Friday, June 28, 2013


Edited by Tommy Hancock, Gary Philips & Morgan Minor
Pro Se Productions
288 pages
Guest Reviewer - Lucas Garrett

Every once in a while a book comes along that changes the playing field, that opens up new horizons where there once were none to be found. BLACK PULP is such a book.
Published by Pro Se Productions, under the careful and diligent leadership of Tommy Hancock, BLACK PULP brings together some of today's best writers to tell stories of the extraordinary, the uncanny, the arcane, but never the mundane.

My fascination with BLACK PULP comes from a deep-seated need to right an unfortunate wrong in literary history.

I am a man of color, and as a man of color, I have read countless tales of adventure and intrigue where the main protagonist was primarily of Caucasian descent. Especially, in the Pulp literature of the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's. People of color were either non-existent, servants, savages, or villains to be defeated and subdued. Very few characters of color were treated with the dignity and respect that they deserved. Times were different in those days. Racial politics and culture were the policy of the day, especially in the Deep South, and parts of the North such as New York, Chicago, and Boston. It was a time when people of color were supposed to know their place. It was a dark time in our nation's, and to a larger extent, our world's history. And despite the fact that I now live in a time when many are trying to sugar-coat or forget that period in our history, I refuse to do so. It is a battle scar my country, and our world, must live with, and embrace, in order to go forward, which brings me back to BLACK PULP and its true importance.

BLACK PULP is a wonderful anthology of short stories that expands the world of Tarzan, Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Shadow, The Spider, The Phantom Detective, The Green Lama, Ki-Gor, G-8, Secret Agent X, Secret Service Operator #5, and their contemporaries. And BLACK PULP populates this world with hitmen, boxers-turned-vigilantes, female aviators, wildmen, mercenaries-for-hire, private detectives, femme fatales, naval aviators, freedom-fighting pirates, paranormal investigators, real life lawmen, adventurers, and many more. It is a world where men and women of color are put in dire circumstances, and readers see how they deal with these situations. And these situations are made more perilous due to the times in which these heroic figures live such as Ngola, the African pirate who fights to free all slaves, and to severely punish all slavers from slave trading nations in the early 19th century. Or the real life legendary lawman, Bass Reeves, who blazed a trail throughout the Old West in the latter 19th century. BLACK PULP shows the reader that heroes of all colors and backgrounds can arise in oppressive times when needed.

BLACK PULP is a true no holds barred, adult, and realistic take on the world of the Pulps. BLACK PULP is not for the timid at heart.

When I read the stories, I feel as if I am being transported to the times and places in which these adventures are being told. There is a lived in quality to the stories of this book. I can smell the cigars and perfumes in offices and bar rooms; I can hear tires screeching as robbers or kidnappers try to get away, with the hero in pursuit, as gunshots are heard in the night; I see and hear the clanking of cutlasses and the firing of pistols onboard slave ships, and I hear the rattling of chains being unlocked as slaves of several generations are finally freed. I experience all of this, and more.

More importantly, I can relate with the main protagonists, and their supporting cast, and see the world through their eyes. And I want to see more stories about these characters.

In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing a crossover story starring Charles Saunder's Mtimu and Damballa.Or maybe having Gary Phillips's Decimator Smith and Alan Lewis's Black Wolfe teaming up with Derrick Ferguson's Fortune McCall for a case, or two. Or perhaps having Ron Fortier's Bass Reeves and Derrick Ferguson's Sebastian Red hunt down outlaws. That is how much I love the characters of BLACK PULP. And I see so much potential for more stories with these characters, and new ones as well, who will be as alive and vibrant as Doc Savage, The Shadow, and The Avenger. There is a depth to the characters of BLACK PULP that will pull you in, and have you wanting more. And I can see a world where all of these characters can co-exist with the great legends of golden age of Pulp. I can see Decimator Smith and the Green Lama meeting, fighting each other, and then teaming up to fight the villain of that adventure. Or Black Wolfe working with Secret Agent X on a case that brings the mystery man to Port Victoria, South Carolina. The possibilities are endless. I love thinking about it. And I love that BLACK PULP allows me to think about it.

