oyo in the south against their enemies the Urabi, desert people whose singular goal is to conquer Oyo.

As the day of the tournament fast approaches, Akin is trapped having to maintain his disguise and somehow figure a way to defeat the other fighters to win the hand of the woman he loves.  While at the same time, the Urabi, unable to defeat Kakanfo’s troops, desperately recruit the services of a brutal demon and a deadly female assassin to help turn the tide of battle in their favor.

All these various plot elements converge dramatically at the book’s conclusion wherein Akin and Seeke not only must overcome overwhelming odds to be together but at the same time rally their people to withstand the calamitous assault of their fiendish enemies and save the empire.  ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRIKA is a rousing, old fashion adventure tale that had me wishing Hollywood would pick it up and film it; it is that captivating an epic.  Ojetade is a writer worth taking note of, he delivers on all fronts and this reviewer has become an instant fan.