Therefore, I would like to congratulate Walter Mosley, Joe R. Lansdale, Gary Phillips, Charles Saunders, Derrick Ferguson, Alan Lewis, Christopher Chambers, Mel Odom, Kimberly Richardson, Ron Fortier, Michael Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Tommy Hancock, Adam Shaw, Sean E. Ali, and Russ Anderson on a job well done. Thank you all for creating this fine piece of work that I hold in my hands, read on my Android phone, and my laptop computer. Thank you.

So should you pick up a copy of BLACK PULP? I think that you know my answer.
What are you waiting for? Go pick up a copy, or two! You will not be disappointed.
I'm know I'm not. I'm reading it again right now.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


DOC SAVAGE – Skull Island
By Will Murray
Altus Press
385 pages

Pulp writer/historian, Will Murray, is no stranger to writing Doc Savage adventures.  He’s completed many from plot notes left by Doc’s creator, the late Lester Dent, all to critical praise from pulp fans across the world. But this reviewer never saw those as “originals” being that Murray was following Dent’s plots and not really coming up with his own ideas.  As Murray is a proven storyteller, this reviewer continued to hope that one they he would give us that Doc Savage adventure born solely from his imagination.  “Skull Island” is that book and it was worth the wait.

The book begins with the aftermath of the events portrayed in the classic RKO movie, KING KONG, with Doc returning to New York to discover the remains of a giant gorilla covering the streets beneath the Empire State Building in which he has his offices.  He then offers his services to city officials in regards to disposing of the behemoth’s remains.  Soon, with the assistance of his loyal companions, Monk and Ham, the body of King Kong is prepared and loaded on the tramp steamer that first brought it to the Big Apple.  As the ship sails away to return to corpse to its home on Skull Island, Doc tells his friends this was not the first time he had set eyes on Kong.  Naturally curious, they request he tell them of that meeting and thus Doc relates his yarn and we are sent back in time to what has to be considered Doc Savage’s first true wild adventure.

Upon his discharge from the military at the end of World War One, young Clark Savage Jr. is summoned to San Francisco by his father, Clark Savage Senior where is wait with an all Mayan crew of sailors aboard his lavish yacht, the Orion.  Captain Savage is about to undertake a quest across the uncharted waters of the Indian Ocean in search of his own sire, Stormalong Savage. The master of an old Yankee Clipper called Courser, Stormalong and his crew had disappeared eight years earlier and Doc’s father is obsessed with learning the fate of the old seaman.

That is the surface narrative that propels the physical adventure but Murray deftly employs to tell the underlying tale; the delicate relationship between Doc and his father. In doing so, he explores the mystery that has plagued pulp fans for decades; what actually compelled Savage Senior to have his one and only son molded, via various tutors, into a veritable superman?  There is a gaping relationship distance that exist between the two as young Clark tries to deal with his father’s decisions that kept them virtual strangers most of his formative years. 

By the time the two of them find Skull Island while battling South Seas island headhunters and the giant gorilla called Kong, the action sequences seem like oddly written after thoughts. They come and go like a pointless carousel useful only in filling pages and carrying us to the ending. As a traditional pulp adventure, “Skull Island” is a mediocre effort that never achieves its clearly imagined potential.  Whereas its look back at the character of Clark Savage and his devotion and loyalty to his obsessed father is the true treasure of this book; one we truly believe Lester Dent, had he been given the opportunity, would have relished writing.  For that fact alone we say, thanks Will Murray for filling in the gaps.

Monday, June 24, 2013


By Christopher Harris
Short Cypher Press
275 pages

Mason “Dub” Storm was a Special Forces sniper in the first Gulf War and then worked in East African locales such a Somalia with an elite secret platoon.  In the end Storm began to question his own justifications for his assignments and just who his puppet masters really were.  Ultimately he left the service and returned to his home base of Austin, Texas to pick up the pieces of whatever remained of his soul.

As the book opens, Dub, is a two bit stoner working, whenever he can get a customer, as a private investigator.  Because of his drug connections, he comes in contact with Angela Easley, the strung out youngest daughter of one of the richest men in Texas.  Her three year old son, Hunter Parsons, has been kidnapped and she begs Dub to find him for her.  Well aware he is venturing into a world as alien to him as the foreign battlefields of his past, the weary private eye agrees to help out until the police take over.  It all seems easy enough.

Right. Until Dub recalls Angela’s older sister, and her Daddy’s chief business assistant, is none other than the high school sexpot from his youth, Heather Easley.  One look at her in her expensive mannish business suit over her hour glass, trim body and Dub finds himself floating in ancient dreams that were never ever going to come true.  Then, a friend named Kid, who had been helping him with surveillance, is brutally murdered and Dub’s hands are once again covered in other people’s blood.  Gunfights, steamy sex and a mystery with enough twists to give us a queasy stomach abound in these pages.

Harris’s style is a mix of traditional noir and punk giving the narrative a smooth jolt throughout and becomes quickly addictive.  He deftly mixes Dub’s confused present with his hellish past and when the two collide viciously towards the finale, it is a satisfying resolution though still an ambiguous one.  Dub Storm is one of the most complicated heroes I’ve encountered in a long, long time and one I’m hoping to see in action again soon.  This is a well-executed thriller by a writer worth keeping an eye out.  Go pick up “The Big Clear” and prove my point.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


By Charles Boeckman
Jazztex Publishing Co.
185 pages

When World War II pilot Charlie Neil learns his beloved wife, Meg, has died only months before his discharge, his world is turned upside down.  He returns to an empty apartment in New York City and is cruelly haunted by the dreams he’d left behind. Then an old war buddy, and fellow musician, Ted Riley, calls from South Texas to tell Charlie he’s putting together and hot jazz band and wants him to pack his clarinet and come join him to make musical history.

What follows over the next three years is a full tilt life altering odyssey for Charlie and his fellow members of Joe Barney’s Jazz Band.  From the honkytonks of Corpus Christi to the seedy dirt alleys of Mexican cantinas, Charlie, Ted, Skinny Lang, Cemetery Wilson and Big Irving play for all they are worth; drinking, carousing and taking on whatever life has to dish out. When they end up in New Orleans and manage to cut a demo tape, Ted is convinced it is only the beginning of their new found fame but Charlie can see the winds of change; their kind of reckless, pure jazz has run its course.

Writer Charles Boeckman is that rare soul who is both an accomplished musician and gifted writer able to infuse his fiction with the same feverish beat that propelled the wonderful music he has played all his life.  He weaves characters throughout his narrative like melodies always in flux, always changing, always moving to the inevitable final crescendo that is the end.

The story of Charlie Neil and his pal Ted Riley is funny, sad and heart wrenching in so many ways that it will leave the reader with a tear and a smile all the while tapping their feet to some unheard beat.  Why Hollywood hasn’t found “The Last Jazz Band” is a true tragedy.  If you enjoy inspired storytelling, find this book now!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


By Van Allen Plexico
White Rocket Books
311 pages

Something foul has invaded the galactic empires of mankind; something ancient and powerful beyond imagining.  Veteran space opera author, Van Plexico once again spins a tale of cosmic proportions but narrates it through the eyes of several believable characters thus bringing the reader along intimately for yet another thrill ride.

Military Colonel of the First Legion, Ezekiel Tamarlane is the protagonist in this book, the first of a new series, and he jumps onto the stage in full action mode having been ordered to steal one of the empire’s more treasured artifacts; an artifact he is personally in charge of protecting.  Thus successfully completing his secret mission he is then publicly demoted for allowiong the artifact to be stolen.

Sound convoluted?  You bet it does and soon Tamarlane finds himself the target of cleverly disguised murder attempts.  When he takes his suspicions to his trusted superior and mentor, General Nakamura, he is forced to confess his own part in the theft which has created dangerous political and military ripples throughout the known worlds.  To his credit, the General’s faith and trust in his subordinate motivates him to dig deeper into the affair all of which leads to their witnessing the Emperor’s disappearance into another realm where live gods and demons.

A rescue sortie is launched with Nakamura and Tamarlane in charge and what they find on “the other” side is far beyond their scope of reasoning.  That they manage to save the Emperor and his retinue is the catalyst for further attacks on both their lives until both must accept the undeniable truth that they are mere pawns in a vast conspiracy that threatens all the star kingdoms of man.

Plexico amps his already manic writing pace in this volume and readers had better buckle up because the action never stops from page one to the end.  In fact the climatic battle in the off world cathedral had this reviewer getting paper burns for turning the pages so fast.
In the end this is of course all a set up for much more intrigue and dastardly alien shenanigans.  LEGION 1: LORDS OF FIRE is a fiction stew that is both new and familiar.  Imagine “Dune” as written by Robert E. Howard and that’s the gift we have here.  This is one of the best new pulp titles of the year thus far.  Miss it at your own peril.